For the past two weeks in our PLG time I examined Gifted and Talented students in class or more specifically the concept of Acceleration. This article by Tolan got me thinking a great deal. I have many friends and many relatives that are gifted and so this is an interest of mine.
Gifted children themselves are highly diverse. I can tell you, knowing what one gifted child looks and behaves like is not going to give you insight into recognizing all gifted children. Personality and level of giftedness plays into how an individual child expresses his or her giftedness in public and in private.
So, how can we recognize a gifted child who isn’t performing highly and how can we avoid labeling all high achieving children “gifted and talented?” The ability to create new knowledge and ways to put things together rather than just skilfully master the prescribed curriculum is a sign that should not be overlooked.
Gifted students are artists: capable of synthesizing seemingly unrelated information and creating new ways to approach the material. This flair for the novel approach may not show all of the time especially in an underachieving gifted child, but it is there if we know what we are looking for.
Using Stephanie Tolan’s cheetah analogy, if we are aware that we are looking for non-retractable claws and unusually long legs not just top speed, it becomes easier to correctly identify the cheetahs as the gifted children as opposed to inaccurately calling the fastest lions gifted when they are simply fast lions not cheetahs