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How to Support and Nurture Gifted Children in the Classroom



Education should never be one size fits all. As caregivers we strive to provide the best possible environment for our children's growth and development, but advocating for a gifted child's academic needs can feel like a daunting task. We have created this blog and THIS FREE CURRICULUM ENHANCEMENT GUIDE to help you customize the learning environment for your youth with a gifted or twice exceptional profile (2E). Educators are encouraged to implement these strategies and utilize their training and experience to adapt it to each youth.


Before we get into the content, let's address the struggle to advocate. Advocating can be hard.


Parenting a gifted child often involves recognizing and addressing their unique educational needs. However, advocating for these needs can be met with resistance or even skepticism. Parents may find themselves torn between wanting to ensure their child receives the appropriate academic challenges and feeling guilty about potentially appearing pushy or overly ambitious, and even worse, feeling guilt that you are taking resources from other children who "really need it". It's crucial for caregivers to understand that advocating for a gifted child is not about seeking special treatment, but rather ensuring the individualized educational needs for their exceptional child are met. When we do not not appropriately address their learning need we may see boredom, disengagement, or underachievement in traditional classroom settings. Advocating for your child is a crucial step in providing an environment that fosters their intellectual growth, creativity, and love for learning. It's about recognizing and embracing their potential, not about seeking unwarranted advantages.

Image of a small version of the Gifted Education Resource with the text "Click Here"

So what do we do?

Gifted students should be provided with opportunities to increase the depth and breadth of their learning. The quality of their work, not the quantity, should be the focus. What the school can do "instead of" not "in addition to". We are not here to load up our youth with MORE work, rather, work better tailored to their profile.


The main ways in which academic work can be adapted are by changing the content, process, and products. Some of these changes can be outlined in an Individual Education Plan (IEP), and some youth who have IQ in the gifted range are identified within their school system through an IPRC meeting. More information on IPRC and IEP can be found here. And if you want to learn more about supporting emotions and behaviour regulation in the classroom, you can find a free resource on that topic here.


5 Rs of Gifted Development

STRATEGIES TO SUPPORT YOUTH

Examples of Content adaptations:

  • Changing the “depth and breadth” of curriculum content to meet the learner’s needs

  • More challenging or supplemental reading materials and math problems

  • Ask higher level questions (after acquiring the knowledge and comprehending the material, move to analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information)

  • Focus on overall trends, concepts, larger ideas, patterns, and themes, instead of small details and facts within subject learning

  • Study problems that do not have one right answer or a clear solution

  • Have the student extend the work to real life problems and situations Increase the complexity by adding additional variables, other considerations, different sources, and alternate viewpoints

  • Make connections between subjects

  • Many textbooks and teachers' guides provide follow-up or extension activities as time allows

  • An alternative way of establishing the baseline skills in subjects could be to assess for mastery prior to the lesson (e.g., give the spelling test prior to teaching the spelling words) and permit them to skip material that they have already mastered (e.g., they move on to the next approved task).


Examples of Process adaptations:

  • Encourage risk taking and creativity

  • Emphasize the inquiry processes and increase the diversity of problem solving opportunities

  • Permit flexible pacing, where student can complete some objectives quicker and spend more time on other objectives in order to enable a deeper or more advance exploration, or moving them forward in the curriculum to their appropriate start point rather than refreshing or relearning previous acquired skills.

  • Being able to move more quickly through mastered curriculum is sometimes referred to as “curriculum compacting”

  • Have the student engage in tasks that involve finding “many answers” and the “best answer”

  • Flexible groupings of student work (e.g., individual, pairs, small groups)

  • Project based learning and guided independent study

  • Have the student create their own learning objectives for a task that they can use to “grade” their own learning

  • Specialized or differential grading criteria, such as being required to use additional sources for their essay

  • Teach study skills and research skills for independent learning (how to research information, organize self on complex topics)


Examples of Product adaptations:

  • Permit the student to demonstrate their learning in other ways, such as powerpoint presentations, performances, creating real-life products, etc. These alternatives should provide a broader range of experiences and expand how they express themselves.

  • Assign authentic tasks for a real audience. For example, ask them to watch several TED Talks and then outline a TED Talk they could give.

  • Allow your learners choice in which method they use to demonstrate their learning (video, report, etc.).

  • Have the student share their learning with peers by creating a learning centre that their peers can explore

  • Use a learning log to share how they have gained knowledge or experience related to their area of interest. This would permit them to make connections between extracurricular hobbies and interest that occur outside of school

Make use of the library for gifted kids

Enrichment Clusters

  • Gifted students benefit from being grouped with other gifted/bright students (also called an “enrichment cluster”). This does not solely need to occur within segregated gifted classrooms. If there are other same-aged peers who are either gifted and/or high achieving academically, it would benefit them to be placed together in the same class, grouped together for assignments, and ideally pulled together for withdrawal support if available. The Davidson Institute says that academic competition is important for gifted students to learn how to deal with both success and defeat.

  • When educating within gifted clusters, consider arranging for a mentor, tutor, older student, or specialists to work with the student(s) in the areas of interest. The student(s) and the teachers should work together to set the parameters and expectations for group process (how, when, where the work takes place; materials required, who is involved) and group product (how they will be marked or demonstrate their learning).


Peer Coaching

  • Sometimes, we can encourage gifted children to support their peers in class on mastered academic tasks.

  • Peer coaching has many benefits. It can help consolidate skills and support the development of social skills, however, for peer coaching to work well, each participant must gain something from the activity, and not defer the gifted youth from the opportunity to spend time extending their own learning. Peer coaching should be used with intention, and not as a way to simply occupy the gifted student’s time.



Need help implementing these recommendations and advocating for your youth's needs?


WonderTree has psychologists, educational consultants/advocates, and tutors to support gifted and 2E children. Links to our website and staff members can be found below.



Sources and Additional Recommended Readings


WEBSITES (clickable)

BOOKS

  • Being Smart about Gifted Education: Empowering Parents and Kids Through Challenge and Change by Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster

  • Parents' Guide to IQ Testing and Gifted Education: All You Need to Know to Make the Right Decisions for Your Child by David Palmer

  • Teaching Gifted Kids in Today's Classroom: Strategies and Techniques Every Teacher Can Use by Susan Winebrenner

  • Raising Twice-Exceptional Children: A Handbook for Parents of Neurodivergent kids bu Emily Kircher-Morris


 





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