A Brief Overview of Teaching Gifted and Talented Learners by Nafisa Ismail

Gifted students need support to develop their intellectual abilities. They need to be able to delve deeper into a topic and be allowed more freedom to research a topic in greater depth. Put simply, gifted students need the opportunity to be challenged. By giving them work that fits their zone of proximal development, that is usually more analytical in nature, it enables them to be more motivated, confident, improves their study skills, and boosts their desire to pursue higher levels of education.

These students should be given greater flexibility and scope in their learning. Finding out what they are interested in, their world views and their real-life experiences can enable a teacher to tap into motivational content that would spark their interest and desire to succeed.  

Another strategy is allowing gifted students to work together so that they can discuss their thoughts, challenge each other and broaden their critical abilities. They should also provide support and guidance for each other and if possible be assigned a mentor to be able to flourish and explore their gifts.

So who are the gifted students? Some common characteristics include:

  • Put thoughts together quickly
  • Highly sensitive
  • Logical and insightful
  • Sense of justice from an early age
  • Excellent memory
  • Excellent vocabulary and sentence structure for their age
  • Enjoy solving problems, especially with numbers and puzzles
  • Self-taught reading and writing skills at an early age
  • Longer attention span and intense concentration
  • Asks probing questions
  • Highly developed curiosity
  • Interest in experimenting and doing things differently
  • Keen and/or unusual sense of humor
  • Quickly retains information.

It’s worthwhile remembering that giftedness does not just manifest itself in academic abilities but also includes creative, analytical and practical skills. Analytical intelligence involves evaluating, comparing and contrasting; creative intelligence involves inventing or discovering, and practical intelligence involves implementation. Gifted learners can have varied strengths in a combination of these intelligences which teachers must be aware of in terms of matching the curriculum to patterns of intelligence and incorporating these strengths into their school activities. Each child is unique; hence, it is important to tap into their strengths and make it part of their learning journey.

It is paramount to understand as a teacher that the student should be at the centre of their learning; hence, the curriculum should fit the learner’s individual needs. Each situation requires its own analysis in figuring out the strengths and weaknesses of the child and what needs to be done to support their abilities. But how do you create a unique plan for each student? An individualized education plan should be developed for the student whereby a profile is developed in terms of their strengths and weaknesses which allows a teacher to design specific goals and adaptations that would best suit their individual style. Furthermore, it allows other teachers and the school team to find a best fit for gifted students to give them an ideal learning experience and acts as a blueprint to identify areas they thrive in and areas requiring extra support. 

In light of this, being able to teach gifted students at their level requires careful planning with the individual student in mind. Creating an environment where the needs of every child is addressed helps gifted students realize their full potential and remain engaged throughout the learning process. Furthermore, it should allow them to leap into new knowledge that produces growth. Gifted students learn faster, crave a challenge and also tend to finish their assignments more quickly. Below are some tips regarding teaching them.

Tips for Teaching Gifted Students

  • Tune into their individual needs and differentiate instruction.
  • Let students take charge of their learning.
  • Honor interests and allow for exploration.
  • Use upper 2 levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy: creating and evaluating (for example writing an editorial about a current events topic).
  • Assign independent projects with topics they are interested in.
  • Ask intellectually stimulating HOT questions that require more thoughtful responses.
  • Organize cluster groups for gifted students to learn about a specific topic in more depth.
  • Create tiered assignments for students.
  • Utilize their talents and interests by exploring real-world application.
  • Provide environments that are stimulating and address cognitive, physical, emotional, and social needs of gifted children in the curriculum.
  • Differentiate the curriculum in order to address differences in the rate, depth, and pace of learning making the curriculum student-centered.
  • Engage gifted students in the curriculum decision-making process, giving them an opportunity to learn how to take responsibility for their own learning.

Gifted students are as distinct from one another as they are from other children. They need to be supported so that their gifts will be developed into talents. Planning instruction that targets the needs of gifted learners is not easy but well worth the effort to help gifted learners reach their maximum potential.

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