Being a teacher is hard enough on its own. Still, when you have a bright-minded or a gifted student in your class, it becomes more of a challenge and not in a discouraging way; teachers often enjoy more when they have a gifted individual in their class, and if you have never had a chance to teach a gifted child let us understand the concept first.
The Term Gifted is used to identify students who prove capable of completing intellectual, creative, artistic, and leadership capacities.
But the critical aspect to understand is that not every gifted student is capable in the same way. You can rarely predict the first session’s proficiency since most students do not know what they are good at something unless they can experience it.
Gifted individuals showcase exceptional intellect levels; they can solve problems with ease where others may struggle, have the natural ability to process information quickly, and understand complex concepts. They have a good memory and can remember more detailed information. And they can maintain concentration for extended periods. These traits can be seen across all gifted individuals, more or less, but this gives them an advantage academically, socially, and professionally over others.
Still, this is not enough to assume that every gifted one will be a high achiever; in fact, their academic achievements can only be realized if they are appropriately mentored.
And the question arises by many primary teachers, How can we address the needs of gifted students?
So just hang in there with me, you are about to find out, and towards the end, we will discuss the differences between high achievers and gifted and what happens when a kid knows he has an advantage over his peers.
Let’s talk about the 6 tips I find extremely useful in every gifted student’s case despite their interests, strong points, and weaknesses.
Number 1: Make yourself familiar with gifted students
It is very typical among teachers to take a gifted student for just an average paced individual since not every kid is either aware of their abilities or are just shy and would not want to get any attention.
And it is very likely for new teachers to get the wrong impression of a student that is not that capable, now this should not mean teachers should be giving any less attention to the student, the reason of highlighting this possibility is that a kid that may need an extra hand with his academic progression might not get it since the teacher may think he is progressing well.
However, gifted individuals need attention; they have a very different set of needs; if you want to have a visual idea, think if you have watched the movie “Good Will Hunting” and know how difficult it can be to deal with the smart ones.
Like I explained earlier, the gifted ones show a very peculiar set of characteristics like the precocious ability to think critically and abstractly, they have an extreme need for constant mental stimulation since the brain activity is too high all the time they might experience a hard time sleeping; they have an exceptional ability to learn and process complex information very rapidly and to explore subjects in depth. And they have unique academic needs.
Imagine a situation where you graduate college, and someone asks you how would you feel about going back to high school; how would that make you feel? Robust and more in control, you will feel like you already know everything, and this is not even surface-level information for you; this is how some of the gifted might feel, some naturally take advantage of the school setting to learn and excel, and some rebel because they understand they are better than the competition however this is not beneficial for their academic growth and minor changes in their academic routines can make their lives marginally better and yours as a teacher too.
Number 2: You have to let go of the NORMAL
To be an effective teacher, whether it’s your first year or your 30th, the best thing you can do for yourself is to let go of the idea of normal.
It would be best to offer all students the opportunity to grow from where they stand and not from where your teacher training says they should be.
You will not harm a student by offering them opportunities to complete more advanced work. Research consistently shows that a curriculum based on development and ability is far more effective than a curriculum based on age. And, research indicates that giftedness occurs along a continuum.
As a teacher, you will likely encounter moderately gifted students, highly talented, and, perhaps if you’re lucky, even a few who are incredibly gifted.
You must know that strategies that work for one group of gifted students won’t necessarily work for all gifted students. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.
You’re in the business of helping students to develop their abilities. Just as athletes are good at athletics, gifted students are good at thinking. We would never dream of holding back a promising athlete, so don’t be afraid to encourage your thinkers by providing them with opportunities to soar.
Number 3: Conduct unannounced and informal assessments
Now that we understand that dealing with gifted students can be a chore on its own. Still, it never has to be a consuming task; there is a positive side to it, you can use their ability to train them to become even better; giftedness is like a skill it has to be polished to keep it bright and shiny, otherwise it gets covered in the dust of time and a student who once was thought to become an astronaut or a lawyer is now working an average 9-5 job, he is good at. Still, it is not the place he should have ended up.
One of the easiest ways to better understand how to provide challenging material is to conduct informal whole class assessments regularly. For example, before beginning any unit, conduct a diagnosis—let’s say, administer the end of the unit test. Students who score above 80 percent should not be forced to relearn information they already know.
Instead, these students should be given parallel opportunities that are challenging. Consider offering these students the option to complete an independent project on the topic or to substitute another experience that would meet the objectives of the assignment with areas of the curriculum that are chronological, such as mathematics and spelling; you can give them the end of the year test during the first week of school. Suppose you have students who can demonstrate competency at 80 percent or higher. In that case, you will save them an entire year of frustration and boredom if you can determine precisely what their ability level is and then offer them a curriculum that allows them to move forward. Formal assessments can be beneficial. However, they are expensive, and there is generally a backlog of students waiting to be tested. Conducting informal assessments is a useful and inexpensive tool that will offer a lot of information.
Number 4: Involve Parents as Resource Locators
Although a student of yours is exceptional in studies and can take care of tasks without even taking a look at his schoolwork at home, remember that his brain does not stop wandering as they leave school.
Parents of gifted children are often active advocates for their children. It can be a little too much sometimes, but you have to prepared for this if there is one in your class. What these parents want most is to be heard and to encounter someone willing to think differently.
