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Gifted Homework Ideas For 3rd

Differentiation seems to mean different things to different people. To me, it means meeting every single child where they are and pushing them forward. Not pushing them too hard, not pushing them too soft. Giving each student what they need that will make them feel successful but also challenge them. It's a really delicate balance and when you have a classroom full of 2 dozen kids- it can be really hard to find that zone for each child, especially since it is ever changing as they learn and grow. Teachers already have a lot on their plate so asking teachers to give each child a personalized education is a lot to ask for. With that said, I think that it should be attempted as much as possible for ALL students.

So today I want to talk about differentiating for your HIGH kids.

Your gifted kids. Those kids who just seem to "get it" right away when you teach things.  

I think a lot of times high achieving students are pushed to the side and are not given what they need, often times more than any other group. You already get it so why don't you go pick out a book to read while everyone else finishes their work. They already know, or it took them 5 minutes to fully get, what you're teaching that day... so what do you do with them for the next 5 hours??

I wanted to write this post of DOs and DON'Ts from the perspective of a gifted elementary school student.

I was labeled as "gifted" right away in school. Learning came really naturally to me as a child. I don't ever remember being taught to read or do math. I remember just sitting at home doing puzzles, writing, reading by myself (only child) anxiously waiting for the day I could finally start school. I was SO excited to learn new things, make new friends, and get my hands on more books and puzzles and learning. 


Although I loved going to school, I usually felt like it was up to me to make it fun (and honestly, tolerable) for myself. I also feel like there are entire school years where I didn't learn much at all to be completely honest.

Thankfully, I was raised as an only child so I was very used to finding ways to entertain myself or I think I would've become a 'naughty' student like my (also "gifted") husband which I'll talk about later.

Also thankfully, I had a few amazing teachers along the way that truly supported me and made school meaningful so I want to share what I feel as though they did right.

I'd like to say a quick disclaimer that, for some reason, it's really scary (and honestly, kind of embarrassing) for me to come out and tell the world that I was a "gifted kid." I'd honestly rather tell you my weight or about the time I sat on a chocolate brownie in white shorts in junior high. I don't want anyone to think I'm saying hey-look-at-me-I'm-smart because I don't think I'm smarter than anyone reading this at all. I was labeled gifted as a child. As an adult, I actually feel inadequate a lot of the time. I can barely juggle laundry and working. I often have to read something 5 times before I understand what it's saying. I still use my fingers to do simple math. I didn't learn how to swim until junior high. I still can't figure out how to do a cartwheel. There are so many things I don't know how to do and many things I'm not good at. Being labeled as gifted was really awkward for me in early elementary school and I felt like the other kids resented me and thought of me as different for it so it became an insecurity to me that I still carry to this day.

In 2nd grade, I remember my friend Carlos that I loved playing basketball with at recess telling me that sometimes he hated me because I always finished my work quickly and the work was really hard for him. Such an honest confession from a kid so young but it really stuck with me because it was the way I sensed that the other kids felt but he actually verbalized it and made it real. Don't get me wrong, I feel like I was socially accepted and I always had a lot of friends, but I always felt insecure about it. I think this is an important point because I often felt like some teachers propagated the idea to the class that I was different or oh-so-smart and, while they probably thought they were complimenting me and building me up in a public setting, I was wishing I could crawl into a ball and hide behind my smile.

So anyway, here are some tips to help your high kids stay engaged and learning but (more importantly, to me) feel like they belong.

[Note: These are all based on MY personal experience as a "gifted" student and from talking to my "gifted" husband/friends who had similar experiences. I'm trying to write this from the way I thought as a child, not as someone who went to college to become a teacher, to truly offer that perspective. So please realize that the feelings/thoughts I'm trying to convey may sound immature but they're the way I felt and/or the way my husband expressed that he felt when we were little kids in elementary school. I truly am fearful of being judged by this post but I think it's important to share how I felt so that future students can be supported better in their classrooms.]

DON'T give them extra of the same level of work if they finish early.

If they finish a worksheet quickly, they get it. They don't need to do it again so why give them more problems they already know how to do? It's busy work. They know it is. They may ask for it and, if they do, sure give it to them. But if they are asking for it, know that it is because they are BORED. It means they don't have another, better option so they're just trying to do something to pass the time. That's not learning in any way, shape, or form. I remember constantly asking for more work. It wasn't fun or stimulating in any way but it was either that or sit there super bored until I can't handle it anymore and get in trouble for talking to my friends that are still working.

Instead: Provide alternate and/or extension activities that are cognitively challenging things for them to do. Have it relate to the lesson! It shouldn't be more of the same work like more math problems than their friend, it should be the same concept but at a more challenging level. If you do a little searching, you can find challenging, have-to-think-a-lot type activities for most math and literacy skills or differentiated versions of activities. Most of my resources are differentiated and I know a lot of other people provide that as well. Every high kid I've ever encountered seems to love puzzles and brain teaser type activities so providing those is great as well. I used to bring crossword puzzle books, cryptograms from the newspaper, word searches, etc. from home to school to work on when I was done with my work. That definitely wouldn't fly in a classroom today though so try to provide things about the concept you're learning but on a higher, puzzle-y level if you can. Yes, puzzle-y is a word. :) I would have felt so much more connected to school if the things I was doing after my work had anything to do with what we were learning.

Here's a simple kindergarten or first grade example:

Let's say your class is learning the AR sound.
So you give your students the worksheet on the left to practice reading and writing AR words.

The worksheet on the left is very straightforward. It's a picture of a barn so they write barn under it. The words are easy to sound out with sounds they already know. There's an S-blend in scarf and the SH sound in shark but you've already learned those sounds earlier in the year so your students should be able to figure it out.

