Sage Advice: Challenging and Motivating Gifted Students

How do you challenge and motivate gifted students?

How do you challenge and motivate gifted students?

I design assignments that allow students to utilize a variety of skills, intelligences, and hobbies.This puts some responsibility on those gifted students to choose something that will challenge them; it also increases motivation. More importantly, such assignments broaden the concept of giftedness itself. Assignments that allow students to choose how they demonstrate understanding help both students and teachers break away from the idea that the only useful intelligences are rooted in ELA or math abilities.

Jeff Campbell

Special educator
South High School
Worchester, Massachusetts

By having them help us teach.

Dan Condon

Acting director
Professional Development Center
Eagle Rock School
Estes Park, Colorado

I have honors students read an article that would confound a graduate student, and write a "difficulty report" that explores the challenges the reading assignment posed. I also say, "Good job" when students say, "I don't understand" in class, instead of pretending they already know it all. This rewards honesty, encourages further research and selfdirected learning, and discourages passive overconfidence.

Dr. Michael Arnzen

Assistant professor of English
Seton Hill University
Greensburg, Pennsylvania

Practice good classroom-management techniques. The most motivating concern is to give interested students the time and space to create their projects. Keeping a talent-varied classroom under control is one of the most important concerns a teacher should have. Silence for uninterrupted brainstorming sessions or reading or tasking is of utmost significance. Quiet time and creative, motivating pursuits are the best gifts a good instructor can give a gifted student.

Robert Miller

Certified K-12 teacher
Marin School of Arts and Technology
Marin County, California

I find these students to be generally disillusioned with the rigid, controlling conformity of school, since their own mental capabilities prevent them from becoming another cookie that's been cut. They need choice and real-world applications, and they thrive on real-life situations in which creativity and innovation are truly welcome.

Oh, wait, my mistake: All kids need this. Maybe then we'd see that they all have gifts.

Melissa Sgroi

King's College
Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania

Allow students to identify and implement an individual education plan. My son and I worked together to identify his areas of interest as well as areas he needed to develop. We then identified opportunities available during and outside school (for example, distance education courses from the Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth). He is more motivated because he helped develop his own education plan.

Donna Wells

Newbury Park, California

To motivate my gifted students in communications class, I have them enter writing contests from magazines published by Scholastic and Teen Ink. In addition, I publish their writing online at

Patricia Fuhrman

Communications teacher
John F. Kennedy High School
Mt. Angel, Oregon
  1. Give them a meaningful problem to solve.
  2. Make problem-solving tools available.
  3. Stay in the room but out of their way.

Step 1 is the most important, step 2 is easy, and step 3 is the hardest.

Bob Marner

Technical training coordinator
National University
San Diego, California

I incorporate Robolab software and Lego Mindstorms into the curriculum. Students choose or are given a challenge, plan and build a robotic solution, write and download a computer program, and test their robot. The fifth-grade level is often the first time they experience trial and error. They learn to discuss the situation with other students and work together in groups to solve problems, finding that they can benefit and learn from working with other students, even if those students are not gifted, too.

Kathleen Crowe

Integration lead teacher (STEM)
Pflugerville Independent School District
Pflugerville, Texas

Intrinsic motivation is a much greater tool than any extrinsic motivator. Find out what students are passionate about and tie compulsory components to it in some way. The students will enjoy the learning process and astound you with what they can do.

Mechel Wall

Benton County Charter School Organization, Inc.
Rogers, Arkansas

I created a Web site ( with interactive activities for my students to use when they finished their classwork. For example, I had an interactive link about types of machines in which they clicked on items in a room, such as a doorknob, and described what type of machine it is. At home, they made compound machines out of two or more simple machines, then demonstrated to the class which simple machines were used.

Wendy Tetrault

Certified K-8 teacher/substitute teacher
Shaker Regional School District
Belmont, New Hampshire

In our school's Independent Study Mentorship program, selected students are allowed to study, in depth, any topic of their choosing for one semester. They work closely and frequently with a mentor from the community.

By the end of the semester, students are expected to have created a college- or professional-level product and to present it to a real-world audience.

Kathleen Gandin

ISM teacher-facilitator
Clear Creek High School
League City, Texas

I am challenging my higher-level eighth-grade science students to choose a topic we have not studied that they would like to teach their classmates about.Their presentations must be eight to ten minutes long and must include either videotape or digital pictures.They must also interview a professional about their topic. So far, subjects have ranged from horse breeding to diabetes. I get to see what they like and learn something, too!

Kristi Van Hoveln

Seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher
Milford Grade School
Milford, Illinois
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Livia Marlene Perez (not verified)

US History 8th grade

Was this helpful?

This year with the motivation and guidance of our tech teacher we implemented problem/project based learning. We posed several hook questions/essential questions and took a look at race, gender and religios bias in america. Students were posed with a problem but to solve it they were free to use thier unique skills. As a teacher I saw students show great abilities and skills I had not noted...we looked at statistical data, video, made PSA Public announcement and posted may on you-tube and facebook, posted on blogs....took survey and interpreted dataon the bais of thier raw data...
I guess the key was the students saw me and my tech co teacher excited, learning with them, motivated...we as eduvators must innovate and hence students will

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