You can offer to collaborate with them, rather than resist them, to work together to see that their child’s needs are met.
If they want their child to have more challenging math experiences, enlist their help in finding better curriculum options. An informal assessment can help them determine the best place to start and then encourage them to explore other options adapted to the classroom. Most parents understand that teachers don’t have the luxury of creating a customized curriculum for every student. Still, most teachers are willing to make accommodations if parents can do the necessary research. Flexibility and a willingness to think differently can create win-win situations.
Number 5: Try the Acceleration Method
This simple concept is one of the critical fundamentals when keeping a gifted student interested in studies.
This example can best understand this idea, imagine Chris, a ten-year-old who is exceptionally good at math. He is ready to learn algebra; he should not be forced to study the curriculum that is too easy for him, this will only keep him a whole frustrating year, and in other words, a year will be wasted. He should be challenged to enhance his learning.
Often teachers restrict students from learning subjects above their grade because they fear they might run out of new things to learn, while in reality, do we ever run out of new learning to explore?
If he can understand 5th-grade math when he is in 3rd grade, Then of course, when he gets to 5th grade, he is going to have to be challenged to keep moving him forward.
Another reason that many teachers are afraid to try acceleration is that they are concerned about their social maturity level. Research has demonstrated time and time again that acceleration is adequate for many reasons and that social maturity is rarely an issue. Several studies have shown that social age is correlated with mental age, not chronological age. So, not only is it generally in the student’s best interest academically to accelerate, it is in his/her best social part as well.
Number 6: Learning from the Experiences of Others
While dealing with a gifted student, many seasoned teachers innocently commit mistakes, but they can be amended early on, and there is no shame if you did something similar.
A: They ask their gifted students to become tutors of struggling students.
Gifted children think and learn differently than other students. Asking them to serve as tutors can be a frustrating experience for all parties involved. This should also be remembered when putting together learning teams or group projects. Putting your strongest student with your struggling students is likely to be a painful experience for everyone. Imagine developing a cycling team with someone like Lance Armstrong as one member and then selecting other members who have either just learned to ride their bikes or are still relying on training wheels to help them gain their balance. It is unlikely that anyone in this group is going to have a positive experience.
B: Giving your gifted student extra assignments if they finish early.
It is common practice to give students more work if they complete their assignments early. This is counterintuitive if you consider that if the student is efficiently completing his/her work, it is likely that the work is too easy.
Let’s consider the cyclist who finishes a race first place. Would you have the cyclist continue to ride on a stationary bike until all other cyclists finished the race? What if that cyclist was allowed to participate in more challenging races or had the opportunity to develop his talents in related areas? Wouldn’t that be a better use of his time?
C: Only Allowing Gifted Students To Move Ahead When They Complete The Grade Designed Work Assignments With 100% Accuracy.
It is important to remember that gifted students think and learn differently and can be rebellious. No one, not adults, not children, and surely not gifted children, likes to be bored! Thanks to their ability to reason, talented students will purposely choose not to do something merely because they must do it, mainly if it seems pointless to them.
They would rather spend their time thinking or reading than completing worksheets that are too easy. Focus on your students’ strengths, not their shortcomings.
Offer them opportunities that are consistent with their abilities lead them from where they are. Depending on how long they have been in the system, it may take them a while to trust you. So, don’t be surprised if there isn’t a miraculous overnight change.
Be consistent and positive and remember, you may be the first teacher who has offered them an opportunity to learn rather than regurgitate information. They may not know how to handle your responsiveness. Don’t fall into the trap of saying, See, I told you he wasn’t gifted, I gave him one tough assignment, and he failed.
Gifted students generally haven’t had to work to succeed. Give them time to build for them to excel in a safe environment.
With little knowledge and constant research, teachers can ensure that the potentially gifted students utilize their abilities to the fullest.
Now that we are running towards the end, I would like to highlight some of the significant drawbacks of making a student realize he is better than others.
Again, to understand this better, I will refer to a theory generally used in executive training called the “Four Competence Stages.”
The Four Competence Stages
It is a model based on the premise that learners are unaware of what or how much they know before a learning experience begins. As they learn, they move through four psychological states until they reach a stage of unconscious competence.
1. Unconscious Incompetence
The learner is unconsciously incompetent. He does not know that he lacks a particular set of skills or an ability others might have. It does not affect his performance since, according to him, it does not exist. Like when a student is promoted to the next grade, he does not know the advanced subjects, and he also unaware that he might struggle with learning.
2. Conscious Incompetence
In conscious incompetence, the learner is aware of a skill or knowledge gap and understands the importance of acquiring the new skill. It’s in this stage that learning can begin. He understands that he does not have a grasp on the subjects and he must learn what he does not know.
3. Conscious Competence
In conscious competence, the learner knows how to use the skill or perform the task, and this is the stage that I want to emphasis to the new teacher what you might face teaching a gifted student.
Such students who are aware of their abilities are always mindful that they can perform better; this develops overconfidence and they may tend to become rebellious.
4. Unconscious Competence
In unconscious competence, the individual has enough experience to perform it so quickly they do it unconsciously.
This is again an added advantage when dealing with a gifted student; you can allow him to perform exceptionally without making him the star of the class and making him aware of his abilities. This leads to conscious competence and overconfidence, which can push them towards the first stage, unconscious incompetence.