The one on the right is what you give your high kid(s). It's practicing the same target skill (reading and writing words with AR sound) but at a more challenging level. They're even doing the same amount of work but it's way more appropriate for them.

Here's a few reasons why..
- The words are more difficult to read. Most have 2 syllables instead of 1 so they are more difficult to decode.
- They have sounds your class may not have learned yet (ue in argue, oo in cartoon, soft G in garbage and large, etc.) that they will be able to figure out but it might take them a minute
- Some of the words aren't as straightforward - some have an extra step in reading the word and figuring out which picture it describes. When they read the word "sharp," they have to think of what that word means and find the picture best suited for that description. Same with "sparkle" and "large."
- It uses vocabulary they might not know. Gifted kids typically love learning new vocabulary so this will be of much higher interest to them than barns and jars. "Larva" and "harvest" might be words they haven't heard before. They'll be able to figure out where they go on the sheet by process of elimination and then will sit, looking at the pictures, and ponder what those words must mean. They may ask you what a larva is when they're done. Perfect opportunity to direct them to a science book later that has real pictures of larva. The more you can connect things for them, the better!

Another option is to give the same skill practice but in a puzzle-y way like I mentioned above.

These sheets still practice reading and writing AR words but they are more like puzzles. Really, any of your kids would enjoy these but they most likely need the straightforward practice first.

For the crossword puzzle on the left, they look at the picture and write the word just like the basic worksheet above but it's presented in a more challenging way and is highly engaging for a gifted student. The puzzle on the right gives them a box of words to read to figure out the path to form a sentence that describes the picture. I colored in the correct path to show you how it works. They have to read a lot of AR words to figure out the right path in the maze. Then, they write the sentence underneath. So both puzzle options above are still the same practice as everyone else... reading AR words, recognizing pictures, process of elimination, writing AR words... but it's at a more appropriate level for them.   

All of these pages are in my AR Worksheets & Activities {NO PREP!} Pack if you want them. 

I also have them for almost every phonics sound in a bundle.

I truly believe that...

DO let them work with a partner.

Gifted children can feel isolated. I know that I definitely did. It doesn't feel good to feel different, even if it's a good kind of different. It's still different.

If possible, let them work with a partner who also is high and finishes their work quickly. It can be very low maintenance for you if they know that when they're done with their work, they each go to some table to work on something to further their learning or know their choices. I love, love, love the way so many teachers do hands-on math stations and literacy stations these days - I would've loved that as a child. Let them do hands-on games and activities when they're done that they choose.. which leads me to...

DO give them choices in their extension/enrichment. 

Make sure there is always something in place that they can do when they are done and not something extra they have to do after their assigned task. If it is the same thing every day, they will get bored so quickly. So will most children. Have a list of at least 4-5 things they can choose from when they're done if they finish their work before the other students. The choices should be determined by you but they can choose which one to do.

Make sure you change out the choices often or they will get bored FAST.

Also encourage them to not choose the same thing always.. maybe make it a weekly list where they can choose a different one each day but have to do them all or 4 out of the 6 choices or something. 

If there is a choice that isn't that academic, be sure to limit it. I had a teacher that would let those of us that finished our work early play on the computer. So what did I do every single day? Play Oregon Trail. For a long time. Every day. It was fun and I loved it but did I learn anything? Other than the word 'dysentery' and that it is hard to ford a river in a covered wagon, definitely not. If you give them the choice to play computer games every day, they probably will. The point isn't to keep them busy, they're there to learn and grow.

DO provide funky fun things for them to do completely unrelated to what you're learning in class.

It's important to give them extension activities tied to what you're learning in class but it's also great for them to explore things that interest them that are completely unrelated!

One year, my teacher taught me how to say certain words and count to 10 in German and let me learn about German culture on the side. She had a lot of German books I could read and even brought sauerkraut for us to try. I thought it was so cool and was super engaged.

Another year, I was in an after school enrichment club to learn sign language and I LOVED IT. If your school has enrichment clubs, encourage them to join! If your school doesn't, consider starting one! We learned the alphabet, words, and the pledge of allegiance in sign language. But the best part?!?! We learned how to sign "I Want It That Way" by the Backstreet Boys!
Best. thing. ever. when you're 10 and boy bands are all the rage. Any time I hear that song to this day, I start signing the parts I remember cause IIII want it that waay :)

I know I said unrelated but you could easily incorporate a fun unrelated thing like sign language into every day learning IN the classroom as well. For example, let's say your class practices their sight words each week by building them with hands-on letters. That's great! It's fun and hands on but your gifted student will be able to do it quick and want something else. Challenge them by adding another component to it like sign language.

Secret Sign Language Sight Words

Give them the sight word cards (335 words included in this pack) for the words you're practicing that week and a sign language alphabet chart (a chart is included in the pack). Have them look at the chart to figure out each letter of the secret word they're building and make it with their hands. This connects what you're learning in the classroom to a new, challenging skill that they can practice independently. They're still practicing your weekly sight words and building them but they're also simultaneously practicing a totally different, challenging skill. They'll probably want to practice the letters with their chart when they're done and spell other things like their name, your name, their friends' names, words around the classroom, etc. - it's a perfect extension activity and what's even better is that they'll think they came up with it. :) 

I personally love language and learning new languages was what interested me and challenged me as a student. Find what it is that interests your student and let them go wild with it!

Which leads me to...

DO find out what they're interested in and provide enrichment activities about that topic.

