None of the content on this section of the site should be construed as being descriptive of any particular school in which I have taught, currently teach or with which I have had an association.
There is a link to a PowerPoint Presentation towards the end! Everything else is a disclaimer of sorts.
At the most basic level, a teachers can provide for the needs of gifted and talented children by remembering one simple premise:
Good teaching for gifted children is just good teaching.
A variety of approaches and methodologies that engage and challenge a student at the level they are at in a subject will yield the greatest pedagogical success possible within the constraints of the system in which a teacher finds themselves. That is easier said that done. One should not expect a teacher to get it spot on all the time. But a teacher should strive to move beyond ‘chalk and talk’ (though sometimes this is a useful approach too!)(oh, and beware ‘Death by PowerPoint‘)
Many myths and realities exist about teachers interactions with gifted children and sometimes separating them out is difficult. Here are some:
- I not going to be shown up in front of a class as not knowing my subject.
- I’m not going to give the class the opportunity to disrupt work by allowing a student to show me up.
- That student is deliberately trying to sabotage my class and I will not allow it.
- I can’t allow one student to dominate the answering of questions.
- I don’t have gifted children in my class. No one is my class is that brilliant.
- I wouldn’t know how to teach a gifted child.
- I know my teaching matches all my students.
- My students results show that I reach all my students.
- All students are gifted
It is impossible to list every single possible description of the interactions between children and their teachers. Some of the above may not occur in every class, yet it is certain they all do somewhere at sometime. That includes the one about children sometimes deliberately trying to sabotage a class.
Not everything that goes on in a classroom is ‘teaching’. It is convenient to think that a teachers job is to teach and that is all they ‘have to’ do. In reality, teachers have to manage not only their individual and collective relationship with their students, but also their students’ relationships with each other and all that flows from that. And then they have to teach.
Actually, the more I type about it the more I conclude it is a mad job and I can’t see why anyone would do it!
But there are some key things I think a teacher facing a gifted child should bear in mind.
Firstly, the individual, never mind teacher, who knows everything about even one discipline has not yet been born. Fairly often I would not have an answer to a student question. BUT I would endeavour to find the answer and relay it back another time. Better still, sometimes I ask the student to find the answer and come back and tell the class.
Secondly, if a child does seem to know more about a particular topic than you, their expression of this is not necessarily delivered to highlight this. It is often delivered as if to say ‘look what I learned’. And many times it is delivered to engage a discussion about the extra learning that can be derived from a particular piece of information or to test whether the information is correct. It is always better to say ‘I don’t know’ that to fudge the answer.
The ‘teaching strategies’ menu above will develop over time, but it will begin with ‘the basics’ – ensuring a positive classroom environment to limit distractions and provide the opportunity for learning to occur. Here is a summary version of ‘Teaching Strategies‘. It has lots of ideas in it.
If, as a teacher, you find yourself reading this please don’t click over on the basis that you already know all this stuff. I’m presenting it mostly as a reflection of my own experience and I would really like your feedback.