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Creating a Positive Classroom Environment for Gifted Students

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

Gifted and talented students not only have unique cognitive needs, but also have unique ways of relating to themselves, other people, and their environment. In this lesson, we will learn to create a safe learning atmosphere for gifted students.

Identifying Giftedness

What makes a student gifted? Gifted students are those that require adaptations to a regular curriculum to meet their needs. Intellectually gifted students have an IQ (Intelligence Quotient) greater than 130, according to cognitive abilities tests, but multiple measures, such as portfolio assessments, anecdotal records, and student achievement should also be considered.

Teachers may recognize gifted children, as they tend to stand out because of their increased alertness, curiosity, and imagination. At a young age, gifted students have a propensity towards having an advanced vocabulary, memory, and sense of humor. On the flip side, gifted children also are more likely to be radical, impulsive, and emotional. Let's look at some specific ways to make the classroom environment positive for gifted students.

Social Skill Development

Why might a gifted child have trouble fitting in with his or her peers? Gifted students are typically divergent thinkers. Divergent thinkers think deeply and differently from most individuals. While some gifted students openly display eccentricities, others may hide their opinions. What may seem like common sense to most students may not seem reasonable to a divergent thinker. Peers and teachers may find the varying thought processes irritating.

The first step to overcoming the potential isolation that may arise from a gifted student's original way of thinking is teaching active listening skills to all students. When a gifted student learns to hear and respect their peers, they are more likely to understand conflicting perspectives, and vice-versa.

All students should be specifically taught to be inclusive, respectful, and tolerant. Gifted students should receive this instruction with their grade-level peers and within clusters of other gifted students, so that the cognitively advanced children can achieve the necessary level of proficiency in collaboration to help them be successful in the work place some day.

Study Skill Development

In addition to thinking differently about content and social relationships, gifted students also possess a different approach to tasks that could potentially cause a conflict with their peers and teachers. Frequently, gifted students become engrossed in one thing at the detriment of other subjects. Due to the difficulty of multi-tasking, gifted students may miss deadlines. If a gifted student does not find value in his or her homework, he or she might be viewed as irresponsible.

Comprehending teacher expectations can be elusive, as the creative mind of a gifted student wanders towards 'bigger and better ideas.' Teachers can support their gifted students by clearly defining what portions of the assignment require strict adherence and which parts can be approached creatively.

Gifted students are engaged by learning opportunities that are inquiry-based, but providing a framework helps gifted students understand expectations for work completion. Although gifted student need to stay within the required learning objectives, offering choices that allow for the exploration of concepts within their area of giftedness deepens their degree of engagement.

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