There aren't always enrichment and extension activities directly connected to what you're learning or, if there are, they breeze through them because they already know the material. Have project type learning activities that they can go to when they're done that are about what they're interested in. Let them explore that. They came to school to learn so if they already know the content that you're teaching, give them opportunities to learn about other things they're interested in.

If they love space, have high-interest space books they can read and respond to in fun ways. Let them build a diorama or make a book about space. We are so blessed to have a website like TeachersPayTeachers that will have something for anything you want to teach that you can find so easily ready to be printed and used. Yes it's extra work for you but they will love you for it. Forever.

In 3rd grade, I had an amazing teacher who knew that I loved to read and I remember the day she said I could come to the back of the classroom to this little reading nook area and do a project on Helen Keller whenever I was done with my work. She had books about her and little activities for me to do and I was just floored. I felt so special and cared for. After several years of being sent to the library/other classes or being told to sit and wait or read, I felt like someone was finally giving me what I needed. [We still keep in touch. She even came to my wedding despite me having moved out of town.]

Gifted kids are very well aware when you view them as something in your way. I often felt like I was this nuisance that my teachers were trying to get out of the way so that they could teach the other kids. In talking to my husband, he said he felt the same way. Make it exciting like, "Look at this fun activity you can do when you're done!! You can explore blah blah.." instead of "You can go to the corner over there and pick out something on the shelf to do until the other kids are done."  

DON'T provide enrichment and extension activities that take away their social times like lunch, recess, specials, etc.

Don't punish them for their intelligence. Where they need more attention and love is IN the classroom. If they already understand what you're teaching, why would they need MORE instructional time than their peers? They just need the instructional time they already have to be better spent.

Plus, they might already have a hard time connecting with their peers. Don't take away any social opportunities from them.

When I talked to my husband about his school experience, we both felt like we were always being punished for 'being smart' in elementary school. We were either being told to go away and do something else to not bother the other kids or, when we were actually given fun enrichment activities, they were done during things we actually wanted to do. For example, my husband said he really enjoyed the things he got to do in his enrichment class but it was during his lunch/recess, so he missed out on playing with his friends which was a bummer. For me, I remember having to miss specials like P.E. and art and music and things I would've really enjoyed and been able to actually connect on the same level as my classmates. I love art but I'm awful at it.. it would've been fun to struggle together with my friends with fun stuff like that and show them that I'm not good at everything. Instead, I had to be different as usual and go to enrichment club. It would've been great if the enrichment had happened IN the classroom rather than be bored all day.   

DO call on them for answers.

There were few things I hated more in school than not being called on ever. I remember my arm being physically sore from raising it all the time to no avail. I'm sure I annoyed my teachers by always having the answer but not being called on just made me feel awful.

My husband said that being called on to answer/speak was the only way he ever felt connected to the lesson being taught. Don't deny them of that connection.

I know you're checking for understanding so you want to call on the other kids to see if they get it, but call on them too. Let them be part of the classroom community and the lesson.

I know. Sometimes high kids can be long-winded with their answers but just let them be. I know you have so much to pack into your instructional time but when you don't call on them, you're sending a message to them that them being there for that lesson doesn't matter. Let them contribute. The other kids might learn from what they're saying but, even if they don't, the gifted kid IS learning. They're learning that you care and that they matter.  

DON'T spotlight how "smart" they are to the class unless you're doing it for others at that time as well.

They know they're smart. Of course they like to hear it. But they don't want to feel different than their friends or singled out in public. They most likely don't want you to say it in front of the entire class unless you do that for everyone. Instead, use specific praise by praising a specific thing that they did, not just that they are 'so smart.' The other kids don't want to hear that either. Just make sure that when you praise them, if you say, "Wow, Sofia, I love how you put an exclamation there to show how you were excited." immediately follow that with, "And thank you so much, Jack, for how nice and quietly you're working!" if that makes sense. If you're going to put them in the spotlight, don't leave them there alone, because alone is how they will feel.

Instead: Write little notes on their work before you hand it back. They will read it and they will love it. Even if you just write the word "Wow" or "Fantastic," it means something. I always did extra in my work. If we had to write a response, I wrote as much on those lines as I could fit and in the margins. I loved when my teachers would respond to it as if they read it and were impressed by it. Writing them little positive comments or notes is an easy way to praise them without making them feel different from their peers. Praise them with words as well but make an effort to do it privately.

DO understand that they are not good at everything.

Don't just assume they're good at everything academically. They're not. Make sure they truly understand a concept before they can exit the lesson to do an extension or other activity. Check their work and understanding like with any other child. If they don't understand something, they might try to hide it because they are used to everyone thinking they're perfect and the thought of not living up to their perfect image gives them a lot of anxiety. So make sure you're checking for understanding! Don't just assume they've got it. I got all the way to Algebra 2 Honors freshman year of high school without ever understanding basic fractions. I also hid the fact that I couldn't tell time for a good decade. If a teacher had caught things like that earlier, man oh man that would've been helpful for me. Your advanced student may be a math genius but struggle with spelling. Whatever they are, find their weaknesses. They have them, I promise. Build them up and provide activities they can do when they're done with their normal work to practice those things in a fun way.

DO know that they might get frustrated and give up more easily than other students.

If something is too hard for them, they might get frustrated or angry and give up quicker than your other kids. They're used to understanding things right away and immediately excelling at new things that they try so when that doesn't happen, they may be more inclined to give up. Your lower kids are used to struggling so their stamina and perseverance may be greater than your high kids'. Encourage them to keep going and offer small hints. Help them but DO NOT just give them the answer. They like a challenge but they want to be the one to figure it out. If you give them the answer, it might make them feel like a failure.

