Education Leadership Perspectives

Views from the Principal's Office

By Brian Gatens

4 Tips for Teaching Gifted and Talented Students

By Brian P. Gatens

It’s all too easy for teachers to fall into a trap of thinking there’s no need to develop specific teaching strategies for their most gifted orshutterstock_127760519 talented students.

Actually, one of the ethical requirements of teaching is to craft specific strategies for individual students — you’ll never succeed by treating all students the same all the time.

To teach well, you need a deep understanding of learning styles and needs, an ability to identify these traits in your students, and a willingness to devise individual strategies and practices for each student. The longer you teach, the better you’ll get at identifying where children fall along the ability/aptitude spectrum and planning accordingly.

Naturally, some of your students will qualify as “gifted and talented,” meaning they have a higher aptitude or ability compared with their grade-level peers. Because these students learn easily and are therefore “easy” to teach, some teachers end up giving these students less attention than they actually need.

Here are some suggestions for working with student who fall at the upper levels of your expected classroom ability:

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Challenge Them but Don’t Overload Them

Make it a point to speak to these students and their parents about their increased abilities, and make certain that they’re finding the curriculum and activities to be challenging enough. Depending upon that feedback, you may need to adjust the specific work being completed by those students. Unfortunately many students see this as a burden. Piling work on gifted students is an unethical response to their needs — it would not be tolerated for students of lesser ability.

Help Them Enter Contests

With some basic research, you’ll be able to find a wide variety of optional contests and challenges that your gifted and talented children can enter. These activities provide enriching and challenging opportunities for the students and further enable them to “stretch” their intellectual legs so to speak.

Stay in Touch With Parents

Be sure to make early and regular contact with the parents of your gifted and talented students. Depending upon their previous experience with their child’s teachers, the parents might find that their child’s school has not given them sufficient attention. It’s good to make contact with them early in the school year and give them an opportunity to give you specific feedback regarding their child’s ability.

Don’t Be Biased

It’s not uncommon to have an unintentional bias against gifted and talented students. Often the intellectual and academic advantages of gifted students become an excuse for providing them with less-than-challenging school experiences. Do not let this happen.

It is essential that students identified as gifted and talented have the regular school curriculum to develop their academic potential — supported with enriching and interesting extension activities. 

An educator for two decades, Brian P. Gatens is superintendent/principal at Norwood Public School in Norwood, N.J. Gatens has worked at the K-12 level in public and private school settings in urban and suburban districts. He has been a classroom teacher, vice principal, principal and now superintendent/principal.

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