Developing the Nonacademic Skills of Gifted Students

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

As a teacher, you are likely to encounter some gifted students over the course of your career. This lesson focuses on what you can do to develop the nonacademic skills of students you have identified as gifted.

Gifted Students, Whole Students

This year, Sadie has two different students who have been identified as gifted in her fifth-grade class. Each of them shows remarkable verbal and mathematical strengths. Sadie knows how to support her students academically. Having taught gifted students before, she understands the importance of enrichment and of keeping her curriculum dynamic and engaging.

However, Sadie has noticed that her gifted students are struggling in certain nonacademic realms. Since she is a teacher who believes in attending to the whole child, or all different domains of a student's identity and development, she is concerned about these students' nonacademic skills.

Sadie sets out to work on developing nonacademic skills in her gifted learners.

Social Competence

First of all, Sadie comes to understand the importance of social competence, or interpersonal skills, relationships, and engagement in gifted students. While some gifted students are naturally social competent, others really struggle to form meaningful relationships with their peers. Sadie finds the following strategies helpful:

  • She talks openly and explicitly with her gifted students about their social goals and struggles.
  • She helps her gifted students learn about diverse communication styles.
  • She forms partnerships between gifted students and peers, encouraging play-dates out of school, discovery of common interests, and playing together at recess.


Sadie also knows that many gifted students have leadership potential, and it's her job as a teacher to develop these skills. She finds roles within the classroom and school that tap into leadership skills. This might include:

  • Mentoring younger students
  • Speaking at assemblies
  • Organizing clubs and groups around common interests
  • Advocating for their own learning needs and the needs of others

Sadie has noticed that taking part in leadership activities develops her gifted students' confidence and competence and helps them gain social respect and acceptance as well.


Among gifted learners, resilience, or learning to cope with challenges and failures, can be a real challenge. Sadie has noticed that her gifted students are so accustomed to academic success that they really melt down when they get something wrong or have a hard time with something.

Because of their verbal strengths, she can talk with them openly about developing resilience. She also finds the following strategies helpful:

  • Teaching them ways to manage stress, like yoga, taking deep breaths, or writing in a journal
  • Giving them challenges so that they have multiple opportunities to experience failure and struggle
  • Teaching them about the obstacles and struggles that leaders and inventors in history have faced


In addition to building her gifted students' resilience, Sadie learns about something called self-efficacy, or the sense of yourself as someone who can do something, learn things, and accomplish things. Self-efficacy is different from self-esteem, which has more to do with liking yourself.

For Sadie's gifted students, developing self-efficacy means knowing not only that their capacities are unique and admirable, but that the conscious decisions they make, and the ways they apply themselves throughout the school day, matter.

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