DON'T make them sit quietly/still through an entire lesson they don't need.

This is such a big one! It's also one of the hardest to implement in a regular classroom.

But this was the very first thing my husband and I both said to each other when we talked about what we didn't like about school: Constantly having to sit through lessons about things we already knew/understood.

Your gifted students most likely already know the content you're teaching or, if they don't, will be able to master it within the first few minutes of your lesson. Once they get it, it is very, very hard for them to just sit there perfectly still, quiet, and locked on your eyes for the rest of it. They want to. They really do. They want to "be good" but it is HARD when you're forced to do that all day every single day. It feels like torture. I loved school and wanted to be the perfect little child but oh how I just could not sit there quietly. I tried so hard but I just couldn't do it.

Have you ever had to go to a staff meeting for something you had already been trained on or knew how to do? You had to sit there for an hour and watch someone read a presentation on how to do something you already knew how to do. At first, you're like, "Ooh awesome, I already know this!" and then after 10-15 minutes, you're thinking, "....I already know how to do this. Why am I here? I could be in my classroom getting things ready for tomorrow or making copies or grading. What a waste of my time."

That's only an hour. Imagine doing that all day every day, and with the attention span of a child. Even at age 6, it is blatantly obvious to you that your time is being wasted. All you want to do is get up and go do the worksheet you know you're going to have to do when this talk is done so you can move on to something else. All you can think about is, "Please, please no one raise their hand when she asks if anyone has questions."

I understand that you might be required to have all of the students on the carpet when you're teaching. Or sitting at their desks looking at you when you're teaching. If you have to have them there, utilize partner sharing during your lesson. It might drive you crazy at first but... Let them fidget. Let them doodle on their paper while you talk. Let them play with something in their hands. Let them stare at their shoes and play with their laces. Heck, give them math blocks to build with while you talk as long as it doesn't distract the other kids too much. Trust me when I say that they're still hearing and taking in every word you say. I actually think way better when I have other things going on. I currently have music AND the T.V. on AND I'm alternating between several tabs doing other things. They most likely need extra stimulus and, if they can give it to themselves without distracting the other kids too much, by all means let them!

My husband said this was the single biggest thing that would've kept him from being a troublemaker in school. 

You could also have a secret signal with them. Have them sit in the back of the carpet so their fidgeting doesn't distract others. Explain to them that you understand that sometimes they already understand what you're learning but that they need to sit there until they fully understand it. When they feel like they understand it enough and want to go work on the practice work, they can give you some sort of hand signal like their hand raised halfway with three fingers pressed together (I'm just making up a random signal). You can discreetly nod that it's okay for them to go or slightly shake your head for no. That way, they still get the foundations they need but don't have to sit through the entire lesson once they get it. If they have trouble with their practice work, they can come sit back down to learn more but they very likely will not and will still get all of their problems correct. Once they finish the seatwork, they can go off to do one of their enrichment choices.

DON'T simply send them to higher grade levels.

This can be an okay option but it needs to be done very carefully. This one is really important to me because I hated this in school. In early elementary, I was often sent to other classes in a higher grade. It was nice to be able to leave my class but I felt like I was just being sent away. I did not feel like I belonged in those classes. I didn't have my own designated seat like everyone else, the other kids didn't know why I was there, and what they were learning in no way connected to what we were learning in my class. Plus, just because an advanced student is intellectually compatible with older students does NOT mean they are emotionally or socially compatible with them. In 1st grade, I was in a 1st/2nd/3rd grade combo class and it was awful. The 3rd graders were mean to us 1st graders at any opportunity. They made sure to let us know that we were little kids and didn't belong with them. They also talked about 'bad' things and used 'bad' words that I wasn't ready to hear as a 1st grader. It was shocking for me at the time.

If you do send them to an older class, I recommend only one grade level above and make sure they have their own seat they always sit in with the same kids around them. That the kids in the other class are talked to beforehand to treat them like they are a part of the classroom community.

Also - don't send them during the introduction of concepts! They may be able to get to the 99th story of that skyscraper when everyone else will only get to the 30th story but everyone has to walk through the lobby first to get to the elevator. Being sent out of my regular classroom during instructional time made me miss the introduction of so many things and actually caused me to really struggle later on! Sometimes it didn't catch up to me until junior high or high school but it did. I missed A LOT of foundations that I should have had and didn't. That's why I never learned time or fractions... I was sent to a higher grade level to learn something else instead while those things were introduced. I also missed decimals and percents and a lot of grammar concepts. To this day, I'm constantly teaching myself things I should have learned in elementary school (yay for the internet!). Concepts are usually taught sequentially and in a certain grade so make sure they're not missing what they should know in the grade they're in or they'll have trouble later on.

DO try to understand why they're acting out.

I know we hate to hear this but the answer is most likely because they're not being challenged enough.. or they haven't been in the past so they've developed less than desirable behaviors. You might think you're providing them with all of these challenging, interesting activities and differentiating your heart out but if they're acting out, you need to find a way to reach them. Keep trying, it's possible!

Have you ever had a kid in your class that is just so smart but you just cannot get him or her to do their work?

They don't seem to care. They play or fidget with things any time you're not looking at them or telling them to work. They don't pay attention to your lessons. They build towers out of the math manipulatives when they should be doing their work.

That kid was my husband.

Before I sat down to brainstorm what I wanted to say in this post, I asked my husband about his experience in school. I knew my husband was also a "gifted" kid but had a very different school experience than me so I wanted to hear his side of the story. He's a really nice, caring person with strong morals so I always found it funny when he or others tell me that he was a troublemaker in school. He's super smart but he didn't try in school at all. I remember those kids from my own schooling. They were usually boys that everyone knew were super smart but didn't try or care about doing well in school. They usually got in trouble for mischievous little things. I never understood why because I was that hard working must-get-straight-As goody two shoes type (again, please don't judge me! :)). I figured they just didn't care and never did, period.

