Nurturing Minds: A Guide to Supporting Gifted and Talented Students

SISD likes to promote an ethos of excellence, whether that be in each students schoolwork, extra-curricular activities or personal life, we encourage each student reach their full and unique potential. When we recognise a student’s skills we like to help them explore these and help them reach their full potential through encouragement and nurturing. