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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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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?

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