Then I decided to ask my husband about why he didn't try and oh dang it ended up being a therapy session! haha.. and very, very eye opening for me. 

It gave me SUCH an interesting look into the eyes of that kid in your class who is smart but doesn't try. I asked him to walk me through his elementary school experience:

- He said in kindergarten, he was really excited about school and eager to learn. He would get a task, get it done fast, and then look around to realize everyone else was still working. He felt proud. Yay! I'm done first. I'm pretty cool[Smug smile]

- In first grade, he stopped getting called on for answers. Even if he was the only one raising his hand. The teacher would take that as a sign that 'the class didn't get it' and re-teach what she was saying and he would sit there feeling invisible. (This was a total light bulb moment for me! How many of you have done that??)

He said he was bored a lot in class and felt very unchallenged but he was still trying. But he said that the teachers not challenging him, giving him a bunch of work he already knew how to do, and denying him of any connection to the lessons by not calling on him made him really start to feel resentful towards school. He said that's when he began to feel himself caring less and less about school. He wanted to learn and wasn't getting to.

- In either 2nd or 3rd grade, every night's homework had a writing component to it where he had to write a small paragraph about whatever the topic was. He said he just didn't want to do it. He felt like it was dumb busy work. He said he'd always do the rest of the homework (math problems or worksheets or whatever) but always skipped the writing part. So he always got a C on his homework. He said for the first time, he wasn't getting As "and the world didn't end." He started to realize that the work and effort he did in school didn't matter. It didn't make any difference. He could sit and play around or daydream all day in class and still do just as well as, if not better than, the other kids on tests. If he needed to "turn on," he could and did. There was nothing to challenge him or help him learn anything new so he stopped trying.

- In 4th grade, he moved and made new friends. He said they were really smart like him but they were troublemakers. Evil geniuses if you will :) They made helicopters out of rulers in class, made rubber band school supply launchers, emptied pens to turn them into blow dart guns... basically he was super mischievous but in creative ways. He said he finally had found an outlet for his creativity. Finding ways to build pencil launchers to launch pencils across the classroom or what have you was finally something in school that could challenge him. By that time, he had given up on school being able to do that for him and found his own way. I probably had my mouth wide open as he was telling me all this by the way.

He said that he wished it didn't become like that because he really had wanted to learn. He came to school with such high hopes and excitement but was let down. And once he stopped trying in school, he said there really wasn't any turning back. He still did great on tests, but he didn't learn those important study skills that he needed once he reached high school and college.

I totally relate to that as well. I was used to working hard (a.k.a. doing a lot of work) but I was never used to doing challenging work so when work became challenging in high school, I didn't know how to exercise my brain in that way anymore. I didn't know how to think deeply. I hated the questions labeled as 'critical thinking' in high school. I still got all As but I had to work really, really hard for them. I feel like I had been a "gifted" kid but not exercising my brain and being so under-stimulated for so many years (or maybe it was all of the times I got hit in the head with basketballs/softballs/volleyballs playing sports growing up lol), I really became an only somewhat above average teenager.. and I definitely don't feel like a "gifted" adult.

If I had been pushed and challenged, I wonder if I would still be able to think and problem solve the way I could when I was a child. 

Anyway, I asked Mr. Giraffe what could have stopped him from being a troublemaker in school and he basically echoed all of the same things that I've mentioned in this post. All of the things that frustrated me were what frustrated him. It was so interesting to me that someone who was so different in school than me (and so different than me in general)  would feel the exact same way about so many situations.

DO supply quality books on their level.

Make sure that there are good quality books at their reading level available to them. I really recommend getting science books/magazines with vivid pictures and fun facts - they will eat. it. up.

DON'T ban them from reading books below their level.

I had a teacher that didn't let me look at the fun picture-heavy books even though the other kids could because she said they were too easy for me. Oh how I hated that. It was another way that I felt like I was being punished for doing well in school. Encourage them to find books at their level by all means but a fun book every so often will not hurt them. If anything, it keeps their love for learning and reading alive.

DO let them help!

If they want to help, let them! I obviously love teaching so I LOVED getting to be a tutor or helping the teacher. Your high kids can be your best little tutors. Pair them up with another student and let them help them. Make sure you model appropriate teaching. Explain to them how to teach and ask good questions and not just give the answers. Many high kids love playing teacher.. let them. Give them a stack of sight word flash cards to quiz other students. Give them a list of students and let them call students back during literacy stations to their own little teacher table (desk) to do their own little rotation. To do flash cards or read a leveled book together or whatever your kids need practice with. They'll both think of it as a fun game and oh-so-funny that they're "playing" teacher. The other kids will learn a lot and get an extra round of small group instruction and you don't have to do much at all! What is the gifted child getting out it? A sense of belonging. Social interaction. It will help your high kid feel needed and like they have an important role in the classroom community.

If they want to, let them be your personal assistant. This is in addition to the extension and enrichment opportunities you're providing them so I honestly think it is okay if they spend some time helping you if they enjoy it. Before you say it's a waste of instructional time, think of how many hours they waste so bored 'learning' something they already know. Doing a task for you every so often that they want to do will help them stay happy and motivated in the classroom. It helps to add some variety to their day, which they most likely consider monotonous. If you can keep them happy and motivated, they will be able to stay better engaged when it comes to learning new things throughout the day so it actually increases their overall genuine learning time in my opinion.

