Let them soar!

Number Four on the list of Top Ten Things is the topic of my next entry. It reads:

Asking regular education teachers to differentiate for the gifted sounds great, but if teachers do not know just how high those “high” kids can get, then the gifted never get needs met. In-service does not always show teachers just how much these children can really do.

Regular education teachers are very aware of the gifted child in their classroom and that’s about it. Every teacher struggles with meeting the wide range of social, emotional and academic needs of every child in their classroom. They can scale back the lesson for the lower learner and pile on more work to the high achiever but with the gifted learner, teachers can be clueless. For instance, what may look like a unproductive child on the outside may be a highly intelligent child on the inside. High achieving children may be just that – high achieving but are they gifted thinkers? I’ve learned that some behaviors in a gifted child is simply a coping mechanism or their way of handling boredom. Giving away the right to be in a gifted classroom to the best behaved child is just plain misguided. That little boy who can’t sit still but can make thoughtful connections and announces them impulsively is the same young man who drops out of school around his sophomore year.

How can a teacher better met the needs of their gifted learner without taking away from the others? When you assign a writing, allow the gifted learner to take it as far as they wish. I have approached more than one writing assignment this way. After buffeting several, “so how many pages does this need to be” type questions, students exploded. Some turned in one or two pages, others took the opportunity to write stories of great lengths! I encouraged students to come to me with a proposal for a project or topic for further study, then I made sure there was somewhere that they could present or publish their work.

Find out all you can about how different and unique gifted children are. Ask them what they would like to do. Play with their sophisticated sense of humor, appreciate their gifts then let them soar!


  1. Angie, you know I agree with you, but I had to laugh when I read your post. And shake my head a little.

    Your writing assignment example is a great one. What an easy way to differentiate instruction without making life harder for the teacher! But what I have discovered, as the grandmother of a mathematically gifted child and what you already know, is that everyone assumes if you are gifted, you are gifted in language. Do you have any suggestions for the teacher of a child like my grandson? Teachers seem to have no idea how to work with him or children like him.

    October 15, 2008
  2. Angie said:

    Ahh, the mathematically inclined gifted child, just like my husband. And guess what, he is not strong in the languages. He’s learned how to write technically for his job only because of sheer effort. I am most familiar with the type but I haven’t had much experience in working with them in the classroom. However, Dave and I have talked about his struggle with having to sit through yet another review of the material covered several times before. He talks about solving math problems well before any other student even grasped the concepts and correcting teachers when they calculated incorrectly.

    I would suggest a math mentor, most likely outside the school environment but you may get lucky and find someone at school that would spend some time encouraging your grandson to soar. You will also have to work closely with the teacher to see if he/she would be willing to provide additional challenges on the topic under study. There is a fine line between additional challenge and additional work (and your grandson will spot the difference immediately!)

    Another idea is to find a good math problem of the day site online for his level, you can reward him for time spent on the problem. Notice, I said “time” because he does not always have to complete the problem – he will make connections even if he just “tinkers” with the concepts. I’ll forward you a good site for just plain manipulating math and science concepts online soon.

    Hope that was helpful!

    October 15, 2008

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