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How to Support Gifted Students in Your Classroom

| Ben Johnson

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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Comments (43)

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First grade teacher from Douglasville, Georgia

Gifted Teachers

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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.

First grade teacher from Douglasville, Georgia

Gifted Teachers

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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.

Administrator, author and educator

Gifted is truly Exceptional

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Cindy:

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_giftedIf I 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.

Administrator, author and educator

Find their gift

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Rina:

One of the most important reasons for elementary school and middle schools are to expose students to as many learning experiences as possible so they can find their gift.

My parents did a very wise thing with their children. They exposed us to as many things as they could possibly manage. They maxed out their membership in the YMCA when we were young. I did judo, tap-dance (from a blind lady), arts and crafts, gymnastics, summer camp, tennis and swimming. Swimming stuck. To this day, I still enjoy swimming fast (race ya!). Boy scouts was another way they exposed their boys. Any crazy idea, we did- bee keeping, goats, gardening, chickens, adobe building, pigs, you name it and we did it. Good teachers should do the same so students can decide what interests them.

You are correct. Once they find their gift, they should not be bashful about it.

Good post!

Ben Johnson,
San Antonio, TX

Quote:

Every student has a gift. Some times, if there is lack of parental involvement in child's life, it is up to us to help the child find his or her gift. Maybe this can be done through students' surveys or teacher's observations. Next, it is important to let them know that their gift is to be used to help. By teaching them the value of helping others with their gift, they will not only become better at what they already know but, they will also become citizens who will value others who are different than them. In essence, what good is a gift if you can not share it with anyone? I think this is a good way to support gifted students.

Administrator, author and educator

Gifted Teachers

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Terri:

A gifted teacher is one that knows how to channel student interest and energy rather than extinguish it or control it for discipline's sake. Yes students need mental discipline, but that cannot be forced on them. They have t want to acquire it, and they can do that at a very early age. I have seen a class of first graders that were more disciplined mentally than high school juniors. They didn't have the knowledge or skills, but they had the learning part down, and they did it because of a gifted teacher that knew how to lead them to do it.

Too many schools are trapped in the more work for gifted students mentality rather than challenging their learning. Good luck with changing things around. You should read Davis' book.

Ben Johnson
San Antonio, TX

Quote:

Ben,

I think that you have brought up an interesting point when you say a gifted student needs to be taught by a gifted teacher. In my school concerns have been brought up about our gifted students as well as our gifted program. The teachers feel that these students are not getting the push that they may need to really excel. In reality some of these issues fall right back onto what we are doing in our classrooms. Each of our children are different and we need to give them the opportunity to really shine. Your blog was interesting, thank you for your insights!

Ben, I think that you have

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Ben,
I think that you have brought up an interesting point when you say a gifted student needs to be taught by a gifted teacher. In my school concerns have been brought up about our gifted students as well as our gifted program. The teachers feel that these students are not getting the push that they may need to really excel. In reality some of these issues fall right back onto what we are doing in our classrooms. Each of our children are different and we need to give them the opportunity to really shine. Your blog was interesting, thank you for your insights!

Second grade reading teacher from Miami, Florida

Supporting Gifted Students

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Every student has a gift. Some times, if there is lack of parental involvement in child's life, it is up to us to help the child find his or her gift. Maybe this can be done through students' surveys or teacher's observations. Next, it is important to let them know that their gift is to be used to help. By teaching them the value of helping others with their gift, they will not only become better at what they already know but, they will also become citizens who will value others who are different than them. In essence, what good is a gift if you can not share it with anyone? I think this is a good way to support gifted students.

Elementary Enrichment Facilitator & Gifted Education Specialist

Common Gifted Education Myths

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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_gifted

If I 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.

Elementary Enrichment Facilitator & Gifted Education Specialist

Mindy - What to do as an aide

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Mindy,

There are quite a few things that you can do without straying too far from the classroom teacher's assignment. Under the guise of keeping the students occupied so that they don't disturb their classmates, you can ask them to think of words that begin with the letter of the week & to try to spell them, or write them on the back of their worksheet. If they sit next to each other, they can challenge each other to think of words that start with that letter & keep count on their fingers of who thought of the most words. If you feel comfortable with it, you can ask the teacher if she wants you to work with those students & then you can do the same activities with a mini-chalkboards or on paper. Before becoming a gifted specialist I taught kindergarten before & my advanced students would write down a list of as many words that start with the letter of the week as they could think of. I'd count them up & the one with the longest list "won". Mind you, prizes weren't necessarily given, but they loved the challenge.

Cindy

Gifted Education Specialist

George is absolutely correct.

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George is absolutely correct. I was going to point out that when the opening sentence of an article is so fatally flawed, it is difficult to give credence to what follows.

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