Examples of ways they can help: (And how you can justify it academically)

-  Alphabetize things for you. Do you alphabetize your papers before you enter grades? Have them collect everyone's paper and put them in ABC order for you. (ABC order is a commonly tested literacy skill)

- Keep the classroom library organized.. and hey, if they find a book they want to look at/read while they're in there, that's okay too. (They're sorting books into genre categories or by author, that's definitely a literacy skill)

- Take attendance/do the lunch count/etc. (Learning leadership skills)

- Organizing math manipulatives (Sorting/organization)

- Pulling out the materials for the next week/putting away the current week's things on Friday afternoons (Organization?)

- Change all the behavior colors back to green or the starting color (Fine motor skills? haha)

- Turning on and logging into the classroom computers each morning (Technology skills)

- Put the papers to go home that day in each kids mailbox

- If you're collecting permission slips or something else non-confidential, they can go through the stack and highlight each kids' name on your class list

etc. etc. etc.

Some may argue with me but I really don't think you need to justify it academically. You're keeping them stimulated and happy which will make them work harder for you when you ask them to. It's not like you're having them be a helper all day.. just very occasionally. Giving them responsibility and ownership of their classroom can go a long way. A lot of "gifted" kids are natural leaders so they'll jump at the opportunity to have more responsibility.

DO let them teach.

I'm a big believer in students teaching/leading the class in learning and discussions when possible. All students, high and low. The more they talk, the more they learn and learn from each other. Make sure your high kids get an equal opportunity to do so. I remember one year never being called on to solve the problem on the overhead projector in front of the class despite ALWAYS having my hand raised each day when my teacher asked for volunteers. Not even once. I remember how it felt so unfair, especially when some kids got to do it multiple times a week.

DON'T look at them like an already passed test.

With how grossly obsessed our world is with perfect test scores, don't just look at them like an already achieved goal. They have just as much potential learning and growing to do as any other student, it just might be at a higher level or more accelerated pace than your other students. Push them higher. They want to be pushed and challenged.

DO give them creative twists to assignments.

If and when possible :)

DO give them opportunities to work with other kids like them.

My husband said something that would've helped him not disengage and misbehave in school was if he could have had opportunities to be around kids like him. 

Beg your principal to let you form a little group of your grade level's highest kids to get together once or twice a week to work on a learning project together during class. Get together a group of your highest 4-7 kids from the different classes and have a fun, hands-on inquiry assignment, something they have to build together, some kind of math challenge, just anything for them to work on together collaboratively. Make sure it's a task they can do without any (or hardly any) teacher help and work on together. Something that gets their creativity flowing and makes them have to discuss what they're doing. If you teach in a small school with only 1 or 2 teachers per grade level, use the other high kids from a grade level above or below. If they're engaged in what they're doing, it shouldn't be a behavior problem at all. Maybe alternate whose classroom they go to each week so the same teacher doesn't have that extra work of extra kids in the room each week. Set up a place where they're not too distracting to the other kids to work on their special project together. Again, make sure it's during their regular classroom time, not during their specials or lunch or recess.

DO give them love and attention.

I often felt ignored like I've mentioned above. My husband said he did too. We saw the struggling kids get pulled back for extra help and attention all the time. In our eyes, our teachers always seemed to be helping or talking to or calling on the other kids. Make sure you're giving your gifted student attention and care as you do everyone else. Even if it's less, still call them for groups. Even if it's less, still call on them for answers. Even if it's less, still go check on them while they're working as if you're checking to see if they get it like you do for everyone else.   

DON'T get upset when they question you.

They might ask a million questions. Question your directions. Question "WHY" this and "WHY" that. They're not trying to be defiant or annoying, they're truly just curious. 

DON'T let them get bored.

They are way more likely to check out and dislike school because they're bored than the other kids. Don't let that happen. Provide so many FUN learning activities that they can choose from that they don't even have time to get bored. Engage them socially with the other students, let them do activities that involve them walking around or moving, and make sure that the activities are varied and always changing. 

You can look for other things like science fairs or spelling bees but try to find educational extras they can do IN the actual classroom.

Just don't.

They don't need extra problems or extra pages.

BUT, if you can, modify it to make it more challenging in a thinking (not hand moving) sort of way and less like busy work if you can! Tell the parents you'll send home more challenging work.

Another BUT - if they ask you for pages to take home because they want them (their parents didn't ask them to ask you), give them to them! Let them take any extra pages home that they want. It means they're booored at home. Or they're weird like me and they enjoyed playing school with their stuffed animal students and their friends in the neighborhood when they got home :)

Also encourage them to take home books or magazines from the classroom library that they're interested in.  

They might be bullied for being different. Again, help them build social relationships and put a stop to any bullying.

They might get angry easily at others when they don't understand what they do. Explain to them how we all learn differently and all have our own talents.

They might stress out about upcoming tests/events because they want to be perfect. Help ease their fears.

Wow, this post is so, so LONG. If you made it through this whole thing, we are officially best friends. I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

I hope this post was able to help someone! Again, I didn't write this as a teacher, I wrote this as a student, and I hope that anyone who read this was able to pick up something from it to take back into their classroom. Thank you so much for caring about your students and their needs and for reading what is probably one of the longest blog posts in the history of blog posts.

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Gifted kids can be a joy to teach when you know how to identify what engages them. These 50 tips and tricks come from my own experience and from around the Web. They’re good to have in your bag of tricks whether you’re a newbie or an old hand at teaching these high-level thinkers.

