Gifted Children in the Classroom
1. Misunderstanding: Gifted students always get good grades.
Reality: Many gifted students do get good grades but not always in every subject area. (More on this later.) They may even get poor grades because they are bored and are underachieving. If there is a mismatch between the intellect observed in a child and the quality of work they are producing, consider that there is some untapped giftedness in the child. It is worth administering some testing and interest inventories to determine where the child’s true abilities lie.
2. Misunderstanding: Being gifted and being a high achiever are the same thing.
Reality: A gifted student may also be a high achiever but not all high achievers are necessarily gifted. Teachers tend to think of the “ideal” student when considering who is gifted and who isn’t. Students who pay attention, get all A’s and B’s, turn in work on time and stay organized and neat often get pegged as high ability. In reality many gifted students can appear disorganized, disruptive or underachieving especially if they are not being appropriately challenged.
3. Misunderstanding: Gifted students are good at everything.
Reality: There are some gifted students who seem to excel in every area of their lives. This is probably the exception more than the rule. It is not uncommon for a child to show exceptional ability in one specific domain and remain only average in other areas. For example, a child who enters school reading several years above grade level may have weak math abilities and poor fine motor skills. Another child who exhibits amazing problem solving and critical thinking skills may struggle with reading or social skills.
A good rule of thumb is that if the child displays ability in at least one area that is significantly superior to that of his or her peers, this can be considered giftedness and should be nurtured accordingly.
4. Misconception: Disabled children can’t be gifted.
Reality: Yes they can. The term for this is Twice-Exceptional or 2E. Having a disability can often make identifying the traits of giftedness difficult. Children who struggle with dyslexia might actually be math geniuses; autistic students often possess significant math abilities or language and memory skills; students with ADD can may show exceptional capability of attention in the area of their giftedness. Unfortunately the disability often overshadows the abilities. Teachers and parents need to be on the lookout for such students so they don’t slip through the cracks.
5. Misconception: Gifted students require an entirely separate curriculum.
Reality: While gifted students do need their work to be more challenging, varied and deep they do not need an entirely separate curriculum from the rest of the class. Teachers can utilize techniques such as tiered lesson planning and drawing from Bloom’s taxonomy in order to extend and deepen the current curriculum. Sometimes it is appropriate and necessary to allow a gifted child to do entirely different work but most of the time the current work can be adapted to fit his or her needs. Gifted students can also go to other classrooms to meet their advanced needs and take classes online. Therefore, teachers should not have to spend time developing an entirely different curriculum for a handful of students.
It is important for parents and teachers to be aware of some of the misconceptions that exist in gifted education. With this knowledge in place there is a greater chance for gifted students to receive the best education possible.
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