Wednesday, July 1, 2015

9 Things I Wish I'd Done for GT Kids in the Regular Classroom

On April 22, 2015, I was still awake late into the night. I could not stop tossing and turning. The wheels in my mind were spinning madly as I couldn't help but think about and make a list, which I entitled, "What I would've done differently with *Mike." (*Mike's name has been changed for privacy reasons.)

You see, Mike was a child in my class last year, my 4th year of teaching in a general ed, regular first grade classroom. He was insanely off-the-charts gifted. He could do mathematical calculations on a fourth grade level using only mental math. He made the spelling bee and made it through several rounds against fourth and fifth graders. However, he was also the one you might have found hiding under the tables though or running away down the halls, pouting in a corner and refusing to get up. He was the one who was dying inside, looking for a creative or cognitive outlet, wanting to explore and go farther, deeper, higher-- and couldn't.

Truthfully, sadly, and honestly...the classroom environment that I had set up only met his needs in minimal ways. It was the best that I could do at the time. I really thought I was doing everything I could for the gifted learners in our classroom. I understood gifted children, so I tried to help them learn in the best ways possible. But when I also had children in our classroom who were at the complete opposite end of the bell curve, meeting educational needs as one human being gets very tough, tricky, and you have to make choices.

As an educator, I was always determined to not let my gifted students fall through the cracks. I never wanted to be someone that said, "Oh, they'll be fine-- they always pick up on things and I don't need to worry about them," or the person that made them be peer tutors or teach others the content all day long. Those students are not meant to be tutors or teachers when they are in the classroom. They are meant to be learners, and if the regular curriculum and content is too basic for them, we as educators are supposed to create learning experiences for them where actual growth and exploration and innovation is taking place. Not just giving them more work or sticking an upper-grade level math workbook in their face. Which, I sadly admit, was a last resort at a very low point for me last year.

When teachers are given a wide range of student abilities- cognitive, social/emotional, physical- and then expected to spin 22 plates all at the same time every day, it is near impossible to meet all the needs of your classroom. However, I made a list of 9 things that late evening on April 22nd of the things I would've done differently for Mike in the general education classroom. Things that would not have sucked me dry of time and resources. Things that would have been small fixes to big problems that needed solving. Things that would not have cost me lots of money. Things that could be made or implemented in a very little amount of time. Things I know now that I wish I would've known then. Things that could have made a big difference in his life, and allowed him to learn at the heights he was capable of.

9 Things I Wish I'd Done for GT Kids in the Regular Classroom

1) Allow student choice and voice in the classroom, specifically in giving children leadership opportunities to have ownership over the classroom and their learning- how they are to reach learning standards and goals in regards to content/process/product

2) Social/Emotional: Promoting a growth mindset + grit in our gifted students (think gifted perfectionists, gifted underachievers, gifted children who haven't been challenged before and when challenged give up quickly, and so on), as well as attending to the intellectual traits of a gifted learner (traits such as needed humility, perseverance in challenge, courage with ideas, confidence in reason, and independence in thinking)

3) Self-Assessment with a Cupcake Grading Scale to promote a gifted learner's best work at all times, not just "getting it done"

4) Using Prior Knowledge, Inquiry, Wonder Walls, Research, and Self-Led Experimentation in Science and Social Studies

5) Making Work and Learning Meaningful through Audience and PBL

6) Creativity in Content: Time to Build, Create, and Explore + Coding

7) Pre-testing + Creative Choice Menus added to the Math Curriculum

8) ELAR Fixes: Daily Five in a Must Do/Can Do format with Self Timers + Depth and Complexity added to our love of reading

9) Time for Passion Projects + Independent Study based on interest

I realized after starting to write about each of the 9 things that each of them basically needs its own post, because of how in depth they need to be explained! So, I leave you today with the short list, and I will explain each in depth over my next several posts. Also know that since I teach elementary school, my thoughts and ideas stem from that background. Some of the ideas can pertain to any grade level, but some of them are more specific to the primary grades.

Although there are so many strategies and options available for classroom teachers in regards to meeting their gifted learners' needs, a teacher is only one person in a classroom of many. There are many needs to meet, and my hope is to provide clarity and real-life, actually-tried-and-tested ways to meet the needs of your gifted learners in a regular classroom. It is hard, and differentiation is not easy, but it is worth it. They- your gifted students- are worth it. Your gifted students will thank you, and they will learn at new levels and in ways they haven't been able to before.


  1. Love this! Insightful and thought provoking. I am looking forward to reading each in more detail. I definitely identify with some of these and would specially love to implement #3 and #4. Thanks for sharing!!

    1. Thanks, Ana! I hope the posts will be helpful to you. I truly appreciate your feedback!

  2. Thank you for your commitment to gifted learners! I completely agree that "we as educators are supposed to create learning experiences for them where actual growth and exploration and innovation is taking place."

  3. Thank you for your advice and reflection on your support of GT kids!