1. Know Their Interests

Every year, I start by having my students complete an interest inventory. This helps me ensure that curriculum is personalized to their interests.

2. Try Book Talks

Share what you are reading with gifted students. Often, these students experience a reading lag where they can’t find a sweet spot because it is hard for high-ability students to understand what is both challenging and appropriate.

3. Keep Them Active

Gifted students often need to have the ability to move when learning … pacing, flapping and bouncing are parts of their thinking process.

4. Offer Flexible Seating

A window seat is my favorite place to read, so I keep that in mind when offering seating. Try to offer different seating options for students: beanbag chairs, carpet squares, pillows, director chairs … the list can go on and on.


5. Model Social Situations

Social situations can be challenging for some gifted students as their ability to understand social cues can be underdeveloped. Team up with other teachers to model the proper way to start conversations.

6. Share Current Events

Current events are important to incorporate into gifted programming. We want these students to be thinking about how they can use their talents to solve real-world problems.

7. Look for the Helpers

As important as current events are, it is also just as important to understand that gifted students internalize global happenings on a very personal level. Kids do not have the experience with the world to understand that despite there being a war or attack, there are still good things happening in the world. 

SOURCE: Reddit

8. Allow for Groupings

Not all gifted students are meant to be the project manager. Allow students the opportunity to work alone or in a group. Even cross-grade groupings work well with gifted students.

9. Mind the Child Labor Laws

Gifted students who finish early should not automatically be the teacher’s helper. Gifted students can be some of the worst students to assist others because their brains often work very differently. Having a gifted child help a student who is struggling may do more harm than good.

10. Create a Makerspace

My grandmother always said, idle hands are the devil’s workshop … so keep some key things in the back for busy hands. LEGO bricks, cardboard and masking tape, and Snap Circuits are some of my favorites!

11. Introduce Minecraft Edu

Don’t be scared to incorporate students’ passions and interests. I once had a student who never wanted to practice spelling words until I told him he could practice them in Minecraft. Minecraft Edu has lots of great ways teachers can implement this engaging game in the classroom.


12. Give Them End Dates

Provide gifted students with clear endpoints on projects and assignments. Gifted students can create unusually high expectations and never see an end in sight; a book reflection can easily become a 10-page paper, a PowerPoint can become an intensive course on the topic. Letting students know where to stop can be helpful.

13. Set Realistic Goals 

Use and have students write a letter to their future selves. Once students have written the letter, you can set the date for it to be sent to their inbox. What a great way for students to set goals and create natural check-in points.

14. Teach Decision-Making

Gifted students can have a huge case of FOMO: fear of missing out. They understand that decisions have consequences, and sometimes they need to be given an inordinate amount of details about their options. Allow for the gifted student to fully understand the pros and cons of a decision.

15. Be Patient

Gifted students are processing a lot in their minds. Be patient and give them the time to reflect on what they need to come to a consensus they can live with.

16. Assign Expiration Dates

My gifted students walk into class with exploding folders and binders. They keep everything because there is a fear of being unprepared. Just like expiration dates for food, think about adding a footer to your handouts: “This handout expires on April 15.”

17. Model Organization Strategies

Or at least model how you organize life. Gifted students like options and seeing how they work in the “real world” is very helpful. I show students how I use notes to organize things, how Google Calendar is my lifeline, and what I do for physical notes. I have used planners in the past and show those examples as well.

We also review different apps that could be helpful. I urge students to find what works for them. No system is not an answer. We all need a system to help us be productive. When I taught younger students, we would all try different systems together as our end-of-the-day procedure.

18. Use Brain Breaks

Offer gifted students a hobby that can help calm their busy minds. Teach them how to Zentangle, breathe, meditate, make friendship bracelets, knit, color—anything that allows for them to focus carefully on details can help them quiet some of the extra noise.


19. Explore Their Passions

Some gifted students don’t have a passion yet because they haven’t found it. Provide exposure to as much as possible. TED talks are one way to help students think about different topics. TED even has created teaching enhancements. I heart TED.

20. Read Tons of Biographies

Reading, watching or listening to the lives of others can help gifted students develop a plan of action and see what others did to accomplish goals.

21. Read Lots of Everything

It is true, so many gifted students have found a book that becomes so much a part of them, they can discuss it at length. Bibliotherapy is a great way for students to experience how to deal with issues and learn tactics and strategies.

22. Pre-Assess Them

For the love of anything that is holy, this should probably be no. 1. Research states that most gifted students do not learn new information until January. Don’t make a student who has already mastered a concept sit through the lesson again. 

23. Allow Them to Focus

Let gifted students pursue their interests. If they want to let everything be about dinosaurs, more power to them! We need paleontologists. As mentioned in Outliers, it takes over 10,000 hours to be an expert. To get that many hours on a time card, students have to be allowed to focus.

24. Make Connections

We need to allow students to hyper-focus but also then be the “guide on the side” that helps them make connections from one area to another. Perhaps we can get our dinosaur expert to use Scratch and make a “Dino Dig” math game?

25. Find Mentors

Gifted students need mentors within their interest areas. Mentors can teach students how to navigate through professions and can even be gatekeepers to additional opportunities.

26. Practice Like Professionals

Allow students to practice like the professionals. Use the same processes that professionals use. Looking to try fashion designing? Have students actually sew, measure, use patterns and do the alterations. Visit the American Museum of Natural History’s OLogy interactive site.

27. Locate Authentic Audiences

The work students create should have a real audience and be appreciated by those who authentically would benefit from its completion. Younger students are a great first authentic audience.

28. Put Them in Escape Rooms

If you haven’t heard of these yet, drop everything and head over to These are a great way to curate the knowledge you want your students to gain. 

