Six must haves for gifted students

There is a great deal of research available about underachieving gifted students, and how potentially isolating it can be for them if they are not catered for. There is also a raging debate about how best to structure opportunities for gifted students in a school. Should we stream our classes according to ability? Should we remove students from classes for extension? Or, are we better off keeping gifted students with their peers and differentiating the curriculum to meet their needs? No matter which direction you go there are pros and cons. Most of the time these decisions are made based on school timetables and personnel available. So, while I don't have an obvious preferred structure, I can offer some essentials of what we should include when considering the needs of the gifted.

In order to cater for gifted students teachers need to have great curriculum to begin with.  Adding stuff at the end of the curriculum design process is not an effective way to develop curriculum. So before we even begin, rule number one is to think about your gifted students as you develop the curriculum, not after.

The following are six must haves for gifted students as they learn:

  1. High order thinking opportunities

  2. Justifiable and authentic curriculum

  3. Social interaction

  4. Independent work

  5. Research skills

  6. Relevant assessment and evaluation

1. High order thinking opportunities

Gifted students need:

  • To understand the difference between low and high order thinking and to have lots of high order thinking opportunities

  • To understand the difference between critical (convergent) and creative (divergent) thinking

  • To understand that critical thinking preempts creative thinking

  • To apply a range of thinking tools and graphic organisers

2. Justifiable and authentic curriculum

Gifted students need:

  • To solve real world problems

  • To see the big picture idea behind their work

  • To generate and answer their own questions

  • To progress developmentally with content, processes and products becoming increasingly more complex

3. Social interaction

Gifted students need

  • To mix with classmates

  • To communicate and work alongside all students

  • Work with like-minds

4. Independent work

Gifted students need:

  • To work independently

  • Access to regular, targeted reflection time, as a regular feature of the school day

5. Research skills

Gifted students need:

  • Explicit teaching and instruction about how to find relevant information, analyse its authenticity and attribute it appropriately

  • Assessment tasks to be rigorous in order to avoid them finding, cutting and pasting information from websites without having to understand it

6. Relevant assessment and evaluation

Gifted students need:

  • Assessment tasks that make sense to them, that are relevant and stimulating

  • An idea from the outset where they are heading and what is required

  • Pretesting that is used to inform teaching

Karen Green - Curriculum Consultant MAPPEN Author

PlanningKaren Green