EXCEL PROGRAM GOALS FOR GIFTED STUDENTS
The following list describes how the daily classroom experience for formally identified gifted students (in 4th-8th grade) is tailored to meet their needs. It is a district-created document intended to guide both students and their families to an understanding of the specific qualities of giftedness and how Rockford Area Schools supports and promotes those abilities.
You have a right to know about your giftedness and how it makes you different from others, whether it’s your problem solving, memory, reasoning, motivation, inquiry, insight, communication, interests, imagination, or sense of humor. You will be allowed to be passionate about your talent area without apologies. You can feel good about your accomplishments and feel accepted for who you are as a person.
QUALITIES ABOUT GIFTED KIDS TO UNDERSTAND
1: YOU ARE INTENSE.
Gifted doesn’t just have to do with being smart. You might also feel and experience the world with more intensity. You might question more extensively, have more energy, be more aware of your surroundings, see/dream things more vividly, feel emotions more deeply, be more driven, be more empathetic, or be more philosophical.
IN THE CLASSROOM: Understanding these intensities and learning ways to focus them will help you to see them as benefits, not burdens.
RESEARCH BACKGROUND: As described by Dabrowski, there are 5 areas of over-excitability in which a person reacts more strongly than normal for a longer period than normal to a stimulus that may be very small. This reaction involves psychological factors and also central nervous system sensitivity. The unusual intensity in one or more areas explains why gifted people behave “oddly” when compared to norms. Over-excitability is more common in the gifted population but not exclusive to it. Dabrowski’s areas are listed, with three additional areas identified by other researchers.
Psychomotor: high energy/movement; uses gestures; exhibits restlessness, talks quickly, mind doesn’t stop moving
Sensual: highly sensitive to positive and negative sensory experiences; great aesthetic awareness - moved by beauty
Intellectual: questions extensively; analyzes everything (to a fault), theoretical; plays with ideas
Imaginational: sees things vividly; mixes reality/fantasy; reacts strongly to dreams/nightmares; enjoys exaggerating
Emotional: broad range of intense, complex, and extreme emotional responses (positive/negative), need for deep and committed connection, finds change hard
Purpose - extremely driven; Spirit - intensely empathetic/sensitive; Soul - more philosophical than concrete
2: YOU ARE COMPLEX.
Your brain is wired differently. (They call it a “brain on fire.”) Your memory and the way you process new ideas is very efficient and complex. It’s easier for you to understand and remember more information because of the elaborate connections that your brain makes to decide what is important. You can think about more than one thing at a time and make quick leaps between ideas.
IN THE CLASSROOM: Problems will be complex and involve a lot of information. The complexity might come from how the problem makes you think, feel, collaborate, or create.
RESEARCH BACKGROUND: A highly structured memory and efficient processing ability allows gifted students to engage successfully in tasks that require complex thinking. Gifted students more easily take in, retain, and connect information to prior knowledge. They are hypersensitive to details and process experiences in a more vivid way with greater efficiency. They make elaborate connections in ways that others don’t and therefore can store a larger quantity of knowledge. They are comfortable with more details because their networks for organizing facts and deciding relevance are more sophisticated. This allows them to process more than one thing at a time and to make intuitive leaps. They are able to manage complex problems that have a large content base.
3: YOU ARE PERCEPTIVE.
The ability to more easily see the big picture and underlying patterns is a big part of what makes you gifted. It’s easier for you to solve complicated problems because you can focus on what’s really going underneath all of the details.
IN THE CLASSROOM: Finding the principles (or reasons) that are at work will help you achieve a deep understanding of an issue or problem. The process of finding these relationships and patterns is work that truly challenges your brain.
RESEARCH BACKGROUND: The superior ability to generalize a pattern from basic facts is a significant part of what defines gifted performance. Gifted students can solve new problems more easily because they can focus on the underlying principles that direct the situation. Organizing knowledge around key principles shows a deep understanding of how things work and interact. Students should be asked to find the underlying rationale, pattern, relationship, or inter-connection to sufficiently challenge their intellect.
4: YOU ARE ASYNCHRONOUS.
Being advanced academically doesn’t necessarily mean you are equally mature in all other areas (physically, socially, emotionally etc…). In those areas, you might be just the same as other kids your age. This can make life a little confusing.
IN THE CLASSROOM: People don’t automatically succeed in life just because they are smart. We will encourage each other and help with different things as they come up.
