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What Does Gifted Really Mean?

Updated: Sep 18, 2020

By Sarah Brambley, IU8 Curriculum Specialist STEM

What does gifted really mean? What are the two best practices that I can implement in my classroom? Can I use those best practices with other students as well?

When I went through college as an elementary education major, the only thing I really remember being told about gifted students is they have an IQ above 130. We spent a lot of time talking

about special education students but only about 1 minute talking about gifted students. So, much to my surprise, when I landed my first teaching position, I had a special education teacher in with me during my class that was predominately special education. She was an excellent guide for making modifications and adaptations. When I had the gifted population for that grade (6 students), there wasn’t anyone in there to help guide me in enrichment or acceleration activities. So, I did the only differentiation that I knew how to and that was giving them books with higher reading levels in their literature circles and a choice board for projects. When I went through school, gifted was always a pullout model, so I was not used to teachers in the regular classroom differentiating instruction for them. 

Is gifted just an IQ above 130?

Was my college professor correct in saying gifted is a person with an IQ above 130? That is a loaded question. In one regard they are correct. A person with a Full-Scale Intelligence Quotient (FSIQ) of 130 is considered gifted. What if a student is over 130 in one of the subcategories but not an overall score of 130? Should these students get gifted services? At this point, a matrix should be used and there needs to be an academic reason for a student to qualify for gifted. Some data that is excellent in determining student need for gifted services is reading comprehension percentile and math reasoning percentile. Please use only the higher percentile to determine eligibility. Rate of retention and rate of acquisition are also good indicators in determining giftedness. It is also imperative to receive input from the student’s teacher(s) and parents. They have great insight as to the student’s abilities and desire to be challenged.

What can I do in my classes to help enrich students?

One recommendation I would make for all teachers and all students is pretesting. If you pretest and the student knows 85% of the material, they have already mastered that material. It would be fine and encouraged to do the lessons or even mini-lessons on the concepts they missed, but then they should be able to move on. You do not have to let them move onto the next topic you are going to teach but let them go deeper into what you are teaching. Feel free to give them an individualized project to help them go deeper with their learning. You can be more of a facilitator than the teacher.

Another great option for gifted students is offering the most difficult problems first. Identify the 5 hardest problems. If the student can answer them correctly, they do not have to answer the other 20 problems that the rest of the class is doing. It is one of the simplest ways to compact that curriculum.

By utilizing either of these two strategies for the whole class, no favoritism can be perceived while gauging the needs of your gifted students. For more information please look at the PSEA-PAGE Handbook for Understanding and Challenging the Gifted: An Introduction for Teachers.

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