Monday, 1 October 2018

Five Practical Ways to Be a Champion for A Gifted Child- Teacher Version

I have long been a fan of Rita Pierson's TED talk Every Kid Needs a Champion With close to 9 million views, it is clear that her simple but compelling message resonates.

How does Pierson's wisdom apply to our gifted learners? Sadly, we're all familiar with the common scenario of gifted children being left to their own devices in contexts where the prevailing feeling is that they are doing "just fine" and are not "at risk." I'm not throwing any shade here......I know that we educators are frequently stretched thin, with far too much on our plates! It is not at all surprising that when teachers are swamped and forced to prioritise, the gifted kids who, on the surface, appear to be bright and making progress are often left to fend for themselves.

I know that I'm preaching to the choir here; I don't need to explain why not meeting the needs of gifted learners (and indeed any learner) is a tragedy and an issue of social justice.  We're all on the same page and want to be champions for our gifted learners. The question is not Why but How? How do we advocate for our gifted kids? How do we become their champions and support them as they strive to meet their potential?

Here's five practical ways educators can become champions for our gifted learners- needless to say, these ideas will work for any learners in your cohort.

1. Interview all the kids on your GATE register-

This is something that I had the privilege of doing with our GATE co-ordinator, Pauline Dann. We asked questions such as-

  • What are you curious about? 
  • How do you find the challenge level in your learning? 
  • What do you want your teachers to know about you? 

The process was insightful, revealing, inspiring and in some cases very spurred us into further action and made us reflect on whether we were meeting the needs of our gifted cohort.

2. Communicate frequently with the whanāu of your gifted kids.

Parenting gifted children can be incredibly difficult and even isolating at times. Consider surveying the families too. Support each other as you work to achieve great outcomes for your gifted kids.

3. Offer programmes that will challenge your gifted kids-

There is an abundance of programmes that help gifted kids make the most of their strengths and develop new ones, as well as providing opportunities for them to work with like-minds. Programmes include Tournament of Minds, Kidslit Quiz, Philosophy for Kids, Cantamaths, Brainbee and my personal favourite, Future Problem Solving, ........
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Reflect carefully on your selection process. You might consider allowing children to self-nominate for some of these programmes....whatever you do, please don't select these kids based on some form of one-off test or worse, a school entrance exam!  Keep an open view of how giftedness presents itself. Many of our most gifted kids do not test well in formal testing situations but thrive in creative thinking programmes so please do give a lot of thought to how learners are selected. 

4. Ensure that your classroom programmes meet everyone's needs-

High ceiling- low floor tasks are brilliant for ensuring everyone can work at their own level. Offer open-ended tasks such as passion projects, genius hour etc but ensure that you provide adequate scaffolding and accountability checks for all kids.  There is sometimes an assumption that gifted kids will automatically know how to master open-ended inquiries and projects and be able to organise themselves with minimal teacher support. Don't fall into this trap. Check in frequently and provide mentoring and coaching to help all kids meet their potential.

5. Read, read, read! 

Learn all you can about how to meet the needs of gifted kids. Follow teachers on Twitter who have an interest in gifted kids. Join Justine Hughes' amazing Facebook group, a true treasure trove of resources and conversations that will help us be true champions for our gifted learners.

What ideas would you add to this list?


  1. I love that you talk about social justice, it is a challenge but we cannot afford to continue to leave it in the too hard basket. I am reflecting a lot on my practice this year and equity is a big area that I have been working through, and am continuing to work on. Thanks for your thoughts

    1. I agree, Meg. It is so important that all our kids needs are met. You're right, it is challenging but we really must strive to achieve it.

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. The discussion with whānau is really important. Having informal get togethers with families and your GATE coordinator to share resources and support each other can be great too.

    1. That's a really great idea. Have you tried this? How did the rest of your school community view it? I only ask that because of the oft-heard "elitist" call. The gifted community has got marketing issues ;).....if only people really understood many of the difficulties our gifted kids face, I'm sure they would understand their need for greater support.

      Thanks for your comment, Rebecca.

    2. A local school does this with a bring 'pot luck' or your own pizza. The kids have a play space set up and adults can talk. Often they make a small informal presentation to whanau and then there's time to discuss. The school has a long history of supporting gifted students and families so I don't think there's any negative feeling in the community , which is awesome! I'm looking forward to going to my first meeting soon!

  3. Love the ideas shared here by you and the people commenting Bridget. Whānau connection is so important - particularly when identifying our gifted Māori students. Looking forward to reading more of your posts! Thanks for joining us in this Blog Challenge!