Teacher Support

Dear ELANCO elementary teachers,

On this page you will find information to help you recognize traits and characteristics common to gifted students.  During the gifted identification process, you are called upon to share your observations.  Your input is valued and helpful.  I hope the information shared here will help you to become more comfortable in recognizing the strengths and needs of this unique population.

5 Common Myths about Gifted Students:

  1. They perform well in school and get good grades (high-achieving).
  2. They are good at all academic areas.
  3. They don’t need help/supports; will do fine on their own.
  4. They are happy, well-adjusted students.
  5. They are all natural leaders.

Common Cognitive Traits of Gifted Students:

  1. Learns new information quickly.
  2. Retains what is learned with little repetition (excellent memory).
  3. May have extensive background knowledge that he/she wants to share.
  4. Displays curiosity and some intense interests.
  5. Unusually large vocabulary and sentence structure (oral) for age.
  6. Makes unusual connections for age.
  7. Enjoys solving problems, especially with numbers & puzzles.

Common Affective Traits of Gifted Students:

  1. Displays a keen/unusual sense of humor.
  2. May prefer connecting with adults or prefers to work alone.
  3. Shows deeply intense feelings and reactions.
  4. Concerned with issues of injustice/fairness.
  5. Highly sensitive – may show strong empathy to others.

In the Classroom It Might Look Like…

  • Mastering skills or finishing work quickly
  • BUT May complete it sloppily
  • Showing interest/curiosity about many things
  • BUT May resist working on activites apart from areas of interest
  • Reading a lot for pleasure and using unusual approaches to problem-solving
  • BUT May only read specific genres and not complete HW
  •  Thinking and working independently; self-motivated
  •  BUT May challenge authority or question the “why” of things OR “fly under the radar”, be quite quiet
  •  Debating topics passionately, showing a strong sense of justice about global issues
  •  BUT May be very critical of self and others
  •  Strong expressive skills (elaborating on ideas), showing sensitivity and empathy to others
  •  BUT May have difficulty relating to peers

There is no one-size-fits all description of a gifted child.  This diverse population of students may have strengths in multiple areas or an intense strength in one specific area. To view a few vignettes of how different individual students may present themselves, click here.

Sometimes hearing about a gifted child from a parent’s perspective is helpful. Click here to read a parent letter (taken from the blog, Crussing Tall Poppies)  that I take time to read at the beginning of each school year.

Recognize Traits in Your Students

Keep on the look-out for gifted traits in your students the whole year through.  Use the attached Google doc as a “Jot-Down” space as you observe your students’ characteristics throughout the year.  Remember to make a copy first (or several, as you may want one for each class).  Return to it throughout the year, simply “jotting-down” a student name as you notice these specific behaviors/traits.

General Intellectual Ability Jot Down

Specific Academic Area Jot Down

What is the process for identification in our district?

Students may enter the gifted evaluation process by one of three possibilities:

  1.  Universal Screening (Winter-Spring of Grade 2)
  2.  Teacher Request for Evaluation
  3.  Parent Request for Evaluation

As part of grade level data meetings, teachers should be discussing our high ability students and/or students who are exhibiting gifted traits so that referrals can be made appropriately.  Although children can be identified as gifted in any grade level, it is important to keep in mind that home environment can have an impact on a child’s early learning abilities, especially (ie. a home enviroment rich in verbal opportunities and much background knowledge may benefit a child’s early school performance).  Likewise, we also need to be on the lookout for gifted students who we may not have “caught” as early as the 2nd grade screening.  Finally, please remember that a gifted student may be a high achiever, a creative thinker, a student with a disability, or any combination of these.  If you are curious about a student in your classroom, please feel free to reach out to me learn even more.

Please find a flowchart of the gifted identification process for ELANCO here.

Executive Functioning

Finally, many gifted students don’t “fit the mold” teachers may be expecting, especially if they struggle with Executive Functioning (put simply, the ability to “execute”, or get stuff done). Executive functioning develops in the prefrontal cortex of the brain and because many gifted students develop asynchronously, this area may not be as developed as other cognitive functioning in the brain.  In fact, this area of the brain is still developing into our 20s.  For a quick, cheat sheet on EF, click here.  I appreciate the work of Seth Perler on this topic and it has helped me to better understand, support & have compassion for (as opposed to frustration over) our very bright students who lack in this area.