Columbus City Schools teaches the Primary Education Thinking Skills (PETS) program to all Kindergarten, First and Second graders in select schools in order to build students’ critical and creative thinking skills and to assist with identifying students from underrepresented populations as gifted and talented. The intention is to develop convergent, divergent, visual/spatial, and evaluative thinking ability in all students in these grades while providing opportunities for students with exceptional potential to be challenged in preparation for later gifted identification and services.
PETS serves the dual purpose of giving teachers the opportunity to identify exceptional talents in children and teaching all students higher level thinking skills. Through fictional characters in a storybook setting, young children learn to display the special skills these characters possess. PETS follows the taxonomy outline by Benjamin Bloom, presenting lessons in analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. These higher order skills are less emphasized in most primary curricula, yet students of all ability levels have shown interest and understanding of these different types of thinking.
Primary Enrichment Specialist Role
A Primary Enrichment Specialist will teach a 45-minute whole class lesson to every K, 1, and 2 class in assigned buildings every other week during the school year. In off weeks, the specialist will work with small groups of students from those classes who demonstrated particular strength in the focus skill in order to enrich and extend student understanding. During those off weeks, the specialist will also collaborate with classroom teachers to develop lessons that embed the thinking skills into other standards-based lessons.
Classroom Teacher Role
The classroom teacher is an active observer during the whole class lessons by collecting anecdotal data using the easy-to-use electronic data tool. This data will help identify students with particular strength and serve as a basis for program evaluation. The classroom teacher is also asked to find ways to reinforce the focus thinking skill throughout the week during other classroom instruction and to log those experiences in the data tool every other week.
PETS and Gifted Identification
PETS instruction is an early thinking skills program, but it is not a formal gifted service. Students do not need to be identified as gifted to participate in small group extensions, and gifted identification does not mean the student will participate in all small group extensions. Participation in the small group means that the student has a strength in that specific skill and is ready for an extension. Gifted identification only comes from formal testing in accordance with Ohio law.
Meet the PETS Characters
Check out the videos below for an overview of the PETS characters and their special thinking skills.
Dudley the Detective
Sybil the Scientist
Isabel the Inventor
Max the Magician