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Ally Goldman

June 2, 2014
Characteristics of Gifted Learners
Social and Emotional Issues Video Project
Film Selection: Akeelah and the Bee (2006)
Review:
When looking at characteristics of gifted learners in the classroom, such students tend to
exceed the academic capabilities of peers in the same age group. As a result, gifted learners tend
to already know the answers without working too hard. I believe the film Akeelah and the Bee
is an exemplary film to show to a class of gifted students in the intermediate elementary grades
at the beginning of the school year in order to hone in on the point that anything less than hard
work and achievement of maximum potential should not be expected.
In the movie, Akeelah is an eleven year old 7th grade student who resides in a lowincome neighborhood in Los Angeles. In the beginning of the film, Akeelah doesnt put strong
effort into her schoolwork. She possesses the typical characteristic of gifted students of already
having mastered grade level curriculum without working hard. Her attendance in class is
sporadic which is affecting her overall performance in class. Be that as it may, Akeelah has a
passion and a knack for spelling. Akeelah is able to spell words by comprehending and
manipulating complex information, such as uncommon word origins and spelling patterns, that
gifted students are characterized to be able to do. Her English teacher, principal, and Dr.
Larabee, Principal Welschs colleague, see Akeelahs potential and all serve as the community to
convince her to initiate her talent as an extension of her regular school learning. Through hard
work, dedication, and extensive training, Akeelah uses her knowledge and self-directed learning
to be the first student from her southern Los Angeles community to make it to the National
Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.

Students need to understand that regardless of the subject matter, they need to put in
maximum effort in order to reach their true academic potential. It is vital that students in gifted
education are continually pushed, always strive to be the best they can be, and never settle. The
film Akeelah and the Bee is proof that gifted students need to work hard and extend his or her
learning in order to truly feel accomplished.
Discussion Questions:
1. (The teacher will display the following quote prior to beginning the film) Our deepest fear is
not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask
ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you
not to be? Your playing small doesnt serve the world. We were born to make manifest the
glory of God that is within us. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other
people permission to do the same.- Nelson Mandela. What does this quote mean to you? How
can you relate the meaning of this quote to your own opinions about your personal learning?
(This quote will later be viewed in the film by students)
2. In the beginning of the film, Akeelah is hesitant to participate in the school-wide spelling bee.
Why? How are her teachers successful in changing her perspective of the spelling bee?
3. In the privacy of her own home, how does Akeelah show her love and passion for spelling?
Are there similar tasks you do at home that relate to your personal interests?
4. Akeelahs dad passes down his love for spelling and playing Scrabble to her. Similar to
Akeelah and her father, who has made an influential impact on your life by passing on a
passion to you?
5. What is unique about the way Akeelah spells words? What actions does she do to help her
remember the spelling of complex words?

6. Compare and contrast Akeelahs family members points of view related to Akeelahs
participation in the spelling bee. If you were Akeelah, what would you do to try and persuade
her mother to become more supportive of her dream of winning the National Spelling Bee?
7. In order to convince her mom that participating in the spelling bee in important, Akeelah states
to her mom that Crenshaw Middle School is boring. What does she mean by that? How will
her participation in spelling bees help solve the problem of Akeelah thinking school is boring?
8. How is Akeelah using her knowledge of prefixes, suffixes, and root words to help her figure
out how to spell unknown words?
9. How are spelling words similar to putting together pieces in a puzzle?
10.

(The teacher will display the same quote prior to watching the movie once the guided

viewing is complete) Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that
we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small doesnt serve the
world. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. And as we let our
own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.- Nelson
Mandela. How does

this quote help Akeelah get through the challenge of qualifying for, and

winning, the National Spelling Bee? How is Akeelahs participating in the spelling bee
allowing her to work hard and extend her learning that all gifted students should do?

Follow Up Activity:
In the movie, Dr. Larabee teaches Akeelah that all complex words are made up of small
words. He discusses the importance of understanding the origins of small words, as well as the
prefixes and suffixes that make up longer, more challenging words. In this activity, the teacher

