Gifted Students & Disorganization

Instructor: Abigail Cook
Many teachers of gifted students are familiar with the messy desks, excuses, and late assignments that seem to follow their students around. Teachers can help these students eliminate the barrier of disorganization by teaching skills that help with managing time and materials.

Gifted and Disorganized

June is a ninth grade student at Wasatch High School. Since she was in third grade, she has taken advanced classes as part of the program for gifted students. As a freshman, she has already completed some college courses and takes many classes with the seniors at her school. Despite her high academic performance, June's parents and teachers have become increasingly frustrated with her lack of organization.

June's backpack, desk and locker are packed full with garbage, class assignments, homework, school supplies and other random things she forgets to take home. There seems to be a mess wherever she goes. For some reason, she can't seem to put school work in the different subject sections of her binder, which results in a lot of missing papers. She never has a pencil when she needs one in class and is beginning to fall behind because she can't keep track of her assignments and materials.

Disorganization and Distractibility

It is not uncommon for gifted students to struggle with organization. Although they find school work easy, they often work through their assignments so quickly that they become forgetful. Science tells us that gifted brains are hyper-sensitive, meaning they store information faster, recall facts easier, and are also distracted easily. A student's distractibility contributes to disorganization in the following ways.

  • They forget to finish what they started.
  • Their minds are working overtime, and doing things too quickly.
  • They neglect to pay attention to details.

Symptoms of Disorganization

Sometimes teachers may not notice that a lack of organization is the problem at first. There may be other actions and behaviors that get a teacher's attention (like a student's frustration or incomplete work) when the real problem is that they can't stay organized. Let's look at a few indications that a student is struggling because of disorganization.

  • They can't find the material they need to complete an assignment.
  • They do not throw out old papers.
  • They procrastinate long-term assignments like reports and research papers.
  • They complete the work, but can't find it the next day.

Sometimes gifted students also have other things going on, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) or a learning disability. When this is the case, it is almost expected that a student will have problems with organization and time management. Either way, it is important that teachers and parents teach organizational skills to help their gifted students reach their potential.

Teaching Organization

After some research and collaboration, June's teachers decided it would be helpful to implement a few organizational strategies. For the purpose of this lesson, June will be given several new things to try all at once. In reality, however, it may be best to implement one thing at a time to make sure a student does not become overwhelmed. Keep in mind, every student has individual needs and preferences. It is up to you as the teacher to determine which strategies would be best.

Create a checklist

Sit down with the student and write out a checklist to give them a visual reminder. The checklist may be a list of materials, a list of steps before turning in an assignment, or a list of things to remember when packing up at the end of class. Here is an example of a checklist that a student may need immediately before science class begins:

Do I have. . .

  • A pencil?
  • My composition book?
  • My science binder?
  • A ruler?

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