Strategies for Teaching Gifted ELL Students

Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

Teaching gifted students can be rewarding, but it can also pose unique challenges. In this lesson, teachers are provided strategies and methods specifically designed for use when teaching gifted ELLs (English Language Learners).

Identifying the Gifted

Recognizing a gifted individual in the classroom can sometimes be easy. Gifted students often stand out because they complete assigned work quickly, comprehend new concepts immediately, and may even become bored or disinterested because the course content is too simple. However, identifying a gifted learner in an ELL (English Language Learner) environment can pose its own challenges.

First of all, ELLs may have trouble articulating ideas in English, so even though they may understand the curriculum, they might have difficulty expressing understanding. Some students have a higher aptitude for learning languages than others and it's these students who you'll be able to identify as gifted by using the following criteria and guidelines.

  • Does the student do extra work that was not assigned?
  • Does the student ask relevant and thoughtful questions, even if these questions are unrelated to class content?
  • Does the student bring in outside reading or other material to discuss with you?
  • Does the student take advantage of your office hours or give up free time to increase learning opportunities?
  • Do the student's assignments and assessment grades reflect strong comprehension of material taught in class?

If you can answer in the affirmative for the majority of these questions, you may have a gifted student on your hands.

Strategies for Teaching Gifted ELL Students

There are several strategies that you can use to enhance the learning experience of your gifted students.

Individual Attention

If you choose to, giving individual attention to your gifted learners can yield great results. However, it's important to keep a few things in mind and prepare with a bit of planning. First of all, it's vital that you keep things equal in the classroom so that some students don't become jealous or feel left out. The best way to avoid this is to encourage your gifted learners to take advantage of your office hours or other time outside of class.

Additional Assignments

Assigning additional tasks to gifted learners can be tricky. You don't want them to feel as if they need to do more than the others or that the extra work is a form of punishment. The best way to avoid these pitfalls is to make any additional or extra credit work available to all learners. It's important that you stress that the extra work is purely voluntary and the choice of whether or not to undertake the tasks will have no effect on grades or your own perception of the student.

Conversation Work Groups

Another effective strategy involves placing gifted learners into small conversation and/or work groups. If possible, try to do this during voluntary or additional study time so that other students in the class don't feel as though they are not adequate enough for this special group. Small groups have several advantages for gifted students. First of all, gifted students may be able to raise and challenge the level of communication that takes place in a peer setting. These groups can also facilitate deeper thought from a student viewpoint and can encourage understanding and comprehension of varied opinions and ideas. Additionally, students in the group can check answers and compare learning approaches as well as share tips and advice.

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