By Leah Davies, M.Ed.
Gifted children represent both a challenge and a resource for schools. Educators have a responsibility to provide programs to meet the educational needs of gifted students who are capable of learning at advanced levels. Ideally, schools would have specifically trained teachers for gifted students who actively collaborate among classroom teachers, themselves and parents to create a challenging and supportive learning experience for these children.
While the criteria for identifying gifted students varies from state to state*, the following are characteristics these children commonly exhibit:
- extensive vocabulary
- outstanding memory
- interest in adult concerns/what is right and wrong
- sustained attention span
- original thoughts
- multitask proficiency
- ability to grasp complex concepts
- expresses himself/herself well
- learns easily
- requires little direction
- enjoys working alone
- exhibits wit and humor
- solves problems in unique ways
- enjoys intellectual challenges
- dislikes routine tasks
- easily frustrated
- highly sensitive
- intensely curious
- risk taker
- avid reader
- atypical thinker
High intelligence test scores and other criteria used to
identify gifted students do not guarantee that these children will be successful
in school. Some gifted, underachieving students may exhibit the following
- poor work habits
- skill deficits in at least one subject
- failure to respond to usual motivational techniques
Gifted children may also be learning disabled, or have another disability while being highly intelligent. Sometimes gifted children are not identified because their assets are used to compensate for their weaknesses. In a school setting, they may thrive on complexity, yet have difficulty with rote memorization. A gifted child may have superior understanding of the subject matter taught, but be unable to write legibly about it. Another gifted child may appear to be daydreaming, yet comprehend all that is being taught. Others may become disruptive when previously mastered subject matter is presented. Since gifted children's behavior and characteristics vary considerably, educators need to be open-minded when considering referring a child for testing to determine the best possible placement.
In many schools gifted students receive cluster or sometimes classroom
grouping with teachers specifically trained in the area of giftedness.
This allows the
students to interact with peers of their approximate age and abilities, to
be intellectually challenged, and to address their social and emotional
together in groups is a great stress reliever for these children because it
affords them the opportunity for open discussion. Very often, gifted children
out as "the smart ones" who should know everything. Yet, being gifted does
not mean they possess a greater storehouse of knowledge in every area. Meeting
can also be a humbling experience since their peers may know more than they
do about a particular subject. When grouping opportunities are provided, gifted
students are more likely to reach their full potential.
The difficulty is that many gifted children are not fortunate enough to have
a specialized teacher to work directly with them, and a vast majority of gifted
students spend most of their day in a regular classroom, even when a specialized
teacher is provided. Since classroom teachers are obligated to meet the needs
of all of their students including those who are gifted, they need to:
- Understand and acknowledge the various characteristics of gifted children.
Be authentic and sensitive to the specific needs of these unconventional
children who may learn faster or differently than other children. Show genuine
in their distinctive abilities.
- Provide opportunities for them to be challenged and to learn at an
accelerated rate in nontraditional ways by offering variety, choices,
and a compacted curriculum. Determine gifted children's prior knowledge
by giving an end-of-the-unit test as a pretest. Or, ask the children
to list what they know about a particular topic and/or what they would
like to find out. Allow them to research a topic in depth.
on the gifted children's interests by having them choose projects that
will stimulate thinking and discovery. Help these children
move toward setting goals for themselves and evaluating their work.
Encourage them to share their projects with other students.
flexible and foster further study by exposing gifted students to guest
speakers and/or mentors who share a mutual interest with
a child or children.
- Incorporate inquiry, creative thinking,
and original thought in daily lessons by asking open-ended and divergent
including problem solving in the curriculum.
- Know about the
available school and community resources for these children: special programs,
enrichment activities, support
advocacy groups for their parents, etc.
Teachers of gifted
children and/or school counselors can assist these students in the following
- Further their understanding of what being gifted means and
help gifted students feel comfortable with themselves.
to set goals and strive to reach them.
- Since highly
gifted children may have difficulty being accepted by their peers, help
them recognize their
as assets. Provide activities that assist them in
identifying their strengths
- Foster their social competence
and emotional growth through readings, role playing and other activities
character development, empathy, problem-solving
abilities, and listening skills.
- Facilitate communication among parents
and the teachers with whom the children have contact.
* Since states vary in their definition, criteria for selection, policies and regulations regarding gifted children, contact your State Department of Education or your local school system for further information.
Used by permission of the author, Leah Davies, and selected from the Kelly Bear website [www.kellybear.com]. 6/03
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