Supporting Gifted and Talented Students in the General Classroom

Hi friends! I have been working hard all day on this blog post and I hope it helps you in your support of GT kiddos in your classroom! As the GT teacher for my grade level, I’m expected to take 18 hours of training on supporting GT kiddos, and I just finished last weekend. It was, truly, an amazing training. It was LONG but I learned SO much. I even posted a few things on Instagram as I heard them! 

The trainings were led by Dr. Joyce Juntune and she is a stinking genius.Many of the things were things I knew, but needed affirmation. Some of them were things I was hearing for the first time. But it was all powerful!
As I’ve spent the last few weeks processing what I learned, I have tried to put lots of new things into practice. Some of them can be very difficult, as each district has their own (or none at all) program for students identified as Gifted-Talented. But I hope I can give you some ideas that can work in any classroom, in any district! 
 We all hear this often…and I think we believe it’s true. It’s just so easy to forget. When they’re constantly saying “I’m done” it’s so easy to hand them more of the same type of work. I have tried to be extra aware of this in the past few weeks, especially when I think about how fragile some of our kiddos are. We never want them to feel like they are being punished for being smart. Because the truth (I believe) is that when they start to see this, they will just start to play not as smart! They will easily make the connection…when I finish my work quickly and do great on things, I will get more work. So…in my experience, they will start making mistakes…start trying to act like they DON’T know. Just to avoid more work. 
This is important to remember, and I don’t believe it’s true of every GT student. But for some it’s incredibly true. As teachers, this means that they won’t do things to please us. Their major motivation is learning…that’s why they come to school. Not to please teachers, or make friends, or even get good grades. Their goal is to learn new things about things that matter to them. We must remember this when they seem hard to motivate. It’s possible their lack of engagement is because we haven’t found that thing they want to learn more about! 🙂 
Kind of along the same lines, some GT kiddos really really struggle with the expectations of school. Of course this is true of LOTS of children…special ed, gen ed, etc. We have to TEACH them how to be kind, how to be respectful, because sometimes they truly don’t know. Of course this is true of all children. 🙂 In my experience, GT kiddos need the most help dealing with people or ideas that they think are “dumb.” I am constantly reminding them “we can’t say that’s a stupid idea, It’s hurtful.” They aren’t trying to be hurtful…they just see it as a stupid idea, haha!! So we must teach them how to control their words and their faces! Fortunately, we have reason on our side! 
Because these little ones have such high IQs and abilities, you can absolutely reason with them when you need something. You can sit them down and ask “what consequences will this have?” And they will listen! If you can reason with them, and help them see why something MATTERS, you will have a lot better luck! 🙂 
NOW this next statement…is for EVERY student. EVERY day. in EVERY situation. I believe relationships are one of (if not THE MOST) important factors to student success. 
If you can get these kiddos on your side, life will be a LOT easier. But you can not win a power struggle with them…you have to show them you care…and THEN you can help them. They must know you care about them, understand them, and appreciate them for all their unique talents and abilities! 

As you can see, our GT kiddos actually develop differently than other students. It’s why we so often hear “they are SO emotional” or even “They have tantrums!” They can’t help it…we have to teach them how to MANGE that. 
I believe all students should have choice as much as possible. But for some, choice can be overwhelming…or even take away from the learning target. But for our GT kiddos, they thrive on choice. I give it as much, and as often as possible. 
If you’re ever unsure of how to support them, ask yourself how to involve inquiry in their learning. They will immediately be engaged because they develop their own questions! 
It’s easy to think about the highest achievers in our class. Their work is the neatest, they probably write the most words, and they get 100 on everything. Of course they need to be served! But our GT kiddos might also look a little different. And they BOTH need our support. This is an example of 2 sweet girls in my GT group. Their work looks COMPLETELY different, but they both show amazing thinking. The top one…I should have prompted her to write more. But the vocabulary usage and thinking is top notch!

We do a LOT of reading response with my GT group. Here are some things they have done after reading a book independently (that they chose) but you could also do these with a Guided Reading text and let them choose the product they would make. The top 2 are sequels and the bottom is a power-point presentation about the book. 

Conferring is another part of my day that allows for easy differentiation. For most my students, I meet with their Guided Reading group 4-5 times a week. But for my GT students, I meet with their groups 1-2 times and confer individually with them. Here’s an example of notes I take and a task I gave this little one to work on for the week. 
Another fun activity that I gave to all of the Enrichment kiddos in 1st grade…they are our “high-flyers” that haven’t been identified GT yet. But my GT kiddos participate too! You can click the image to grab your own copy. They chose a word (their name is usually easiest) and added up the sum. It’s especially motivating when they can choose their own word. It would be overwhelming for most of my kiddos, but super fun for advanced students! 
And finally, here are some ideas for changing a “normal” task into something perfect for your GT students. You can also grab that by clicking the image!
How do you support GT students in your classroom? Does your district identify them? I want to hear! 🙂 

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