will provide a mini lesson that demonstrates to students the origins of words and common word
families that are found in the language of origin. The teacher will also model for students how to
identify prefixes and suffixes in complex words.
After guiding students through multiple examples, the teacher will explain the guided
practice activity to students. To begin the description of this activity, the teacher will play the
clip in the film where Dr. Larabee is teaching Akeelah how to spell the word soliterraneous by
analyzing the root words sol and terrarium to mean a process that relates to the earth and
sun. Similar to this scene, the students will participate in an activity where they will be provided
with a group of words that derive from the same origin. The students will work together to
determine what similarities the words have and what they mean. The students will place
themselves in pairs based on what word origin is most interesting to them. At the conclusion of
the activity, the students will present to the remainder of the class what the origins of their words
are, what similarities they have, and what they mean based on the prefixes, root words, and
suffixes found in the word.
As an activity extension, since gifted learners love to extend their learning, students will
be asked to brainstorm and search for other words that would fit in the same word origin family
provided in the activity. Students would have the option of finding additional words from the
family of words they initially worked on, or word families another group presented to the group.
Lesson Implementation (Day 1- 45 minutes):
1. The teacher will begin by displaying the following quote to students: Our deepest fear is not
that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask
ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you
not to be? Your playing small doesnt serve the world. We were born to make manifest the

glory of God that is within us. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other
people permission to do the same.- Nelson Mandela. The teacher will ask students what they
believe the quote means and how this quote relates to them. After enough time for an adequate
discussion and understanding of the quote, the teacher will ask students to predict how they
think this quote will play into the film.
2. The teacher will then show the first 15 minutes of the film, where students are able to see the
community Akeelah lives in, the school she attends, and begin to get to know her character.
The students will see in the opening scene Akeelah receives the only 100% on a spelling test,
where the majority of her class fails. Students will see Akeelahs peers snicker at her, and
bully her into doing their work. The teacher will pause the film after the school principal
suggests that Akeelah participate in the spelling bee and Akeelah refuses. The teacher will
facilitate a discussion about the students observations about Akeelahs community, peers, and
attitude towards school. The teacher will ask students why they think Akeelah is hesitant to
participate in the spelling bee, and whether or not they would act the same way as Akeelah is
if they were in her shoes.
3. The teacher will then resume the movie, but will skip to the scene of Akeelah playing Scrabble
on her personal computer at home, and writing down new words she sees and hears in her
notebook. The students will also be introduced to Akeelahs father through photographs of
him and flashbacks of the two of them playing Scrabble. At the conclusion of the scene, the
teacher will pause the film again and ask the students why they think Akeelah doesnt want to
participate in the spelling bee even though she clearly has a passion and strength for spelling.
The students will also discuss the significance of her relationship with her father, and how this
plays into her interest in spelling.

4. Next, the teacher will display the scene of Akeelah participating in the school wide spelling
bee. The students will see Akeelah tap her fingers to her thigh while she is spelling. At the
scenes conclusion, the teacher will pause the film and ask students what they think Akeelah is
doing with her hands. How do you think the tapping helps her with her spelling?
5. Next, the teacher will play two scenes in a row. The first scene will be Akeelah discussing the
possibility of the spelling bee with her older brother, who is very supportive of her. The next
scene the teacher will play is of Akeelahs moms reaction when she is dropped off at home
after she wins the regional spelling bee. The students will see her mom angry and
unsupportive of Akeelahs dream. The teacher will pause the film, and ask students to
compare and contrast her family members attitudes towards her dreams, and explain why they
feel their opinions are what they are.
6. The final scene of the day will be Akeelah arguing with her mom about her participating in the
spelling bee. The students will hear Akeelah say Crenshaw Middle School is boring, as a
point to show her mom how important the spelling bee is to her. The teacher will ask students
to discuss what they think she means by that comment, and how the spelling bee can help
solve her problem of being unmotivated by school.
Lesson Implementation (Day 2- 45 minutes):
1. The teacher will begin todays lesson by proving a synopsis to students of the prior days film
and discussions.
2. The teacher will begin todays lesson by showing the scene of Akeelah practicing strategies
and spelling at Dr. Larabees house. The students will see Akeelah learning about the different
parts of words (roots, prefixes, and suffixes), and how to dissect longer words into smaller

word parts. The students will also see Akeelah tapping her fingers and jumping rope to time
the letters and syllables of the words in her head.
3. After the scene is complete, the teacher will conduct a discussion that centers around the
following questions: How does Akeelah get through the challenge of qualifying for and
winning the National Spelling Bee? How is Akeelahs participating in the spelling bee
allowing her to work hard and extend her learning as all gifted learners should do? The teacher
will allow time for student input, as well as urge students to make connections to their learning
as a gifted learner.
4. The teacher will conclude the lesson by explaining to students that even through Akeelah
excelled in spelling at school, she didnt stop there. She furthered her learning by taking
herself to the National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. The students will independently
respond to the following question: Why is it important for gifted students like Akeelah to take
their learning and extend it to greater challenges?
5. The teacher will explain the follow up activity listed above, and the students will participate as
a culminating assignment.