How to Teach Gifted Students to Excel and Reach their True Potential
“It takes a village to raise a child”
Gifted students are unique and stand out from the rest. As educators, you soon realize some of the most challenging students to teach are the ones who are identified as gifted.
Gifted students are often the ones who finish their assignments first, leaving them lots of free time on their hands. They may also be the ones who argue about the purpose of the assignment before deciding to complete it. Some gifted students who get done quickly may look for other diversions in the classroom due to boredom. Then these students create disruptions for everyone else in the classroom. They definitely can become the ultimate ‘troublemakers’ because the class and coursework just doesn’t challenge or stimulate their intellect. So, without a good deal of advocates behind them to observe and maximize their potential, the gifted can turn some educator’s class into the room of ‘hell’ and indirectly sabotage or limit their own progression.
What to Know When Teaching Gifted Students
Good instruction meets the child where he or she is in the learning continuum and carries the student forward. If you teach gifted students in your general education classroom, The Advocate suggests you try a few of these strategies:
Gifted students often have a heightened awareness of the world around them. Take time to explore current events.
Match the pacing of your instruction to the needs of your gifted students. They will need less monitoring from you as they work ahead but check in on their progress and understanding.
Know who your students are. The answers in their interest surveys may help you to personalize lessons.
Set deadlines. As talented as they are, gifted students also need limitations. Without definitive boundaries, the gifted student will turn a simple report into a compendium with case studies, analyses, and cross-references. By letting the project get out of hand or insisting on perfection, they might not be able to complete it.
Projects for Gifted Students that Go Beyond the Classroom
Keep in mind that a student who is gifted in one area might not be gifted in another. Exceptional talent in math does not always transfer to equally exceptional talent in writing, art, or science. So, it’s also best for educators to assign independent projects. When your gifted students finish class assignments early, allow them to work on special projects and work that pique their interest and maximize their potential both in and out of the classrooms. Design for Change (DFC) has a great platform where you can invite your students to kick off DFC projects on their own and hit the ground running. We encourage you to sign up today and get your gifted students going!
As educators, you can start by browsing and selecting a learning path, the curated collection of learning materials and activities are centered around a topic or theme. You can then add and invite students to their project teams and facilitate activities, by tracking your student’s progress.
Thousands of students are taking on big issues and solving them right from their classroom, after school program, camps, and their homes! Do you believe that 3rd graders can shut down a drug house? 5th graders can create a pipeline between farmers and food deserts? High school students can increase access to better mental health support at their school? Well, the DFC certainly does believe it and have seen what is possible when students are given the tools to drive social change in their community.
How to Help Gifted Students Change the World
Allow your students to become avid supporters for positive community and social change. Their talent can be used outside the classrooms to make them not only smarter students, but gracious and caring human beings. As teachers, you want to encourage them to learn and take part in community-based events. Gifted students tend to keep up with current events and are often curious about the world around them. Engaging them in conversations about world events will show them how their special talents could be used to address very real societal problems.
Introduce them to proactive and hands-on projects that could help them become better involved and use their talent for the good of their communities. You can encourage them to move beyond the skill they're learning by applying it in the real world.
Gifted Students and Mental Health
Another aspect for gifted children that shouldn’t be forgotten is their social and emotional health and well-being. Because gifted children demonstrate greater maturity in some domains over others, they may be at greater risk for specific kinds of social-emotional difficulties if their needs are not met. These aspects may include heightened awareness, anxiety, perfectionism, stress, issues with peer relationships, and concerns with identity and fit. Parents, adults, and caregivers in their lives need to stay in tune with their specific child's needs and help shape a strong framework for social-emotional health.
The National Association for Gifted Children encourage educators and parents to keep in mind:
A child gifted in one area does not mean gifted in all
Giftedness can lead to the masking and misunderstanding of problem signs
Not all gifted children are alike, including their own unique social-emotional profile
There is no single, definitive recipe for maintaining a child's emotional equilibrium
Parents need to model balance and set the tone to reduce stress/anxiety in the gifted child's life
We can teach our children strategies and provide tools for dealing with the ebb and flow of life
The well-known proverb comes to mind, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, including those children who are truly gifted and talented learners. It’s a gift they possess that must be consistently nurtured both in and out of the classrooms and with parents and educators alike. We all must work together to nurture these children’s talent and make the sky the limit for our gifted learners and future Einsteins.