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How to Support Gifted Students in Your Classroom

Ben Johnson

Administrator, author and educator

Technically all students, according to developmental psychologists Abraham Maslow and Howard Gardener, are gifted at something. But within the realm of what happens in the classroom, a teacher can help those superstars shine even brighter by simply adding a few additional strategies to their teaching repertoire.

Super heroes see through walls, lift cars, jump high, and even fly. What amazing things can our students do? Are we helping them to see through the unimportant? Do we assist them in lifting their standards from the minimum to their maximum? Do we teach them how to jump over educational obstacles and hurdles? Do we show them how high their imaginations can fly?

Identify the Gift. Recognize it. Accept it and Utilize it.

In order to do this, we have to be observant enough to notice student potential in what ever form it is demonstrated. Teachers in general are aware that giftedness is not always found in the eager beavers of the class. Identifying the student gift for what it is takes a teacher that is not so concerned about controlling student behavior but rather is more concerned about channeling it.

A simple statement of fact, "Your ideas seem to flow easily from one to the next" will have a powerful effect on a student. Aiding a student to identify and recognize their academic gifts early on gives students the necessary resilience to persist in the difficult task of learning.

Accepting that the student has a gift is somewhat more difficult. In this age of equality, teachers feel that praising a student above others is detrimental to the other students. This could not be further from the truth. Students have a need to exceed and innately understand that each exceeds differently. The detriment of this mentality is that the truly gifted students are shackled and not allowed to explore their gifts, or even worse, accept them.

A student who believes he has a gift will pursue it, regardless of whether he, in fact, has a gift. Gary A. Davis explains in his book, Gifted Children and Gifted Education: A Handbook for Teachers and Parents that teachers must engage gifted students at different levels according to their needs. This is often an ignored spectrum of differentiation.

Best Teacher for the Job?

Some teachers view gifted students as nuisances, while other teachers are intimidated by them. In truth, the effective instruction of gifted students requires a gifted teacher. This does not mean that the teacher has to be smarter, more talented or more able than the students. It means that the teacher must be able to teach in a gifted and intuitive manner.

Such a skilled teacher will help the student utilize his own giftedness and will channel resources and enhanced learning opportunities towards that student that will enlarge the student's natural gifts in ways that the students did not even realize existed. Such a teacher will push gifted students to higher personal standards rather than just giving them more work to do or forcing them to tutor other students who are less capable.

I thank the teachers I have had that were able to do that and gave me the resilience to keep going in school and my education. For example, I had a college teacher that noticed my writing ability and encouraged me to continue. Her simple statements are engraved in my memory and serve as a motivation even today.

How do you identify, recognize, accept and utilize giftedness in your classroom?

Comments (44)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Celeste's picture

I am currently reading a book, All kinds of minds, by Dr. Mel Levine. It was loaned to me by my son's teacher. My son is gifted. He fits the standards set by the state to be in gifted education, at the same time he is failing miserably. I have enjoyed reading Dr. Levine's book because it is showing me reasons why my son may be failing in school. I am seeing that his teacher is probably one of the actually gifted teachers in our school district. She has been able to get more from my son than any other teacher for many years.

Allen Berg's picture
Allen Berg
curriculum and projects learning centers

Dear colleagues,

http://artsandeducationadventure.wikispaces.com

I recommend this website to conclude any debates about "terminology" and begin to get real in your classrooms and let your students show you their gifts...

(and you as teachers as well will enjoy being in your classroom every week...)

all comments and complaints welcome...

Allen Berg
IQ above room temperature...

Cindy Dwyer's picture
Cindy Dwyer
Elementary Enrichment Facilitator & Gifted Education Specialist

Celeste, Too often parents & educators think that teaching students who have been identified as gifted is the "dream job". Many don't realize that teaching gifted students has it's own challenges. I'm glad that your son's teacher is so supportive & helpful. Best of luck.

Cindy Dwyer's picture
Cindy Dwyer
Elementary Enrichment Facilitator & Gifted Education Specialist

jsmith, as I'm sure you realize, teaching special education, whether it's below level or above (gifted students) has it's challenges. Clustering children in the same class so that a teacher can focus on either remediation or enrichment, is often times seen as a time & energy saving approach. It's too bad that parents are requesting that their child be put in placements that might not be the most effective, based on what they've heard on the "soccer field". (I don't know if it's on the soccer field by you, but it is in my district.)

Cindy Dwyer's picture
Cindy Dwyer
Elementary Enrichment Facilitator & Gifted Education Specialist

Joseph, I'm surprised that you've found most classroom teachers have gifted certification. In my school district & neighboring districts, we have 1 teacher with gifted certification per school district. On the other hand, all teachers are now required by the state to be certified in both general education & special education.

Ben Johnson's picture
Ben Johnson
Administrator, author and educator

Joseph:

Thank you for making the distinction between teachers who have been trained in Giftedness Education and the teachers we are all aspire to be-- teachers who have the gift of creating learning experiences for all students. Certainly, one would expect that trained "giftedness" teachers would at least be more sensitive to the plight of the gifted students, but as reality demonstrates, that is not always the case.

Who wouldn't want to teach only the students that are academically gifted? Does that mean that they are qualified to do so, even if they have the GT certification? Isn't that the way our system is set up? Teachers with the most tenure get the cushiest teaching positions, regardless of their qualifications or skills?

