The Value of Challenging Gifted Students in Elementary School
Most educators and parents of gifted children spend a majority of their time during the elementary years endeavoring to provide or advocate for challenging work. As adults, they know the value of challenge and conversely the consequences of not experiencing it early in life.
Challenging young minds, especially at the elementary level, must be considered a fundamental right for all students. Each and every one should learn something new every day; no exceptions. According to Lubinski [Who Rises to the Top? Early Indicators, .pdf], children who are challenged throughout their school years are more successful as adults. Challenge can stimulate a child to meet and exceed personal goals while developing their passions. It can inspire and nurture talent that may be otherwise lost.
“Some of the greatest disparity in ability we see is in the early elementary grades. We ignore that at our peril.” Lisa Van Gemert, Co-founder, The Gifted Guild
According to parents and advocates, there are times when some schools don’t seem to care if kids are bored and the question becomes, “Why?” Myths about gifted children still abound and too many educators believe gifted kids will be fine on their own. There are those who do care about all their students, but may be overwhelmed with the demands of so many different needs in one classroom. As Michelle Weber of Gifted Family Travel pointed out, “Since some schools don’t do above-grade-level assessments, they don’t understand the extent of boredom.” Heather Gatlin, 8th grade science teacher in Lubbock, TX, remarked, “standardized testing “forces” many teachers to focus on low performing or “bubble kids” often leaving behind higher achievers.”
“If our young GT aren’t challenged and never have to struggle early, they will not be equipped to succeed when it really matters.” Angie French, GT Specialist, North Houston, TX
What issues can arise when kids aren’t challenged? Young children who aren’t challenged, don’t learn the value of hard work (in most cases) to succeed. Unchallenged children may find coursework difficult in later years and give up too easily. It can also lead to depression, underachievement, distrust of teachers, acting out in class, complacency, perfectionism, social withdrawal; among many other issues.
There are ways gifted kids can be challenged at the elementary level. Elementary students can be challenged by being place with like ability students who share similar interests and goals. Allowing students to go deeper into areas of personal expertise earlier than age-mates, compacting curriculum to allow gifted students to sprint through material, and independent student can provide challenge. It can also be accomplished by simply accelerating students either whole grades or in individual subjects. Ruth Lyons, Adjunct Professor and GT District Coordinator in Maine, suggested challenging students through “Purposeful products! Service learning…opportunities for students to see that their work can make a difference.:
Parents can advocate for a more challenging curriculum. When it’s determined your child needs more challenge, start to put a portfolio together of their work. Portfolios should include samples of work, lists of books read and activities, graded tests.
What strategies can secondary teachers use to help gifted students who weren’t challenged in the early years? Depending on personal needs, classes for study skills may need to be introduced. Students’ voice should be acknowledged to determine level of intervention necessary. Counseling may also be appropriate. Carolyn K of Hoagies Gifted had these suggestions, “pretest and SKIP the material the child tests out of! Integrate kids into advocacy starting in middle school, so that they learn to self-advocate. Convince high school that kids who get 95-100% on tests don’t NEED to do homework to get A. Take advantage of state dual enrollment programs when available.” You can read the transcript of this chat at Storify.
Happy Birthday to #gtchat! This week marked the beginning of our 8th year on Twitter!
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 14.00 NZST/12.00 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
Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad.