Academically gifted students perform or show the potential to perform at significantly high levels of learning when compared to others their age, experience, or environment. These students display high performance capability in intellectual areas, specific academic fields, or in both areas.
Children identified as academically gifted often require separate educational services beyond those that are normally offered to further develop their abilities.
Outstanding abilities are present in students from all cultural groups, across all economic divisions, and in all areas of human behavior. A common myth about gifted students is that if they are gifted in one academic area, they are gifted in all areas. A second myth is that these students can make it on their own, with limited support and guidance from teachers. In truth, gifted students have areas of strength and weakness; and they may need specialized support in areas besides academics.
Students who do not struggle with academic endeavors have to deal with being lauded as a model student. They feel like impostors. Because the work is not as hard for them, they know that they did not master the tasks assigned to them. Many feel sorry that the assignments are too easy, and others no longer care. Some academically gifted students are seemingly attentive while reading their novels hidden within their books, others ask questions that lead to class discussions and tangents, which destroy the teacher’s lesson plan. Some refuse to participate in activities or work that does not interest them. How can teachers make a difference for these students? How can they be challenged and inspired without leaving the rest of the class “in the dust”?
Some of the tools a teacher can use are tiered lessons and assignments and providing a differentiated classroom for all students. Teachers also need to make sure all students receive emotional support and guidance, which make learning possible.
When using tiered lessons and assignments, it is best to plan three to six different exercises that focus on the same central idea, but use resource materials and activities of different complexity. Tiered lessons offer students a match between their personal learning level and the subject content. They allow students to challenge themselves. The lessons should not be so challenging that they cause frustration for the students.
Flexibility is a hallmark of a differentiated classroom. The goals of this type of classroom are maximum growth and individual success. In this type of classroom, the teacher needs to understand, appreciate, and build upon their students’ differences. Assignments and instructions need to be recognized as inseparable. The teacher can adjust content, process, and product in response to students’ readiness, interests, and learning ability so that all students can participate in work challenging enough for them.