Engaging Gifted and Talented Students

The National Association for Gifted Children defines gifted children as “those who demonstrate outstanding levels of aptitude or competence in one or more domains.” While many public schools offer specific gifted and talented programs, a number of schools do not, especially in states where it is not mandated. Most teachers are likely to have the pleasure of teaching gifted and talented students at different points in their careers, and while such experiences may be enjoyable, the education of gifted and talented students comes with unique challenges, particularly in full-inclusion classrooms. Gifted and talented students are more likely to be bored and under-stimulated in regular classes, so it is up to the teachers to provide appropriately challenging curriculum. Here are five tips on engaging gifted and talented students in your classroom: 

1. Curriculum Compacting

It can be frustrating to be asked to relearn material that you have already mastered, and this is often the case with gifted and talented students. Hoagie’s Gifted Education advises that teachers give gifted students opportunities to show mastery of content at the beginning of units. If students can get through the unit with relative ease, they can be given study guides of the material, assuming responsibility for learning the material at a faster pace while freeing up time to pursue enrichment opportunities. Gifted students can still participate in periodic assessments with the rest of the class. 

2. Differentiation

Just as materials are adapted to meet the needs of students with disabilities, Teach-nology emphasizes scaffolding materials for students with advanced abilities. Gifted students should be offered more challenging versions of class projects and assignments. Barbara Swicord, president of the Summer Institute for the Gifted, urges that teachers must be trained in the ability to differentiate instruction for all students so they can encourage gifted students to study content more deeply and at an accelerated pace. Swicord says, “Within-classroom accommodations that respond to the varying needs of gifted students include curriculum compacting, self-instructional programs, learning packets or learning contracts, and advanced materials.

3. In-Depth Learning

Valorie Delp, from LoveToKnow Kids, says that gifted students often comprehend “cause and effect relationships” at higher levels than other students their age. As part of the differentiation process, allow students to study problems from different angles and points of view. Have students extend their learning into enrichment projects and experiments.

4. Distance Learning

The Davidson Institute for Talent Development states that distance learning opportunities have dramatically increased over the past few years. The Internet provides opportunities for students to take classes in subjects that are not offered at their schools and also enable secondary students to take college-level coursework. Enrichment opportunities can be offered in virtually every subject area, from Mandarin Chinese to physics.

5. Project-Based Learning

Project-based learning allows gifted students to capitalize on their abilities to understand “cause and effect relationships” in order to solve real-world problems, with authentic final products. These types of projects give students increased independence and the ability to study material at their own pace. The concept centers on five principles, as described on PBL-Online. Sample projects can be viewed on Edutopia. Project-based learning provides the right opportunities for gifted and talented students to be truly engaged and stimulated.