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6 Ways to Support Your Gifted and Talented Students

Teachers are keenly aware of the learning process. In fact, it's known as the protege effect. Teaching can lead to increased use of effective strategies like organizing the material in a manner that makes sense and seeking out those key pieces of information. This leads to a greater awareness of the learning process itself. 

So, how do you teach high-achieving students that yawn their way through class? Here are six ways to support your gifted and talented students.

1. Learn How Each Student Learns

The days of identifying students as auditory, visual, or kinesthetic learners are long gone. Christian Jarrett, the British Psychological Society's Research Digest blog editor, states that the "most effective way for us to learn is based not on our individual preferences but on the nature of the material we're being taught." 

The true form of learning is the connection of ideas to an already established framework. An artist won't learn math the same way a mechanic will, the same way that a scientist won't learn literature the same way that a musician will.

Relationships dictate our world not only in a physical sense but by how things and ideas relate to one another. If the "why" behind an idea does not exist, the idea will fail to connect if it does not tie into a student's framework. Understanding each student's framework, not just the stylized learning category, but how they observe connections, is crucial to supporting students.

2. Include Various Levels of Reading

Ensure that your classroom library is equipped with various levels of reading material. Providing advanced texts and literature stretches the already gifted student's mind and expands their range. 

Kaplan Early Learning Company suggests, "encourage students to bring reading materials from home, but make sure the materials they bring challenge them to learn new words and increase their reading skills." This is a useful tool, especially as advanced novels introduce new ideas and create connections in the student's framework.

3. Create Tiered Assignments

Assign small groups a tiered assignment based on their level of learning and readiness to complete it. To do this, establish a baseline of ideas students are expected to achieve or recognize for a given topic. 

With tiered assignments, the level of difficulty or thought-provokingness can be increased or reduced to its roots for those still struggling to grasp the topic. Tiered assignments allow for gifted students to work on more difficult, for example, math problems that might be coming up in the next chapter. 

Another alternative to tiered assignments is to create a second tier. Knowing gifted students will complete the baseline assignment earlier than others, provide another set of questions for them to complete that allows them to combine two skills such as real-world math problems.

4. Utilize Their Talents

Assigning gifted students additional tasks is not to say that gifted students can only be with gifted students. High-achieving students mingling with others allows them to teach their peers and reinforce their framework of connections. After all, as teachers, you know that the best way to learn is by teaching others.

Have students be the master in the class, help other struggling students, and teach them what worked or didn't in a comfortable and familiar environment. This can help strengthen interpersonal skills when people are placed with all levels of intelligence and personalities in the real world.

5. Integrate Technology

We often talk about technology being bad for students, but it can be insightful. Integrating technology in the classroom provides a bridge from academics to the real world with many resources and various ways to learn and research a subject. 

Project-based learning is a useful tool in supporting talented students. Upon mastery of a skill, students then take what they learn into producing something entirely new. Technology can be a gateway for students to enhance their learning experience by seeing the different media of work others have done. They can know that they are not alone. Perhaps they've struggled with a subject or simply want to learn more, and there is a whole community of experts on any given topic just waiting to be explored and further their education along.

6. Encourage Goal Setting

An article published by Scholastic Teacher states that displaying the day's or week's schedule in the classroom allows students to monitor themselves when they undertake difficult assignments. "Some advanced learners need to be able to see and process in their mind the sequence of the day's activities; it makes a difference in the way they feel in the classroom," the article continues. 

The opportunity for self-assessment can often lead to an increased challenge for gifted students, and you can notice them pushing themselves even further to excel in their studies. Long-term goals are to be broken down into smaller, achievable goals to help channel their energy and intellect. It's important to note that this also helps deter the idea of perfectionism and emphasizes learning such as, "I must learn a, b, and c before I can arrive at x, y, and z."

Final Thoughts

Teaching at all classroom levels is no easy task, and finding ways to support gifted students on top of the ever-growing pile on your desk might seem like it adds to the mayhem. 

These six steps are just a few of the ways you can help not only your gifted students but all students. Learning their needs and observing how they make connections is an excellent start to creating tiered assignments built from previous understandings. 

Integrating technology with project-based learning allows students to utilize their talents in ways they might not have encountered before. Above all, your students are more likely to succeed with these practices in place to help them thrive.

Written by Morgan Andrus

Education World Contributor

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