On teaching gifted children – Gifted WA – Educator in Focus
Brooke Healy thoroughly enjoys the in-depth conversations and learning a gifted child brings to the classroom.
“I love the different perspective and challenge that teaching a gifted child brings… As complex as it can be, I enjoy figuring out the best way that they learn and what they truly need to help them reach their potential,” she says.
Nothing warms her heart more than seeing a gifted chid (actually any child) “run into the classroom with a big smile on their face”.
And “I think teachers need to understand that teaching a gifted child requires the same or sometimes more planning, thinking and time that a child with other additional learning difficulties needs,“ she adds.
During high school, Brooke knew she wanted to work closely with people and help them in some way.
But it was only after winning a scholarship to Murdoch University, that she decided to study a Bachelor of Education in Early Childhood and Primary.
“I remember the joy that my Pre-Primary teacher brought to the classroom and the relationship that I had with her. I am sure that she instilled my deep love of learning and is certainly someone I think of often now during my teaching career,” Brooke explains.
In the last five years Brooke has taught from Kindy to Year 1-2 and she has had gifted children, (including twice exceptional and exceptionally gifted) within her classroom walls.
Gifted WA asked Brooke a series of questions specifically about teaching gifted children.
Brooke, we all know gifted children can be amazing, and also incredibly challenging. What is the most challenging thing in teaching a gifted child?
Keeping up with them! Whilst ensuring that they are achieving at an appropriate level, reaching their potential, growing their brain and feeling happy. It has certainly been a big learning curve for me over the last few years, learning how to best support a gifted child. I certainly feel that I still have A LOT of learning to do.
Do gifted kids need to be taught differently to other children in the classroom… if so… in what way?
Absolutely! I think teachers need to understand that teaching a gifted child requires the same or sometimes more planning, thinking and time that a child with other additional learning difficulties needs.
- Learning needs to be paced in response to their individual needs and continually revisited.
- Gifted children are usually going to require tasks at a higher degree of difficulty than their peers.
- Gifted children are gifted in different areas, it is important to find out their strengths to continue developing these and support them in areas of need.
- Find out the gaps in their learning, help them achieve these and move on to keep the learning and content relevant and the right level of challenge.
- Understand that gifted children are usually achieving beyond their year level in some areas and being prepared to expose them to content beyond their age group is vital.
I think it is also important to remember that just as every child is unique and learns differently, this is also true for all gifted children. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach.
When did you first understand that gifted children had particular teaching needs?
From my own personal experience, I knew that gifted children required particular teaching methods, but it wasn’t until I began my teaching career that I truly started to understand the complex needs of these children. I have taught many gifted children now and when you truly know each child and closely observe their behaviour it becomes very obvious that they require teaching methods and content different
Why did you decide to seek extra information for your own teaching
I was not satisfied that the minimal exposure to gifted education that I received throughout my time at university was sufficient to teach gifted children to the best of my ability. I realised early in my teaching career that there was a lot more to learn, I didn’t feel that I knew how to holistically meet the needs of a gifted child in order for them to thrive.
What resources have you found really useful as a teacher, for teaching gifted children?
Colleagues, speaking to other teachers with experience in this area is one of the most valuable, practical sources of information. Professional Development organised by Gifted WA and the information available through GERRIC at the University of New South Wales has been extremely helpful for me.
Are there any particular traits you’ve noticed that are common between the gifted children you’ve taught?
As I said earlier, no two gifted children will necessarily present with the same unique traits. However, with the gifted children that I have
What about socially?
The gifted children I’ve taught become easily frustrated if only spending time with peers who are not necessarily like-minded. The gifted children that I have taught have been extremely loyal friends and often require support during times of conflict as they do not feel like their peers always understand their perspective.
-Taking time to develop a strong relationship
-Taking time to talk and truly listen
-Pre-test, find gaps in their knowledge, support their growth in these areas and move on – not repeating content for the sake of repeating it.
-100% mastery does not need to be achieved before moving on.
-Finding out their interests and giving time and resources to support them in pursuing these.
-Encourage a growth mindset, set goals
-Enable gifted students to work together
-Accepting that gifted children are likely to move through content quicker than other children and that is OK!
-Question and wonder- study problems that do not have a clear solution
-Explicitly teach independent learning skills
-Give time for breaks – gifted children tire easily and need a break every now and then.
-Have a safe space that they can retreat to (this works for all children in the class!)
-Don’t be afraid to organise time for gifted children to be in different classes (depending on need)
-Ensure the provision of advanced material
-Extra support to develop strong relationships with peers. I have found that usually gifted children require some additional time and support to find a peer or group of peers that they would like to be friends with.
-Taking the time to develop and build a true sense of belonging
Teaching is tricky, there are so many children with all different needs in a classroom. How do you manage integrating learning needs of gifted children, with other learning needs, as well as the children who are well supported by common teaching methods?
I find with careful planning and flexibility in my weekly plan, that catering
Any advice to someone who finds they’ve either got a
Seek professional guidance
Network – understand that you are not alone
Talk to their school and teachers about their needs
Look for suitable extracurricular opportunities
Advocate for your child
Understand perfectionism and how this may be impacting on your child
Support your child in making friends (not necessarily children their age)
What helps you when working with gifted children/families – what do you want from
-clear, open communication
-information shared from other external professionals that will help develop the overall picture of the child
-common shared goals
Links related to research on giftedness and talent development
Dr. Françoys Gagné, and the Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent
The journal TalentEd
The International Research Association for Talent Development and Excellence (IRATDE)
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