Raise of hands — how many of you have one or more gifted students in your classroom?
I think we all do. We all have a child… or five, or fifty-five… who falls into that Gifted category. We’ve been told many things about those kids – how they learn, what they do, who they are, and why they are gifted.
But the truth is… each child is different, and that holds true – perhaps on an even greater continuum – for our gifted learners.
So how do we work with those gifted learners? Those learners that need that extra propulsion in our classroom? Over the next few weeks, you are going to find out. We’ll focus on one myth per week, and then we’ll springboard into strategies to help these students! Join me on this journey into The Gifts of a Gifted Education!
For the first week, we’ll learn more about Myth #1: Gifted students can be tutors for other students who may be struggling in class.
This common thinking about gifted learners is 100% false. Let’s examine why this is not appropriate for our gifted learners, and more importantly, what we should be doing instead.
I have a kiddo — we’ll call him Carlos — who excels far above his peers. He scored a 134 on his IQ Tests; he is in the 99th percentile in all standardized tests; he speaks as if he should be a college professor.
Carlos is 10. TEN YEARS OLD.
Carlos is gifted in every subject area, and he’s identified as superior cognitive. (We’ll cover this in a later post, but this is NOT always the norm for our gifted learners.)
Y’all, Carlos could teach the class for me! But let’s think about this for a second…
Even though Carlos is gifted, even though Carlos has an IQ that nears the “genius” level of the IQ scale, there is one thing that frustrates Carlos more than anything. That frustration comes from nowhere else except for… you guessed it… his peers.
Like many other gifted students, Carlos cannot handle when his classmates do not immediately understand a topic. This is not because Carlos is a jerk — he’s actually one of the sweetest children in my class! This is not because Carlos doesn’t have empathy — he does. It’s actually because it took Carlos 5 minutes to understand how to measure angles on a triangle and classify that triangle and explain how he knows why that triangle must be classified that way, and he hears a classmates pipe up, “Umm, what is an angle?”
Besides being an unethical and inappropriate practice, having our gifted learners become our teaching assistants is detrimental to their growth. Here’s why:
- Asking a gifted learner to tutor a struggling student frustrates the gifted learner. They are not equipped to deal with the questions a struggling student might have. Remember, your gifted student just figured out a complicated problem in 5 minutes, and in the process probably skipped some steps that most kids will need to do. The gifted learner doesn’t even know those steps, let alone how to explain them.
- Our gifted learners need to grow just as much as our other students. Let’s use this analogy. If you are growing two flowers, and one flower isn’t growing so well, do you attach it to the flower that’s growing strong (the kid)? No, you attach it to a metal stake (the teacher).
- Our gifted learners do not thrive when we have them become tutors for other students. This practice diminishes both their academic and their social-emotional needs. Not only do our gifted learners suffer academically, but we are also (inadvertently) creating an environment where our kids might see that gifted learner as a teacher, not as a peer.
So, what DO we do?
- Allow your gifted learners to assist other students if they have the desire to do so. This practice eliminates social-emotional stressors and takes away the notion that they are being forced to do this.
- Pair gifted learners up with other gifted learners when you can. They can complete work at their level while boosting their academics as well as their social-emotional health.
- Make sure your activities for your gifted learners are rich in content. Going back to our math example, if your gifted learner can figure out how to measure angles and classify triangles quickly, have an activity ready to go where the student will need to apply this knowledge to solve a problem. (Perhaps they are figuring out the measurements of triangles in a tangram puzzle).
With each blog post, I’ll provide you resources that you can use to enhance your instruction with your gifted learners. I’m linking up two of my favorite resources for you this week!!
- Jacob’s Ladder (ELA). This resource, designed and researched by The College of William & Mary, is specifically designed to promote thinking on a higher level in Reading. Students begin with lower-level tasks and finish the activity by completing higher-level tasks relating to the same skills. There are books available for Grades K-1, Grades 1-2, Grades 2-3, Grade 3, Grade 4, Grade 4 Nonfiction, Grades 4-5 Social-Emotional, Grade 5, Grades 6-7, Grades 7-8, and Grades 7-9.
- Challenge Math. Brought to you by Edward Zaccaro, a nationally-recognized presenter and expert in the area of gifted math education, has created several books that aim to challenge high-achieving learners in math. Mr. Zaccaro has written books for Grades K-2, Grades 3-5, and Grades 4-8.