Identifying children with giftedness can be a relatively complex task because these children are individuals and they all possess various capabilities and exceptions. Nonetheless, there are still certain traits that are synonymous to this group and these can go a long in establishing who is gifted or not.
Before making that distinction, it is necessary to first understand the definition of giftedness as this will provide a background against which one can work with. The term gifted has been used by certain individuals to refer to different things. Giftedness can be understood as a concept in which children, youth or students display high achievement capability in different areas such as leadership, creativity, intellect, art and other related academic fields. These children often require greater support than the normal activities and services offered by schools so as to develop these children’s capabilities. It is therefore necessary for teachers to learn about the history of giftedness and its applicability within the field of education. (Miller, 1999).
One of the major areas that can provide significant insight into a child’s level of giftedness is their personality traits. Gifted children tend to display certain characteristics that make them distinct from other children. For instance, they often have very good memories, they relate well with adults and appear to have a sense of humor that is well beyond their age. In situations where they are just learning how to read, it is common to find that they are much quicker learners than their counterparts in the classroom. On top of that, a gifted child may pay more attention in class than his or her counterparts. This is usually easy to detect if the child belongs to a lower grade in school.
Besides the latter elements, gifted children tend to be overly inquisitive. In other words, they are curious about new things and appear to be in constant need to find out something new about a certain issue. On top of the latter, a gifted child is likely to do well once he or she has been given a challenge. This is because they usually possess very good problem-solving skills as they can link seemingly unrelated items together. On top of the latter, it may be common to find that they often think outside the box i.e. they have a very unusual imagination. Giftedness is also displayed through perfectionism as such children often want to excel in everything that they are doing. In fact, it is often stated that gifted children are their own harshest critics as they want to be exceptional. One may also find that such persons have an interest in reading new and diverse resources so as to expand their knowledge base.
Developmental milestones can also provide teachers with hints on this phenomenon of giftedness. Developmental expert Jean Piaget developed a model that denotes the normal or expected lifespan changes that children go through as they grow. These milestones can provide a good standard against which one can assess a gifted child’s capabilities and intelligence. It may sometimes be possible to find that giftedness runs in a family and those unique characteristics in a certain family might seem average when a number of those family members possess them. Therefore, one cannot just depend on their immediate surrounding to know these traits – a more reliable source is needed and this is through developmental milestones. (Tolan & Webb, 1989)
Nonetheless, teachers can study the family history of a child if it is suspected that he or she might be gifted. Sometimes, one may have to rely upon external factors to arrive at a proper conclusion as family history increases the likelihood of finding a gifted child.
A gifted child is often a highly sensitive individual and this aspect can also be an important indicator of their giftedness. For example, one may be highly reactive to noise; others may dislike disorder and may fuss over the slightest interference with their stationery or book arrangements. In certain situations, these individuals may appear overexcited especially when they begin displaying some levels of unrest or when they seem to possess too much energy. It should be noted that extreme sensibilities are not a trait unique to gifted children and they have to be combined with other qualities in order to be dependable as effective indicators. (Clark, 1997)
Giftedness can be assessed through a series of methods because it entails different facets of the complete individual. Therefore, this school system will use a series of tests that can ensure a child meets the criteria for giftedness. This system will include the following: classroom observations, intelligence measures, achievement measures and lastly student portfolio work.
The intelligence test will consist of an IQ tester. This tester’s scores will be plotted in a standard distribution curve. Students will be classified on the basis of their standard deviation from the mean. Those who fall between 115-129 will be considered bright students, those ones with 130-144 will be classified as being moderately gifted, those ones between 145-159 and160-174 will be highly and exceptionally gifted respectively. Lastly, students with 175+ will be profoundly gifted and usually fall in the 99.99997th percentile range.
The latter test is highly quantitative yet giftedness can be displayed in other realms. This is the reason why teachers ought to examine other areas. It will be achieved by making a portfolio for students in every class. Certain aspects such as contributions in class, completion of assignments and problem-solving skills will be noted by the teacher and then included. Those who have a very positive portfolio are likely to be gifted. Achievement measures within the classroom and outside will also be crucial in this classification. If a child consistently performs well, then chances are that the individual may be gifted. However, some of them may display inconsistencies – one needs to look out for instances of exceptionality. (Tolan & Webb, 1989)
As teachers, one must be careful about how they handle gifted children within their classrooms. First of all, it is important to realize that some of them may be bored with usual classroom activities, consequently, teachers must think of new and creative ways to keep them engaged. One may opt to give them more complex tasks or slightly longer questions in order to make the most of their classroom experiences. On top of the latter, teachers need to realize that these students may not always be good in all disciplines. Consequently, emphasis should be given to what they are good at so as to build their capabilities. However, these children need not be stereotyped into developing certain conventional abilities only. Not all gifted children will be good in mathematics and the sciences as well. One ought to study the said individual and engage him or her in different areas of interest.
Overly speaking, gifted children can grow to become very influential adults but in order to achieve this, teachers need to address all their social, emotional, intellectual and psychological needs. Dwelling on classroom work alone may not necessarily bring out the underlying challenges that could be impeding these children’s potential.
Tolan, S. & Webb, J. (1989). Guiding Gifted Children. New York: Great potential Press.
Clark, B. (1997). Growing up gifted. New York: Prentice Hall.
Miller, A. (1999). The Drama of the gifted child. Chicago: Basic books.