The other day, some teachers and I mulled over a relatively new conundrum in the standardized testing world. If you are going to measure growth in a student’s ability using a standardized test that tests the minimal skills required to pass a grade level, where does this leave the gifted student? If he or she is already able to do 5th grade math in 3rd grade, then how will we know for the next three years if that student ever learned anything new? Achieving a 99%ile every year does not necessarily prove growth. Alternatively, receiving a failing score doesn’t necessarily demonstrate lack of growth; it might prove merely that the gifted student was tired of taking irrelevant tests.
We couldn’t come up with the best, objective way to measure learning growth in this population. However, we all agreed that when a gifted child genuinely enjoys coming to school, he or she is probably learning.
How can we foster this love of learning so that these students will continue to grow even when minimum standards do not require it? According to Lisa Van Gemert (@Gifted_Guru), one thing we should not do is moreferentiate. In her article, “Top Ten Ways to Annoy a Gifted Child,” Van Gemert explains “moreferentiation” as giving a child more of the same work. I know – none of us do that, right? Well, I will be the first to admit that I have done something just as unhelpful – told them to read a book or asked them to tutor other students. In fact, when I was a classroom teacher, I was guilty of about 8 out of the 10 things that Van Gemert lists in her article. Ouch.
So, what can we do for these students? Josh Work has some suggestions in his recent article for Edutopia, “Uppervention: Meeting the Needs of Gifted and Talented Students.” I think one of the recommendations that I’ve seen to be the most successful in the classroom is to “Develop Deeper, Not Wider.” This could be the use of Genius Hour projects or another type of independent research that is based on something that interests the student.
If you are looking for some more ideas, I also wrote a post this year called, “It’s Not Enough,” which outlines some other suggestions for giving gifted students more opportunities to grow.
There is not one right answer for meeting the needs of gifted students. Every student is unique. However, there are many wrong answers. My challenge to all educators is to eradicate the “Top Ten Ways to Annoy a Gifted Child” and find at least one way to inspire all of our students to leap out of bed in joyous anticipation of each day of learning in our classrooms.