29. Watch Webinars

You can find webinars on just about any topic that interests your students. If you sign up at Edtech, they will send weekly lists of upcoming professional webinars.

30. Submit Inventions

Inventions are a great way for students to take risks and try different things. I feel like students are more apt to take risks when they are creating something new. Student Inventions for a Better America challenges students to submit an invention that will make the world a better place … and there are winners every month.

31. Try Gamification 

I love The Mind Research Institute, which challenges students in grades K–12 to design their own mathematical game.

32. Check Out Local Happenings

Do you live in the middle of nowhere? Me too! But I was surprised to learn there were still a TON of events happening on the weekends. If you are in the urban areas, you are rich in opportunities. Look to local libraries, museums or universities.

33. Send Them to Summer Camp

Some of my closest childhood friendships started at summer camp. These times allowed for encouragement and allowed kids to be nurtured in an environment where trying something new was the goal. Summer camp allowed me to be myself and try new things.

34. Solve Local Problems

“With great power comes great responsibility,” says one of our favorite superheroes, and he is correct—kindness counts. We need to do good with the gifts and talents we have been given. Give gifted students the opportunity to solve local problems and see the need for change in their own community. Allow a book to inspire this mission: Wonder, Kindness Club, or The Summer I Changed the World in 65 Days.

35. Develop Book Clubs

What do friends all have in common? Interests!! We are attracted to those who think similarly and those who challenge our beliefs. Book clubs make for a great space for likeminded students to come together to discuss a common theme … in this case a book, which serves as a great discussion starter.

36. Allow for Voice and Choice

How many of you hated a certain book in high school only to read it as an adult and see how wrong you were? The moment we lost choice (of what to read in this case), we also lost joy. Allowing gifted students to have choice in the classroom allows them to feel empowered and engaged. Choices do not need to be huge either, small choices are just as important.

37. Raise the Bar

No one wants to only be the big fish in a small pond. We want to be around people who will make us better and want to achieve more. Allow your gifted student to be challenged by participating in academic competitions such as National History Day. Your students will see what true competition is.

38. Brainstorm

This is one of the best ways to develop critical thinking. Show a picture of clouds … what do you see? This type of activity develops fluency, elaboration, originality and abstract thinking, which are all integral parts of being a creative thinker. Try Google’s Quick, Draw! It’s a great tool for getting students to think rapidly—it’s also a gem for indoor recess.

39. Model Curiosity

When the students ask a question you don’t know, look it up with them. As librarian media specialist Melissa Thom says, “the smartest people are the people who know how to find answers to their own questions.” Follow her on twitter at @msthombookitis.

40. Try Flocabulary

Flocabulary creates content-rich raps (yes, as in hip-hop) about just about ANYTHING. There are so many wonderful resources embedded within—contests, lyric labs, lyric notes, connections to primary sources, teacher plans, corresponding handouts, questioning and so much more! This will quickly become your favorite teaching resource. I promise!

41. Let Them Read Below-Level Books

Why do we expect every book gifted students read to be 1.5–2 grade levels above their reading level? I say, if a student is enjoying a book, read it! Yes, challenging books are needed to develop reading ability but don’t discount a book just because it is below a student’s level. Reading a book for a different purpose can increase the difficulty of a book without changing the text.

42. Connect Globally

Global Read Aloud is a program where one book is used to connect the world. Pernille Ripp founded GRA in 2010 with the simple idea to read a book aloud to her students and during that time try to make as many global connections as possible. This mission has grown exponentially and has reached over two million students. Collaborating with students in other states and countries will help a gifted student think empathetically.

43. Incorporate Mythology

If you know a gifted student, then you know that mythology can be a huge interest—often spurred by the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan. Allow students to build a better understanding by incorporating mythology into different curricular units.

44. Blog

This is an authentic way for gifted students to share their reading in a way that we would as adults. Creating readers means treating them like readers—when I finish a book I do not take a comprehension quiz. I talk about it, share it with friends or write about it. Have your students react to reading like real readers. Kidblog is a great tool for creating safe student blogs.

45. Crowdsource

Two heads are better than one! Allow students to go places where they can collaborate. Google Docs is a great place to start, but also explore tools like FlipGrid, a tool that allows students to record and reply to one another.

46. Be a Safe Space

Provide a safe space for gifted students to take risks without being put down. Gifted students are often timid to answer something they are unsure about because of the social stigma attached to not answering correctly. Create a classroom culture where wrong answers become an opportunity to celebrate different thinking. Check out Nancy Anderson’s book, What’s Right About Wrong Answers? Learning Math From Mistakes.

47. Use QR Codes

QR codes add an interactive component to your classroom. Create a QR Code Museum or Gallery or even a QR scavenger hunt on one of your classroom bulletin boards.

48. Write Haikus

A frog jumps into the pond, splash! Silence again. This is Basho Matsuo’s famous haiku. Use haiku as a way to challenge gifted students to summarize chapters, current events, biographies or vocabulary words. Haiku are student-friendly yet force them to be concise and purposeful with their word choice.

49. Change the World

Action is powerful for gifted students. Allowing students to find solutions to problems they see in their school, neighborhood or community will allow them to understand that they can make a difference. Internalizing that they can be the change in the world is transformational. Watch these TED Talks to show them what kids like them are doing to change the world.

50. Record Them

Allow gifted students to record their voices into an app or movie application. Teaching in front of peers is public speaking and that is its own beast. By allowing gifted students to show their work in a way that allows their confidence to be present is a win-win. Explain Everything is a collaborative and interactive whiteboard tool that makes this approach a piece of cake!