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Tips on how to teach gifted and talented students

When hearing the words “special education,” your brain may automatically think of students with disabilities. However, there’s another special population in school: gifted and talented (GT). Normally, if students are recognized as gifted and talented, they are tested and a committee decides to place them in a gifted and talented class for part of the school day. Even though they’re in a gifted class, they will still be in regular classrooms throughout most of their day, and most teachers will teach gifted and talented students. An online master’s degree in special education can prepare you with strategies and tips on teaching these children

Recognizing giftedness

Giftedness looks different with every student, but there are some similar characteristics that these students share. They are normally high achievers who are better at thinking abstractly than their classmates. Gifted and talented students generally pick up concepts faster than their grade-level counterparts and might come into the class knowing most of the material before the school year begins. They might question “why” they have to complete a particular assignment if they don’t feel it’s necessary. There isn’t a nation-wide or even state-wide set of rules for identifying GT students. Districts are allowed to have their own guidelines and rules, so students recognized in one district may not be recognized if they move and switch districts. Students are also gifted in different areas. One might be gifted in English but not in math, while another might be gifted in science but not in English. So understanding how gifted and talented students work and process information can help you develop ideas and strategies to make them successful in your class.

Tips in the classroom

If GT students are excelling in your class and need more challenging work, avoid finding “busy work” for them. These students are very aware of what’s required of them for the class, and if they know they’ve been given filler work, they are likely not to complete it and might be disruptive because they’re bored. Finding enriching activities, whether it be word puzzles or letting them research a topic of their choice, can keep a gifted student focused and help them grow. Even though these students typically excel in class, they think and learn differently than the other students. So, pairing a GT student with a lower achieving student can frustrate both the GT student and the lower achieving student. If the curricula allows, let GT students pick what type of project they create. If the assessment/project wouldn’t be challenging to them, have them pick another type of project (maybe they create a 3D model instead of a 2D picture) that would challenge them to think creatively. It might be a little extra work to create a separate rubric and instructions, but it can give GT students a challenge they wouldn’t otherwise have gotten.

Teaching gifted and talented students shouldn’t be a scary thought. There are a plethora of resources out there to give you strategies to help you teach these students. Each campus has at least one gifted and talented teacher/coordinator; using their skills and tips can help you understand your GT kids better and help them and you be successful in the classroom. Earning an M.Ed. in Teacher Leadership with a specialization in gifted and talented is another way to gain skills and knowledge to help you lead these special students


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