Teaching gifted students can be an enjoyable and rewarding task for many teachers. However, it can be a little difficult keeping bright kids engaged, particularly if much of your time is spent helping students who are struggling.
Whilst it can be easy to overlook gifted learners in the classroom, doing so can leave them bored and listless, and they may even start acting up.
If you’d like a little help keeping bright students engaged and intellectually stimulated, we’ve put together some top tips:
1. Get to know their intellectual passions
Gifted students often harbor an array of diverse intellectual interests, and getting to know their passions can help you to tailor lessons with your brightest students in mind. Try teasing out some of these interests at the beginning of the academic year through ice-breaker activities and games.
You could even ask gifted students to teach their peers a few things about a range of topics including:
- Their favorite novel
- A tricky mathematical formula
- A certain period of history
- A little-known artist
- A scientific theory
- Their favorite film or film director
- Obscure facts from around the world
2. Encourage them to talk about current events
Gifted students tend to keep up with current events and are often curious about the world of politics. Engaging them in conversations about world events will show them how their special talents could be used to address very real problems.
Remember, however, that the news cycle can also seem very scary to gifted children, particularly those of a sensitive disposition. In this way, it is important to remind your students that there are also good things occurring across the world.
3. Give them the freedom to move
Bright students often need space to move around when they are thinking. If your group of students is well-behaved and the classroom is big enough, designate a few minutes every lesson for movement. This could be anything from pacing to jumping on the spot – just make sure they stay safe and sensible!
4. Don’t forget their non-academic needs
It is not unusual for gifted children to face issues such as social anxiety, behavioral problems, or other kinds of mental health issues. They also tend to experience bullying more often than their peers. If you notice that one of your bright students is acting up or seems withdrawn, try out these tips.
5. Get gifted children involved in group work
It is common for gifted children to want to lead teams, particularly if they feel they can get tasks done faster and more efficiently. However, this can lead to isolation and an inability to work with others. Encourage them to exercise their social skills with group work.
6. Try not to turn bright students into teachers
If you’re in a busy classroom, it can be tempting to ask gifted students to teach struggling peers about a certain equation or concept. It is important to remember, however, that this is not their job and they are not qualified teachers. In fact, the brains of gifted students tend to work very differently to those of their peers, and they may simply end up confusing struggling students.
7. Allow them to chat about books with you
If a gifted student wants to have a five-minute chat after class about a book they are reading, try not to dismiss them. It offers a great opportunity for them to air their passions.
8. Don’t force them to listen to things they already know
If a bright student has already demonstrated that they know a great deal about a certain topic, don’t make them sit through lessons they will learn nothing from. Allow them some quiet reading time or encourage them to push ahead onto new tasks.
9. Find academic resources for them to explore at home
Gifted kids tend to thrive on learning things for themselves. Help them explore their interests by researching and recommending a few relevant books, websites, or documentaries.
10. Suggest that they enter competitions
Entering bright students into academic competitions is an effective way of pushing them out of their comfort zone. It will also offer them new opportunities to connect with other gifted kids and may fire up a healthy sense of competition within them. Fortunately, there are plenty of academic competitions out there for outstanding students. Search this helpful database to find one near you.
11. Teach them that less is sometimes more
Gifted students sometimes write assignments that span thousands of words in a bid to show off all of their knowledge. Remind them that sometimes less is more and that they do not need to push themselves above and beyond all of the time.
12. Don’t expect too much of them
Expecting bright kids to answer questions when their peers refuse to do so can make them feel a little resentful and overworked. Try to avoid this.
13. Teach the the value of taking a break
Clever children often have very busy minds. Remind them that taking a few minutes to relax and meditate for a few minutes can help to refresh their brains.
14. Connect them with other gifted students
Find gifted students in higher grades to mentor younger peers. They know better than anyone the challenges that bright children go through and could prove to be an invaluable resource.
15. Suggest that they attend local cultural events
Try making a calendar of local cultural events that gifted students may wish to attend. This could include art exhibitions, film screenings, or lectures, for example.
16. Set up a book club
Book clubs represent an opportunity for gifted children to articulate their thoughts with a group of people with a similar passion for reading. As well as being thoroughly enjoyable, this could help to develop their social skills and ability to speak in front of audiences.