All of us do not have equal talent, but all of us should have an equal opportunity to develop our talent. – John Fitzgerald Kennedy
What does it mean to be “gifted?” According to the National Association for Gifted Children, “Gifted individuals are those who demonstrate outstanding levels of aptitude or competence in one or more domains.” So, are these always the bright, motivated, A-students in your class? Not necessarily. Are they students who are meeting their full potential? Not always. Are they identified as “gifted,” so a teacher knows to make special accommodations? In a perfect world, yes, but in the current economic situation schools have fewer resources than ever to identify and support this special population of students.
Gifted students have an amazing potential that can only be reached if educators are able to find ways to motivate and support the student to excel. Without this support, many gifted students get bored and stop trying. There are some special schools for profoundly gifted students who are identified by exceptionally high scores on tests like the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, the Stanford Binet Intelligence Test, and the SAT or ACT tests. More often, gifted students are served by regular schools with pull-out programs that meet once a week with a teacher trained to work with gifted learners. These programs (often called GATE, TAG, REACH, or G/T) are very nice for extending students learning. In schools that don’t have pull-out programs (and for the 4 days a week your gifted students are in the regular classroom all day), it’s up to the regular classroom teacher to find ways to challenge and encourage these gifted students to meet their full potential.
You may not have received special training in gifted education (in fact, only a little more than half of teachers have formal training in gifted education), but many of the techniques you probably learned in your teacher preparation program can be especially effective for gifted students. Interestingly, some of the best teaching techniques used in mainstream classrooms come from the study of gifted and talented education. These techniques include differentiation, grouping, cooperative learning, and acceleration, among others. These techniques have been documented to work well for gifted and mainstream students. Incorporating techniques like this in your classroom will be a benefit for all of your students.
Since gifted students can excel in different areas, with some excelling in multiple areas, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for providing support for these students in your classroom. For some teachers, it’s easier to “teach to the middle,” but differentiating your curriculum for different types if learners is much more effective. You don’t have to spend a lot of time modifying each activity you offer, just be flexible and allow the students’ abilities to be your guide.
When students struggle with a topic, you probably spend more time on it to reinforce the learning. If some students excel in the topic, make it a habit to help them dig deeper into the topic while others are reviewing. How can we encourage students to dig deeper?
- Ask open-ended questions
- Allow them extra research time in the library and online.
- Find “experts” in the subject that students can interview or shadow. This can be done in person, on the telephone or Skype, or through email.
- Find an academic competition for your students to explore the topic further. There are many competitions that challenge students in different ways. Some of these competitions include Future Problem Solving, Spelling or Geography Bees, National History Day, Science Olympiad, Math Counts, Odyssey of the Mind, Academic Decathlon, and more.
Some lessons or units just don’t “click” with certain students. How can we make topics engaging for more students?
- Challenge students to use different levels of thinking. Review Blooms Taxonomy, and try to connect activities in each lesson to the 6 levels of thinking. This will help you challenge all different types of students.
- Instead of assigning a particular project at the end of a unit, allow students to choose from a list of project ideas.
- If a student is bored with a topic they already understand, consider allowing that student to skip some assignments on the topic in order to have time for an independent project that will extend the learning on that particular topic. (curriculum compacting)
You may be having a hard time getting through to a gifted student in your class. I found some good insight from the National Association for Gifted Children. Their page includes information for parents and teachers as well as resources and activities, many of which we will catalogue for easy discovery on the Gateway. Hoagie’s Gifted Education Page is also a good place to start learning about “all things gifted.”
Our students are our future. If we support and challenge them, our high-achieving students have the potential to be great innovators, leaders, and teachers for the next generation. When you are looking for inspiring activities to challenge this special population of students, don’t forget to search the Gateway. We would love to hear what works well for you, so don’t forget to join us on Facebook and Twitter.
~Peggy's Corner - 4/29/2011~