Gifted children also face challenges

2008-05-07 00:00

Teachers and parents are often more worried about children who face learning difficulties than those who are gifted. They fail to realise that both gifted children and children with learning challenges are special cases and therefore require special effort by the teacher in the preparation and presentation of learning materials if their educational needs are to be met.

A child with a high intellectual ability has educational needs that differ from the non-gifted. This makes the child a special case. Because of the child’s intellectual, linguistic and extra-curricular abilities, special teaching arrangements should be made in the school system to avoid a situation where the child will reap little benefit from ordinary teaching.

In today’s teaching, the gifted child is identified by the use of standardised intelligence tests. However, the teacher and/or parent can also successfully identify the gifted child by carefully looking out for signs of high potential achievement. The child often manifests the following:

• uses complex words correctly and vocabulary is beyond his or her age;

• is effective in spoken and written communication;

• has little patience with routine procedures, skills and tasks;

• may portray high performance in particular subjects, sports and art;

• displays wide interest and strong concentration in academic subjects as well as extra-curricular activities;

• is curious, asks questions about causes and reasons and is capable of generating ideas;

• likes to solve problems and puzzles;

• quickly recognises relationships;

• has strong preference for novelty and freedom, wants to be independent and self-directed, and requires little external motivation;

• has high creative originality and productivity in groups, and enjoys organising others and assuming leadership roles in learning activities;

• has delicate sensitivity to human relationships;

• tends to be responsibly analytical and critical of himself and others, isn’t afraid to be different;

• is flexible and knows where to find solutions to problems;

• generally learns easily and understands concepts without extensive use of concrete examples; and

• retains information over long periods and is able to achieve a unification of the conscious, sub-conscious and the unconscious self.

Some children will manifest some of these characteristics, while others will manifest all or almost all. The mistake we make as teachers is to assume that in every class there is at least one gifted child.

This thinking is based on the fact that a particular child always comes top of the class in tests. Such a view may have far-reaching consequences for the child.

The following techniques should be applied to accommodate gifted children.

• Teachers need to provide a challenging learning environment.

• Gifted children need to be involved in problem-solving learning activities that include discovery learning.

• They need higher-order questions, which require them to apply, evaluate and synthesise knowledge.

• The child needs a variety of reading materials in different subjects.

• The child needs to be exposed to modern technology, such as computers, at an early age.

• Parents need to buy their gifted children books on their birthdays over and above the usual presents such as clothes and playthings.

• Reading materials for leisure such as novels, newspapers and magazines must be provided.

• Provide opportunities for leadership roles in the home and at school.

• Involve the gifted child in helping other pupils who face learning challenges in academic work.

• Give the child the opportunity to actively

participate in sporting, debating and creative writing clubs, including drama and poetry.

Gifted children are sensitive to human relationships and teachers and parents should be sympathetic to their emotional development as this tends to lag behind their cognitive development.

Gifted children possess exceptional intellectual, linguistic or physical abilities. Teachers and parents are encouraged to carefully and critically study their children and provide an environment that is conducive to the development of giftedness.

• Alois Nzembe has several years of teaching experience. He is currently teaching geography at Icesa College.

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