Identifying And Helping Gifted Students In The Classroom

How do we identify and help gifted students in the classroom?

Identifying and helping gifted students presents an important challenge to educators; as a teacher it can be difficult recognizing talents in the classroom.  

Therefore, one of the essential duties of a school is to do everything it takes to assist its young students recognize their abilities.

According to Françoys Gagné (2003) "Gifted students are those whose potential is distinctly above average in one or more of the following domains of human ability: intellectual, creative, social and physical.

Gagne's key word is potential. He believes in the power of environmental factors, that being natively smart isn't enough; a child needs support and guidance to achieve his/her gifted potential.

Student showing his art work at Greensprings School.

A student could be the next music superstar like Asa while another could be a great football legend like Kanu Nwankwo but teachers are encouraged to assist their students especially the young ones in developing their talents. 

Most teachers complain bitterly about some of their students’ performance, unknown to them that child might just be struggling in a particular subject and require you to guide him/her on the right track.

More so, students that struggle academically or those who do not take their school work seriously may be passionate about other activities or might just be lazy.  

In this article, we will look at the roles teachers play in identifying and helping gifted students in the classroom; the link between parents and talented children.

Identifying gifted student in the classroom (What to look out for)

Teachers can recognize gifted students by some of the common characteristics they exhibit in the classroom which are as follows:

See table below.  

 The Gifted student


Can ask a lot of questions and are very curious

Easily gets off task and off topic

Learns new information fast

Gets bored easily

Demonstrates strong ability in mathematics

Can become disruptive in the classroom

Shows strong academic achievements

Completes work quickly but sloppily

Will love to do many things

May resist working on activities they are not interested in

Enjoys a challenge

Takes on too much and becomes overwhelmed

Expresses irreplaceable and unique opinions

Does not handle criticism very well

Shows skills in drama, art, music, language

Sometimes perceived as a know it all by peers.

However, the characteristics on this table are limited, as students who are extremely gifted may or may not possess the features listed. 

How then can teachers identify and help gifted students in the classroom when the signs are not obvious?

Stages of helping gifted students to become better

Teachers’ recognizing gifted students in the classroom is not an easy process, but it is one that must be done. There are several ways in which teachers in the classroom can recognize and improve talents in students.

1.      Identification Stage - Realizing that gentle exercise is a productive practice

Educational institutions need to train teachers to be patient with students.  It can’t always be a smooth process teaching young children.

Every child isn’t the same and it is the responsibility of the teacher to understand all the students in the class. Most teachers are always tempted to hurry the students with the class work and when a student lags in one or more subjects, the teacher is not happy and may be tempted to complain about the poor performance which in turn, affects the child negatively.

Instead of complaining, the teacher can speak to the child’s strength and encourage the child to do better. You can also get more information through formal and informal assessments.

Play behind the scene

As a teacher when you observe that a child is interested and full of energy about a subject or an art, it only makes sense to encourage and nudge them in the right direction. You should play the role of the guardian and coach.  

To raise a generation of creatives, work needs to be invested to create and nurture an environment that not only approves the ideas of young children but also inspires them to be freely expressive.  

If you find that a child in elementary school is excellent in Mathematics, you should speak to the parents and discuss private lessons for that child that will develop and strengthen the skills.

2.  Improvement Stage - Change the “Usual”

In order not to cause exclusion in the classroom; it is important as a teacher to do something different from the norm.  Young children love to be included in activities of school work. Children between the ages of four to eleven tend to feel secluded if they are left out of certain activities.

Therefore, all students should be given the chance to grow wherever they are by including in their school work, some activities that will help them mentally and physically.

For example, quiz competitions help students grow mentally and give them a sense of competence and independence, while dancing competition helps improve their dance skills and physical strength at the same time.

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In elementary school, not all students show giftedness that early, they develop it along the way. This is why there should be no form of stereotype.  

As a teacher you will likely encounter students who are moderately gifted, highly gifted and perhaps if you are lucky a few who are profoundly gifted. 

Strategies that work for one set of gifted students might not work for another. This is where creativity comes in. Teachers have to think outside the box to be able to attend to all the prerequisites of their students.

If you find that a young child is excellent at football encourage them not to hold back on their dream, same for if he/she is a brilliant thinker, motivate the child by providing the necessary opportunities to soar.

Here are ways to help improve a gifted student ability:

Conduct informal assessments

Helping gifted students does not need to be a problematic task.  One of the easiest ways to better grasps and understand these young children is to conduct informal whole class assessments. After a class, a test can be given to the students. 

