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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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Tabitha's picture
Fourth grade teacher from central Florida

I really liked that you pointed out that all children have a gift of some kind. Oftentimes, those students who are not labeled as "gifted" are not recognized. I like to implement different teaching strategies to complement the multiple intelligences in my classroom. I work at a school of the arts so we are encouraged to infuse our lessons with arts from every discipline. This gives those students who may not normally excell in the academic arena a place to shine.

Jane's picture

I get a lot of joy from having a diverse group of students within my classroom. It is fun to have students from various backgrounds as well as academic abilities. When my grade level group gets together each week, we have time to talk about interventions and extensions. Usually, as in most schools I would assume, we spend most of our time talking about how we can help students who are struggling. When we do take the time to talk about extensions for our gifted students, it is thrilling to hear what our plans are. Too often, these students get pushed aside rather than further along in their educational goals.
In my PLC, we have discussed different strategies to extend student learning. I appreciate your insight about all students having a giftedness in one area or another. Because of this, educators need to find out each child's gift and then encourage and scaffold their learning in that area. In order to identify the gift(s) of each child, it is important to get to know each child on a personal level. What are their likes and interests? What background and home life do they come from? What prior knowledge and experiences are they coming with?
After determining the gift, teachers must unwrap it and allow it to grow. Pushing students with high-level thinking within a certain area is beneficial to all class members. As my PLC collaborates, we determine what we need to do with students who have already met our learning goals. For these students, we ask them to make connections and go deeper into the study. We do not believe in piling on the busy work to keep them busy.
It can be difficult to carve out the time to create these extensions for students, but it is highly valuable to both the individual student and the class as a whole. Let's work on viewing and teaching each student as an individual instead of someone who needs to fit into a mold! This is what makes teaching exciting and rewarding!

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

Dear Colleagues,

I have created a K-12 Arts and Education Adventure wikispace that is an open-ended creative discovery learning and projects-based learning classroom resource for anyone to use.

I agree that every student, every person has a gift, is gifted, can be resourceful and creative when encouraged and/or motivated...
I use the arts(visual, literary, musical, performing, etc.) to learn and teach every subject...
has over 100 pages of arts and projects to explore and use in many different ways appropriate to your classroom and/or age group...

It is not a textbook, it is a play-in-progress wikispace that anyone can use...

Enjoy your adventure...all comments and projects welcome...

Allen Berg

ps: I also have a HS Geometry Adventure wikispace for STEM and STEAM education, that can be adapted to all grade levels (K-12)

Mindy's picture
teacher from Michigan

I throughly enjoyed reading this article. The idea that ALL students have a gift; it's just our job to find it really stood out to me. I am currently laid off from teaching, but am a classroom aide in a Kindergarten room.

I know that there are some students in the class that are quite bright and are getting bored going over the letters of the alphabet and the sounds they make. These kids are already reading and writing phonetically. I understand that a quick review occassionally is good for them, but they need more. The teacher I work with has always given ALL the kids the same exact thing to do in regards to the letters. Those that have a higher ability level finish the task within 2 minutes and then are causing problems because they are bored and the work is too easy.

So, my question is, what ideas do you have that I can do in the classroom, as an aide, to help push these students to achieve their highest potential possible? I know they can do so much more, but I want them to realize that as well. I look forward to hearing any ideas that you may have!


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