I am GT certified in Texas, but during the training, I had a hard time justifying why all of the fun and engaging learning activities would not be totally appropriate for all students.

Thanks for the post!

Ben Johnson
San Antonio, Texas

[quote]I have found that more and more teachers in the general ed. classroom have their gifted certification. It seems like gifted teachers today have become a dime a dozen. When surveyed I can assure you that most of these gifted teachers want to get out of the "classroom setting" so they can acquire their dream job. With so many teachers being qualified to teach gifted students I think it is a misnomer when you say gifted students should be taught by gifted teachers.[/quote]

Ben Johnson's picture
Ben Johnson
Administrator, author and educator

Allen:

Wow--what fun! I would say any gifted teacher or teacher of the gifted or any teacher would have a blast investigating the tons of ideas displayed on your website wiki. I got lost for quite a while just oogling the interesting things you have students doing-- all of which have nothing to do with doing more work, but rather sparking curiosity, deep thinking and holistic viewpoints. Thanks for sharing.

You'd be pretty smart if you live in Texas room temperatures!

Ben Johnson
San Antonio, TX

[quote]Dear colleagues,

http://artsandeducationadventure.wikispaces.comI recommend this website to conclude any debates about "terminology" and begin to get real in your classrooms and let your students show you their gifts...

(and you as teachers as well will enjoy being in your classroom every week...)

all comments and complaints welcome...

Allen Berg

IQ above room temperature...[/quote][quote]Dear colleagues,

http://artsandeducationadventure.wikispaces.comI recommend this website to conclude any debates about "terminology" and begin to get real in your classrooms and let your students show you their gifts...

(and you as teachers as well will enjoy being in your classroom every week...)

all comments and complaints welcome...

Allen Berg

IQ above room temperature...[/quote]

Lisa Rivero's picture
Lisa Rivero
Author, Director at SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted)

There is much wisdom here, Ben. I'm definitely going to share this with others who work with gifted students.

Your final comment about and gratitude toward the college teacher who made a difference for you reminded me of so many teachers who ahve affected my life and career in positive ways, beginning with a high school English teacher who noticed my affinity for language and encouraged me to go to college (neither of my parents is a college graduate, and I attended an impoverish high school). He literally changed the course of my life.

Mariam Willis's picture
Mariam Willis
Parent Outreach Specialist, National Association for Gifted Children

It is MYTH that teaching gifted children is a "cushy" job. Gifted children are incredibly challenging when properly engaged... Mr. Johnson, would you argue that traditional special education is also "cushy" because the 70- IQ usually learns at a slower pace and takes more time to accomplish each task?

The system is perpetuated because we perpetuate the myths that prop it up.

Mr. Johnson, just because you enjoy your work does not mean it's cushy. It more likely means you found your calling. :-)

[quote]Ben Johnson:

Who wouldn't want to teach only the students that are academically gifted? Does that mean that they are qualified to do so, even if they have the GT certification? Isn't that the way our system is set up? Teachers with the most tenure get the cushiest teaching positions, regardless of their qualifications or skills?

Mariam Willis's picture
Mariam Willis
Parent Outreach Specialist, National Association for Gifted Children

With respect Mr. Johnson, you have created an public post on a very important topic, where you are arguing with yourself.
You position that "If everyone is gifted, then no one is." And then, you invoke the expertise of Piaget, Maslow, and Gardener to claim that everyone may be gifted (at some point or another, in some area or another). This is truly problematic in this forum, where you are considered a guiding voice in education... Are you for recognizing and supporting the needs of children who are identified as gifted, or are you not? Is this a post about gifted children or is it a post about being an inspirational teacher? There is a very important difference.

[quote]Cindy/Ben Johnson:

One of my favorite movies is Incredibles. It highlights the very point that you are making. If everyone is gifted then, no one is. The truth is that there are certainly continuums of giftedness, which means that there are some students that are definitely not gifted academically or other wise. We also know that Piaget identified developmental stages for maturing individuals and was careful to note that the age ranges for these stages were averages, not set in stone, and certainly not designed to use as a grading tool for maturity. It is therefore possible that not all gifts appear or make themselves known until later. Research also shows that if you treat students as if they have gifts, they start behaving as if they have gifts (this is a two edge sword if we think they do not have gifts). In school we may not see the gifts the students have. Gardener identified intelligences that we do not teach or test at school. I know a lot of students that are truly gifted at interpersonal relationships, but are not academically inclined. Unfortunately, many times these students are blindly punished for using their gifts in the classroom (chatting with friends).

I am not advocating in any way, diminishing the needs of the truly exceptional student. I am advocating the development and identification of more truly exceptional students.

Thanks for the clarification

Ben Johnson

San Antonio, TX

[quote]The idea that "All children are gifted" is featured on the Top 10 list of Common Gifted Education Myths on the National Association for Gifted Children website. You can read the truth on this myth, as well as the other myths that made the list here: http://www.nagc.org/commonmyths.aspx#all_children_giftedIfI had a student who consistently struggles with & fails a subject, would I be able to say that they are "learning disabled"? Of course not! Saying that a person has a strength in a particular area, or a special talent or gift, is not the same as saying they are "gifted", especially when discussing education. By saying this you minimize the very real & distinctive needs of a population of students with special needs.[/quote][/quote]

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