For those who score 75 percent and above should not be forced to re learn information they already know.  Rather, they should be given a more challenging task to partake.


It is as easy as saying, “I know someone who had this same talent and did amazing things with it and became successful.”  

Teachers are experienced and have gone through different personalities.  If as a teacher you spot a child who is wonderful at drawing so well, and you recall a past student who was equally good in the same area.  

Recommending the student to meet the ex-student at the school or outside is not a bad idea. This will motivate the child to be dedicated and take one’s talent more seriously.

Discovering and developing special talents in children and youth, and seeing those students and their talents bloom are among the greatest joys of teaching. In fact, our task in school should be to do both- to teach basic skills well and as early as possible, and to identify and nurture student’s strengths.

Talent is an ability that someone is born with; it is a high degree of capacity. 

It is estimated that students who are gifted and highly talented encompass 5 to 15% of the school age population.

These young students can be said to be above average in some activities like academics, art, music… to mention but a few. 

However, many of these students don’t even know they possess strong competencies in certain areas; hence the reason for talent nurturing.

The school is one notable factor that can either make or mar a child’s talent.

An educational institution plays an important aspect in the lives of children.

Parents are obligated to help nurture the gifts of their children that will help them be better citizens in their various fields, but the school is just as important. 

In fact, it is the duty of the school to recognize hidden talents that parents could not identify.  

Nevertheless, it can be difficult identifying students who are extremely artistic; this is because some may appear to lack interest in school work or might disrupt the class in ways that disturb the flow of knowledge in the classroom; such acts can make the work of the teacher strenuous.

Spotting talents and nurturing young children at an early stage over time is important at home. 

The school can help with this task as it becomes more difficult to go through life transitions such as; from early childhood to middle school, adolescence and then early adulthood, the school plays a vital role in shaping the personality traits and talents of children.

Although, talents and gifts are expected to be spotted and honed at an early stage in life, school teachers tend to make the mistake of performing these tasks when the children are much older and probably in the next stage where it may be more difficult to identify these talents.

At the age of five years, some young children begin to exhibit behaviors that adults might consider highly intellectual.

Gifted children are naturally curious: they produce a constant stream of questions that helps them learn fast and remember things easily. They also see the world differently than the other seemingly average classmates.

This sense of acuity that the gifted students display in the classroom induces ambivalence about the children’s age in the minds of the teachers.

There are young gifted students who are not doing so great academically but perform exceptionally in extracurricular activities like sports, dancing and singing etc.

It is the responsibility of the teachers to devote ample time and energy in supporting these gifted children and assist them with academic exercises to boost their mental acuity.

Talented Student at Greensprings School playing the violin at Music festival 2017.

Finally, an important aspect in recognizing and assisting gifted students in the classroom is taking advantage of the parents.

They should be used as the chain link; parents are advocates for their children. Young kids spend most of their active time of the day i.e. 8am to 3/4pm in the school except for weekends and during the holiday.

Teachers are likely to observe giftedness in children very early than even parents. Collaborate with the parent of talented students in your classroom.  

For example, if you want their child to have a more challenging knowledge in verbal reasoning; enlist their help in finding a better curriculum options. You can even recommend extra lessons for the child if he/she is extremely gifted in that area.  

Parents should pay extra attention to children; this should begin from an early age.

You will agree with me that having talents alone is not enough. Yes! It is an important component in succeeding in life but it is only a starting point.

To sharpen the skills of young children, parents can provide many play materials for children and detect the ones they are more comfortable with and interested in using.

From there they can encourage their children depending on exactly what benefits them.  

Cheering young kids pushes them to do better; children are like sponges that soak the responses and action of people around them.

Another important way parents can assist and help their gifted child is to inspire them. If you find that your child loves to sing, take her to a music concert.

If he/she is a good actor, let them watch a life stage performance and also watch movies.  

Take the opportunity to broaden and enrich their understanding of the subject; doing this early allows young children to self-discover their core competence.

Don’t forget to always encourage your child to ask questions you can help answer. Replying questions satisfies your child’s curiosity.

In summary, young gifted children need their skills to be sharpened and to effectively do this, educational institutions need to provide trained teachers who offer adequate exercises and mentoring programs to these students.  

Identifying these talents are essential for the growth and development of young gifted children.

Classroom teachers should not be quick to assume that a child is not talented because they show weakness in a school work, instead they should figure out the child’s strength and encourage him/her reach their full potential.

About the Author Greensprings School

We have over 30 years of promoting lifelong learning in an open and caring atmosphere that motivates students to be confident and responsible global citizens.

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