Bright or Gifted Students

Bright or Gifted Students

One of the questions that mystified parents of school age children ask themselves may be around the notion of giftedness. What does it mean when a child is described as gifted? Typically a gifted child is one that performs or has the potential to perform at an exceptionally high level in terms of the rate, depth and complexity of learning when compared to other children of the same age.

Specifically, gifted children are often characterized by keen powers of observation, excellent reasoning skills, excellent memory, long attention span for novel or challenging material and an ability to learn complex, abstract concepts quickly and with less repetition than other children of their same age.

Parents and teachers of gifted children often notice that these children delight in discovering relationships among several different areas of study; they are often able to transfer knowledge learned in one subject to another area of study. For example, a young gifted student may begin to see that common themes emerge in a number of fairy tales and then relate that understanding to the interpersonal issues that develop among students on the playground. A gifted student in upper elementary school might relate what they learned about the water cycle in science to the problems facing astronauts who may want to live on another planet. Regardless of the area, many gifted students prefer tasks that challenge them to synthesize ideas and engage them in elaborate and original thinking. 

In contrast, may gifted children have a low tolerance for repetitive tasks that require them to memorize large amounts of unrelated facts. Under these conditions, they may appear to be bored, inattentive, or withdrawn, and often they perform less well than others in their class. This, in part, explains that while many gifted children enjoy considerable academic success in school, there are many who do not. Parents of these children often express frustration because their child seems to be a highly motivated and creative thinker at home but does not seem able to enjoy the same level of success at school. Often this is due to the fact that gifted children require high levels of novelty in their learning; these children are “wired” to seek new information in order to learn. They become easily frustrated when they are working with the same information day after day.

Gifted children often prefer the company of older children or adults and sometimes do not relate well to students who are their same age. Same age peers often do not have the capacity to engage the gifted student in conversations that are mutually rewarding. Interactions with adults or older children provide them with the opportunity to discuss ideas of an abstract nature that their same age peers might otherwise not understand. Another important element of these interactions is that they foster the emotional development of the gifted student in that they feel that they can relate in a meaningful way to others. This fosters their sense of belonging, a critical factor in the development of healthy self-esteem.

© Ivonne Fuechter-Field 2016-2017