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5 D's of Learning for Gifted, Special Needs, and Average Students

5 D's of Learning for Gifted, Special Needs, and Average Students

Graduating college in 1970, I found myself teaching Physical Science in a school located near Dallas’s public housing projects. The school’s book room refused to issue textbooks for each student; however, I could have thirty textbooks for my room! What? I quickly resorted to doing experiments that the textbook only showed in pictures. No matter that many of the experiments were failures. Failed experiments gave students the opportunity to discover something on their own. Since many of the ninth-graders did not read, we dramatized concepts such as Brownian motion, the random collision of particles in a gas/liquid, using kids as moving molecules. Afterwards, we would talk about what we had done...dialogue, and finally, we reviewed what we had covered, which was drill. Do, Discover, Dramatize, Dialogue, and Drill are the KONOS 5 Ds of Learning. I was practicing them the first year I taught in public school and did not even know what I was doing...but I knew it worked!

KONOS 5 Ds of Learning capture attention. In the “Resourcefulness” unit, physically setting up an electric circuit captures the child’s attention unlike merely reading about electricity. Greater understanding and retention happen, because more than the sense of sight is used to collect information. Hands-on activities literally bombard the brain with the same information from every sense, keeping the most inattentive focused. foster thinking. When a student utters, “Oh...I see!” something has clicked in the child’s brain, and because he has discovered the answer rather than being told the answer, he will never forget it. Because little or no instructions are given, good discovery activities stimulate thinking as the child takes the initiative to observe, experiment, and draw conclusions.

The ultimate discovery activity is in the “Endurance: Russia” unit, which teaches the abstract idea of communism. Reading Marx will not net understanding of communism, but a communist lunch will. Pack each child a fabulous lunch with loved items, including Hostess Ding Dongs. When lunchtime rolls around, mom pins Russia’s flag on her shirt, informing the kids that she is Mother Russia, and she asks the kids to pass the state’s lunch to her. She reminds them that there is no private ownership in communism, only state ownership. If a child objects, she banishes him to Siberia (the bathroom) explaining that there is no dissent allowed in communism either, because Mother Russia takes care of her people by following the communist tenet called “redistribution of wealth.” Practice redistribution by giving each student one potato chip while Mother Russia eats all the sandwiches and Hostess Ding Dongs in front of kids. Whoa! Through personal experience kids discover communism and become staunch capitalists to boot! visualize. It is easy to imagine history being dramatized, Dramatizing photosynthesis makes an abstract concept visual: H2O is a kid wrapped in a white sheet covered with paper raindrops, holding a watering can, sporting lightning eyebrows. CO2 is a kid with CO2 pinned on him and clear plastic bags tied on him to simulate a gas. The sun has sunglasses and a sun mask, while the chlorophyll, where photosynthesis takes place, is a kid in a baker’s hat named Chef Cloro Phil. He’s ready to mix all ingredients together to get a bag of sugar! internalize. Jane Healy, Ph.D., in her book Endangered Minds, states, “Conversation builds the executive brain.” Healy cites the writings of Russian neuropsychologist Alexander Luria, who believed that using language—both internal language, where one talks to one’s self, and external language, where one talks to others—helps shape a child’s “growing powers of reasoning.” crystallize. Drill does not have to be a test. It could be a culminating event like the one described in the “Obedience: Kings and Queens” unit, where a medieval feast displays banners and costumes made, demonstrates jousting with swimming noodles and juggling with scarves, and provides the setting for reports about kings and queens—as parents sit “beneath the salt” and eat ground beef boar’s head with celery tusk on bread trenchers.

Gifted, Special Needs, Average Learners

Traditionally, gifted students in a public school classroom setting were rewarded with double work or with a project, which translates into a unit. Struggling learners were given more drills when they had difficulty—just repeat what they did not get the first time but slower and louder, and they will surely get it. Crazy! The average student simply fell through the cracks as long as he answered the questions at the end of the chapter.

Truly, all learners benefit from the unit approach and the KONOS 5 Ds of Learning, because every sense is employed in learning: hands-on doing grabs attention, discovery causes reasoning, drama creates memories and retention, and dialogue internalizes facts and concepts, while drill crystallizes everything. Remember, we are teaching children, not curriculum. All children respond to the hands-on of doing, the wonder of discovery, the memory of drama, the expression of dialogue, and the summary a drill provides.

Jessica Hulcy, co-author of KONOS Curriculum, the first curriculum written for homeschool, is an educator, author, and formerly popular national homeschool speaker prior to her near-fatal wreck in 2009. A graduate of the University of Texas, mom to four grown sons, and “Grandear” to grandchildren, Jessica lives with her husband Wade on acreage in Texas. Recently Jessica and Wade started the ultimate online help for homeschooling moms called Homeschool Mentor. Visit and

Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the May 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at or read it on the go and download the free apps at to read the magazine on your mobile devices.

Publication date: May 16, 2014