What do you do when you have a gifted student in your class? When I use the term “gifted”, I am referring to a student whose intelligence of the subject surpasses his or her peers by leaps and bounds. Consequently, what the class is learning, the gifted student already understands. In the last blog, I discussed classroom management, and though I have more to discuss on the matter, this issue of gifted students, which has its own thread in the web of classroom management, has been consuming my time and thoughts lately. So, again, what do you do when you have a gifted student in your class?
My first thought was, I hope, a product of an inexperienced educator labeling and not answering this question: what is gifted? (I believe observations and small conferences can answer that question (involving the student’s guardian(s) is also an immediate option.)) I observed a student the first few weeks of my student teaching experience and noted that student’s main attributes: uninterested, unfocused, distracting to other students, completing the bare minimum of work, and lacking in all participation; although those attributes seem to fit many students, the difference is in consistency—my student was consistent in those attributes.
As I said, my initial conclusion was severely wrong: well, I thought, the student is not doing the work and is not participating, so the student must be lazy. WRONG. I could easily write a few thousand words as to why that conclusion is wrong and in fact more deserving of the adjective “lazy”, but I prefer to spend that time discovering possible solutions.
After my initial, “lazy” conclusion, a thought crossed my mind: what if the student is not being challenged? I followed up with this theory by involving an instructor of mine who is more experienced in these matters. Afterward, we asked the cooperating teacher for her consent to have a conference with the student. Once we had her approval, we invited the student to our conference. At our conference, I realized that not only does the student know the subject material, but the student is advanced in other subjects as well; my instructor agreed. Once the student was identified as “gifted”, the issue became a matter of finding a way to challenge the student.
Ideally, the student would be switched to a more challenging class, but, at my school, that option is not available. So, since one of my educator responsibilities is creating the most challenging learning environment for each student, it was up to me. I typed a contract and plan for the student, which will have the student completing a higher level of material. I will show the contract and plan to the cooperating teacher and ask for her feedback and approval. Once approved, I will present the contract and plan to the student, explain it to the student, and have the student sign it. Now, implementing this plan in the classroom is my challenge.
I have studied differentiation and various methods of teaching in the inclusive classroom, and I know how I am going to implement the student’s plan. However, considering my minimal teaching experience, I am inviting all suggestions regarding implementation strategies that do no lose too much class time or favor, single out, or seem to favor or single out specific students. So, I have arrived where I started: what do you do when you have a gifted student in your class? (All comments are welcome.)