So, you think you know gifted learners?

If you're a teacher, you've probably seen a chart that looks a lot like the one pictured below (link to a copy here) that lists traits of the gifted child compared with the traits of a non-gifted "bright" child. This was a chart (since updated) that was created in the 80's by someone named Janice Szabos for Challenge Magazine.  For some of you, this may have been one of the only things you learned in your teacher education studies about gifted children, period. (Insert frowny face for the widespread lack of proper training and preparation in teacher ed. programs about this population of learners. :( )

Yes, the list may be somewhat helpful for someone entering in to the field of education. When someone first put this neat little page in my hands as a preservice teacher, I felt enlightened! Phew! Good thing I could hang on to this little piece of paper and pull it out when it was time to recommend children for screening. I could definitely brush up on the traits again if I found out that I was going to have a gifted child in my class the next year! Perfect.

Welllllll....maybe not so perfect. Now that I've been to the rodeo a few times (is that how you say it? I know people say, 'It ain't my first rodeo', right??), I have found that this handy little list can actually be a bit misleading--especially if this is the one thing you rely on to tell you about all the behaviors little Johnny might-be-gifted should be displaying.

For example, there is a line that states that the bright child works hard, while the gifted child plays around but tests well. Yes, I believe that the bright child most certainly has to work harder at learning some things that a gifted learner. However, in my years of teaching gifted children, the truth is that they are NOT always good at taking tests! In fact, I would suggest that test taking could be somewhat more difficult for the gifted child, because in some instances, they are able to provide evidence or rationale for more than one correct answer, even though the creator of the test has decided that there is only one.correct.answer.

If you don't have much experience working with gifted learners, perhaps this thought never occurred to you. You're not alone! There are many surprising characteristics that the gifted population has to offer--some are amazingly, incredibly, mind-blowingly awesome, and some of the traits that are inherent to these children can be scary, surprising, and downright frustrating.

In the coming weeks, I plan to elaborate on more gifted traits in a series of posts. I'll write about the traits, perhaps give you an example or two of how these traits could manifest themselves in the classroom, and with any luck, I'll point you in the direction of some websites, books, or other resources that could be helpful to you in your journey.

Thanks for reading :)


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