People often associate the term “accommodations” in education with struggling students, but these are not the only learners with specialized needs. Gifted students, too, have their own unique needs when it comes to the classroom.
Gifted students often find themselves bored or unchallenged by the general curriculum and may “tune out” or even become disruptive as a result. Additionally, gifted students who are not adequately challenged may never learn to study or work hard, and they may never reach their fullest potential.
This is why there are accommodations for gifted students as well. Here we’ll explore the support gifted kids need to reach their maximum potential.
Are you unsure if your child qualifies as gifted? There are a variety of IQ tests for kids that can help you evaluate your child and determine how to best meet her educational needs.
Gifted kids need opportunities for in-depth learning
Gifted kids need opportunities to deeply explore the content they are learning in class. Instead of simply understanding or remembering information, gifted children should be analyzing, evaluating, synthesizing, and creating. These students should answer complex questions and grapple with complex tasks.
Such students typically comprehend cause and effect relationships and differing points of view at a more advanced level than their peers, and they should be given projects and assignments that allow them to sharpen these skills. For example, a gifted student could compare, analyze, and evaluate different points of view on the same topic.
Independent studies or investigations can benefit gifted children, especially if they are given the option of designing their own project. Project based learning is highly recommended for gifted learners because it gives students the opportunity to investigate and attempt to solve engaging real-world problems, questions, or challenges.
Gifted kids need to move quickly through material they have already mastered.
If a gifted child has mastered a skill or unit, they should not be forced to work through the material at the same rate as their peers. Often, gifted students will simply not do assignments that are too easy or that they perceive as “pointless,” so it’s important that they are allowed to move through the curriculum at a suitable pace.
Experts suggest that educators give students a pre-assessment at the start of each unit, and then allow students who earn an 80% or higher to work through the unit differently. For example, a gifted student could be given a study guide that allows her to complete the unit at her own pace while providing time for enrichment opportunities. A gifted child could also complete independent projects related to the topic his classmates are studying.
Whatever the case, a gifted child should be permitted to explore parallel learning opportunities and move at a faster pace through already mastered material.
Gifted kids need opportunities to collaborate with intellectual peers.
While it is a commonly used classroom strategy to pair high-achieving students with struggling students, gifted children also need opportunities to work with other gifted classmates.
Students benefit from having high-level discussions and debates with intellectual peers who may expose them to new ideas or new approaches to solving problems.
Working with similarly gifted peers can also motivate gifted students to learn more and perform better in school.
Gifted kids need more choice.
As often as possible, gifted kids should be given the option of creatively choosing how to approach a problem or assignment.
Gifted children should be allowed to brainstorm the types of projects they’d like to explore in order to extend their learning.
When they are given ownership of their own learning and allowed to explore their unique interests, gifted children thrive, making choice one of the most important accommodations for gifted students.
What Gifted Kids Don’t Need
With classrooms filled with students who have vastly differing abilities and needs, well-meaning teachers sometimes handle gifted students using strategies that are not beneficial to such children. These include the following:
-Asking gifted children to help or tutor classmates when they finish early. While it is fine for gifted children to explain information to struggling students on occasion, this time could alternatively be spent expanding and deepening learning.
-Assigning gifted students more of the same work. If a gifted student easily and accurately flies through twenty math problems, assigning twenty more is not helpful. The student has clearly demonstrated mastery of these problems, and simply giving more work may feel like punishment. Instead, increasingly complex work should be assigned.
-Giving gifted students “time-filling” tasks like cleaning the classroom or doing a puzzle.
-Allowing gifted students to simply sit and wait for classmates to catch up.
How to Ensure Your Gifted Child’s Needs Are Met
How can you be sure your child is receiving appropriate accommodations for gifted students? You have a few options.
Some states have programs specifically designed for gifted and talented children, in which gifted children will study an advanced and/or accelerated curriculum with gifted peers. Students in these programs are also taught by teachers who are specifically trained to work with gifted children. If you aren’t sure what programs are offered in your state, read about how to find Gifted and Talented programs and how to apply.
If you aren’t able to enroll your child in a Gifted and Talented program, you can consider options like Advanced, Honors, or AP classes for middle and high school students. At some schools, your child may be allowed to advance a grade level or two in a specific subject area.
Additionally, many schools offer Gifted Individualized Education Plans (GIEPs) for students who meet the school’s gifted criteria. GIEPs set goals based on the student’s academic strengths, determine how instruction will be modified to meet the student’s needs, and decide how progress will be monitored. In most cases, teachers, parents, and the student will meet annually to reassess the GIEP and make any necessary changes. Even if your child’s school does not offer GIEPs, you can collaborate with your child’s teachers about how to meet her needs, and the GIEP can serve as a useful model.
Now that you know about accommodations for gifted students, it is important to advocate for your child to ensure that she is getting the instruction she needs to exercise her intellect and reach her fullest potential.