Teacher to teacher

Teaching the gifted and talented

Every day we educators are faced with schools closing, schools merging, schools changing. Despite such circumstances, we are nevertheless expected to roll with the punches and continue to provide the best education we can for children, especially those who are struggling to meet academic standards.

However, we also must not forget those students who not only meet grade standards but exceed them. But teaching the gifted and talented child in today’s schools can be particularly tough because of a lack of funding for specialized programs.

So how do we meet the needs of gifted and talented students in the classroom? The mainstream curriculum is not going to be challenging enough. That means it is our job to take the curriculum and beef it up to meet the challenges that teaching gifted children can present.

While it might sound somewhat daunting, this is the part of teaching that actually makes the profession fun. Because these students can handle more and are most likely accustomed to working at a faster pace, we have the opportunity to be creative with the curriculum. The use of hands-on activities and technology is one great way to enrich the curriculum.

Students love being able to get in the mix of things, so fun activities keep them engaged. For example, neighborhood walks where animals can be identified or maps can be drawn can help keep students alert and motivated. Taking their real world observations back to the classroom allows students to recall their experiences and apply them in a different way.

Even if you can’t get your class away from school, you can still use technology to plan virtual tours. For example, if you go online and visit www.uen.org, you can find virtual tours of historical places and events. Or you can visit www.agclassroom.org to learn more about teaching about aspects of farming and agriculture.

If you choose to utilize a virtual tour in the classroom, you can always follow it up by taking a real trip. After the trip, you can set up a project focusing on the topic.

Project-based outcomes are highly encouraged in the gifted classroom. The possibilities are endless. You could follow up certain units of study with an appropriate food activity for which your students create menus. You could ask the students to research websites and have them write nonfiction books. You could ask your students to build animals out of household items or even build three-dimensional models of the communities in which they live.

Providing fun and interesting challenges where a student’s interest and motivation lie is how we appeal to the child’s intellect. The working classroom is a system of rules and procedures that allow for clear lines of communication for the child and educator. With a proper format for differentiation and utilizing fun activities, the teacher can meet the needs of those who excel in the classroom as well as those who may struggle with some of the activities.

Working with students who are capable of performing the following year’s work and are simply not challenged by the core curriculum can be frustrating. As teachers it is our responsibility to challenge students in fun and innovative ways. Motivation is a tremendous factor in each individual.

It is often necessary to rely on this motivation when challenging the gifted and talented student. Tapping into this motivation by asking students what they would like to do offers them more opportunities to engage in higher-level thinking. As long as we can effectively stimulate students’ motivation, which is largely based on interest and background knowledge, we can continue to encourage them to challenge themselves, too.

It is important that we educators continue to look for ways to enrich our students, and there are many resources out there for us. For example, Joseph Renzulli, head of the Gifted and Talented Program at the University of Connecticut, is a pioneer in gifted education and motivation and founder of the Schoolwide Enrichment Model. He hosts his own website, www.renzullilearning.com, which is very helpful in finding additional enrichment activities and for helping to determine a child’s interest and motivation.

Additionally, the National Association for the Gifted and Talented, which can be reached at www.nagc.org, is another organization with a website chock-full of helpful information, including national standards for teaching the gifted and talented. Using the resources out there helps us challenge not only our students but ourselves as well.

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