RESEARCH BACKGROUND: Gifted kids are good at everything is a myth. In reality, many times they think like adults and act like children; seem mature but lack judgment; have mental strength but a motor skills weakness. This is called asynchronous development - literally, “not in synch.” Stephanie Tolan explains, “Highly gifted children are many ages simultaneously. A 5-year old may read like a 7-year old, play chess like a 12-year old, talk like a 13-year old, and share toys like a 2-year old. The Columbus Group maintains that this asynchrony is the absolute essence of giftedness, stating that “advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm.” The more gifted a child is, the more different his/her life experiences will be from that of age peers. Understandably, this can create a vulnerability to problems like social isolation, peer rejection and loneliness. Stephen Schroeder-Davis explains that issues can be avoided by providing opportunities for children to spend time with others based not on age but on common interests and abilities.
GOALS FOR GIFTED KIDS TO STRIVE TOWARDS
1: BE RESILIENT.
You probably have done really well with many things since you were young. This might mean you think everything should come easily. Believe it or not, you’ll be more successful later in life if you have opportunities to struggle in school now. You will become more resilient as you experience things that aren’t easy and realize that it’s okay if a smart person has to work really hard.
IN THE CLASSROOM: Activities will be tough so that you can practice making mistakes in a safe place, with others like you.
RESEARCH BACKGROUND: From an early age, gifted kids perform well. This can lead to an expectation - either from others or from within - that everything should come easily. Students need to be given opportunities where learning is a struggle so that their mindset does not involve this detrimental expectation. Experience making mistakes and persisting through failure with intellectual peers fosters resilience over rigidity. A growth mindset and a gifted mind is a powerful combination, with ever higher levels of achievement. A fixed mindset on the other hand may lead to an early plateau and achieving less than full potential. The key elements of the growth mindset include: embracing challenge (vs. avoiding it), persisting in the fact of setbacks (vs. giving up easily), seeing effort as the path to mastery (vs. seeing effort as fruitless or worse), learning from criticism (vs. ignoring useful negative feedback) and finding lessons and inspiration in the success of others (vs. feeling threatened).
2: BE AMBITIOUS
It is probably the case that you find enjoyment in projects that frustrate other students. An open-ended problem requires a great deal of intellectual effort. When you can push yourself through the challenges, you will be achieving at your highest ability!
IN THE CLASSROOM: Unstructured types of problems will be the norm. You will have to form the details of the problem, the solution, and the path in between.
RESEARCH BACKGROUND: It is common that gifted learners enjoy loosely structured projects that would not be appealing to other students. A vague problem statement and an open-ended way of reaching a goal requires students to continually refine their ideas. When students are given only general guidelines, they must use their knowledge base to bring structure to the problem, the solution and the path in between. This type of ill-structured problem requires a great deal of intellectual effort and provides the stimulation that talented students need to be appropriately challenged.
3: BE INTELLECTUAL.
Being intelligent is not the same as being an intellectual. Thinking intellectually involves being able to analyze, discuss, and question controversial ideas (that don’t have an easy answer). These situations cannot be settled by only the facts or personal experience.
IN THE CLASSROOM: With a variety of issues, you will be asked to evaluate the sources of your facts, focus on cause and effect or patterns, consider opposing points of view, and delay forming a conclusion until you have enough information.
RESEARCH BACKGROUND: Teaching gifted students is less about the amount of work and more about making cognitive demands upon students. Students should be taught strategies that will allow them to use their intelligence efficiently and effectively. Thinking intellectually involves: evaluating sources of information, focusing on cause and effect relationships, considering opposing points of view, and delaying the formation of conclusions until a sufficient amount of information is obtained. They should be given opportunities to use facts as the building blocks for constructing and supporting a point of view, especially when discussing and drawing conclusions about controversial ideas (things that cannot be settled by either evidence or experience).
4: BE WELL-ROUNDED.
Having a high I.Q. (intelligence quotient) does not guarantee success. You must also have a good:
E.Q. (emotional quotient) - know what you feel and and how feelings affect you and others around you
S.Q. (social quotient) - know how to relate to a world full of other people with patience and respect
C.Q (creativity quotient) - think fluently and flexibly; be original; and elaborate on others' ideas
IN THE CLASSROOM: Depending on your strengths, you will help or be helped with these other areas.
RESEARCH BACKGROUND: Having a high IQ (intelligence quotient), does not guarantee a person is well-adjusted, high-achieving, admired, fulfilled, innovative, and successful. People also must have a high EQ (emotional intelligence quotient), SQ (social intelligence quotient), and CQ (creativity intelligence quotient). EQ involves self-awareness and self-management. SQ covers social awareness and relationship management. CQ is about thinking divergently and originally about an issue.
- Delisle, J., & Galbraith, J. (2002). When gifted kids don't have all the answers: How to meet their social and emotional needs. Minneapolis: Free Spirits Pub.
- Galbraith, J., & Delisle, J. (2011). The gifted teen survival guide: Smart, sharp, and ready for (almost) anything (Rev. & updated 4th ed.). Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Pub.
- Smith, K. (2010). Challenging units for gifted learners: Teaching the way gifted students think : Language arts. Waco, Tex.: Prufrock Press.