Helping Gifted Middle School Students Thrive
Ah … middle school – the transitional years between elementary school and high school fraught with new challenges to executive functioning, hormones, bullying and personal freedoms. It is stressful for all who pass through its halls. Middle school challenges go well beyond academics and into a vast array of social-emotional issues. For some middle school gifted students, it can mean dealing with heightened sensitivity, introversion and asynchronous development.
“According to Roeper, Middle School is when many GT girls go underground in a search for peer acceptance.” ~ Lisa Van Gemert
Dr. Gail Post also pointed to “existential depression, disappointment with authority, and loss of interest in school; and identity formation – are they cool or a nerd?” as problematic for gifted students in middle school. Students are introduced to cooperative learning, peer tutoring, and a shift away from ability grouping; potentially detrimental to GT students.
What role do executive functioning (EF) skills play in middle school? It is a time of juggling schedules, meeting deadlines, and multi-tasking; all dependent on EF. Students are expected to exhibit emotional control and interact appropriately with age-peers.
There are advanced learning opportunities which could enhance the middle school experience for gifted students. MS GT students could benefit from cluster grouping, acceleration & STEM programming plus social emotional counseling. Mentoring, competitions, talent searches, field trips could all be considered at the MS level.
What are some practical strategies teachers can use to help gifted middle schoolers thrive socially and emotionally? Counselors and teachers should teach their students interpersonal and organizational skills. Educators need to seek professional development related to the needs of GT students so they can meet unique needs of individual students. Teachers can encourage these students to find their passion and get involved in extracurricular activities of choice. Counselors can help students develop strategies for dealing with stress: finding a confidant, exercise, hobbies.
Parents can also help their children thrive during the middle school years. They can consider available summer and Saturday enrichment opportunities as well as provide a supportive and safe environment at home where kids feel comfortable confiding in their parents.
Excellent perspectives on middle school and gifted students were shared by both educators and parents. We invite you to take a look at the transcript of this chat which may be found at Storify.
Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Tuesdays at 8E/7C/6M/5P in the U.S. and Wednesdays at Noon (12.00) NZST/10.00 AEST/1.00 UK to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Storify. Our Facebook Page provides information on the chat and news & information regarding the gifted community. Also, checkout our Pinterest Page and Playlist on YouTube.
About the author: Lisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime advocate for gifted children and also blogs at Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Educational Opportunities for Gifted Middle School Students (pdf) VA Dept of Ed
Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad.