Lately, I’ve taken an interest in exploring my gardening abilities with succulents, because they are unbelievably low-maintenance. They can thrive without much water and need little care. When I think about these plants’ ability to survive, I wonder about all the ways we can help gifted students thrive in school settings. Even though most traditional classrooms do not provide optimum environments for gifted students, we can enhance those environments to accommodate gifted students’ needs and watch them thrive. According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, the word thrive is to progress despite circumstances; our role as educators, parents, or advocates is to facilitate educational opportunities that allow gifted students to grow despite external settings or influences that usually cater to a mainstream learner.
Here are five ways we can help gifted students develop into their strengths and talents during the school year:
1. Choice Matters!
Can you provide choice with book titles, presentation tools, or resources that gifted students engage in to create products or show mastery? Choice on its own does not meet gifted learners’ needs, but it provides an opportunity where students can showcase their creativity and innovation.
2. The Power of Negotiation
It’s very similar to the idea of picking your battles. Do you want a gifted learner to stop blurting out? Then, offer alternate ways to share ideas, knowledge, and excitement for learning. Are you a parent who would like more information from your teacher? Offer alternate ways to facilitate gathering information through checklists or other means of communication. The power of trading resources can help minimize the conflict associated with boundaries gifted learners resist. Offer reasonable and interest-based options to leverage the potential of gifted students.
3. Facilitate Friendships
School is always better when you can share it with a friend. Social media can help parents connect potential friendships in new environments. As much we want our gifted students to build healthy relationships, it may also require parents to network or build relationships within the school community. Teachers can also be great “friend matchmakers” because they see students in social environments and can keep an eye out for like-minded peers, knowing that gifted kids are far less-constrained by age-based friendships than typical learners.
4. Organization is the Key!
Gifted kids have a love-hate relationship with staying organized. Some absolutely love it for their areas of interest, but in other aspects of life, it may look like the aftermath of a natural disaster. School requires a level of organization and demands more of these skills as gifted learners progress in age and ability. Parents should experiment with different organizational strategies such as color-coding, charts, daily check-ins, and technology tools. Teachers should make it easy for students to stay organized by making expectations clear and maintain communication with students and parents no matter the age.
5. Seek Out Interventions for Social/Emotional Intensities
Education and knowledge is the key when managing social and emotional intensities with gifted students. Teachers and parents need to understand where gifted learners are coming from and how they choose to cope with the intensities they face. Many times, what we see as defiant behavior may be a strategy a gifted learner is using to cope or manage an area of difficulty. Living with Intensity by Susan Daniels and Michael Piechowski is a great resource to help understand the spectrum and degree of intensities some gifted learners experience. Seek to understand.
Let’s work together to help gifted students thrive in their environments, so they can be their best, showcase their talents, and push boundaries to reach the impossible.