Our schools’ gifted programs often do cool things, but they don’t really focus on getting advanced kids into more advanced material. Often times they spend a lot of time doing STEM activities (can’t any kid benefit from and contribute to building a robot?). Plus, most times these students miss class and then have work they have to make up. Now I don’t care who you are, if you’re 10, the last thing you want is more homework. However my point is, our culture around gifted programs needs to change.
Using the gifted teacher like a special education teacher would create a different dynamic in schools. Gifted teachers would create a plan for these students to help them stay engaged, and then push into classes for extension activities. Or they could work with the teacher and add on to the lesson plans already created.
There are ways to support kids now though. This list was written for parents and teachers. So make sure you adapt it depending on which side you’re on. Either advocate for your child at school (don’t bully teachers, advocate), or help support parents.
1. Identify Gifted Students In Various Ways
Many gifted students go through phases where they act out. Often times it is because they are bored with school. As adults, we need to make sure we are looking past behaviors or unfinished work to the cause of the behavior. Sometimes gifted students get A’s on everything and other times they may struggle in one area.
Use a multifaceted rubrics when identifying these students. Use grades, reading scores, math scores, track how quick they are finishing assignments, track what they are very engaged in, listen to their discussions/questions/comments in class, and if they start showing boredom in class.
2. Redirect Behaviors Due To Boredom
If a student can’t access the work, and then starts goofing off, teachers don’t kick them out of class… they give them an appropriate work load. Same principle should be used with gifted students. However, don’t just give them more work to do. Push them farther. Examples are:
- If you’re doing multiplication, add in some word problems.
- Have them try to puzzle out a missing integer problem.
- Allow them time to research and write a report about something interesting to them.
- Allow them to go ahead in the lesson and then teach a peer later.
- Don’t stop at multiple number multiplication, have them try decimal multiplication.
- Have them learn and complete several ways to solve the problem. Or explain it several ways.
- Give them a more difficult book to read and report on.
- Allow them time to research how to do something (write a specific type of poem, annotated bibliography, strategy for division) and then allow them to apply that skill.
These would best be done by having the activities thought and written out before hand, and then pulled out as needed for the child. Remember, some subjects they may move with the class just fine!
3. Reward Students For Completing More Difficult Tasks
A lot of students do not want to work harder. Why would they? To combat this, teachers and parents need to be ready to help motivate students to get going. Here’s a few ideas:
- Create a system where students rate themselves each lesson. If they need more help they meet the teacher at her desk, if they are ready to do it individually they work at their desks, and if they can whiz through it, they can add on. When this is built into the class culture, students feel like it’s totally normal to opt in to any group at any time. The motivator here is choice.
- Give students choice in which areas they want to work more at.
- Create a normal class routine to allow kids to grab something to work on after the lesson. Then it’s not extra to get more to do when work is done.
- Create individual goals for students and the reward them for meeting those goals. Let the child help make the goal! This can be done at school and home, or even better, do them together.
- Show students why you are working on more difficult areas and what the pay out is. (i.e. If you learn fractions, you can start understanding ratios)
- Praise students when they work through something hard!
4. Don’t Add Extra Homework Or Make-up Work
Adding more work after a student completes a difficult task gives the student a negative consequence. When those two things are paired together too frequently, students will start to avoid excelling in an area.
5. Allow Gifted Students Time To Be A Kid
Sometimes when students really excel in an area, parents start pushing their child in that area. Unfortunately, that does not necessarily create a well adjusted adult. Developing healthy emotional skills leads to greater success in the future. Balance, rest, play, optimism, gratefulness, and giving back are all non-competitive skills that can be found in well adjusted adults.
Wrapping It Up
You probably noticed, but most of these ideas revolve around making learning more choice driven. That doesn’t necessarily mean we all start teaching like a Montessori school (which I actually think is fairly cool, but not for everyone), but rather we should be providing choice through flexible grouping and assignments. And when the grouping leads into extensions of the lesson, it provides more opportunities for every student to excel.
Does your school have an awesome gifted program? Does your school have an awful program? Do you need specific help with your student? Tell me about it!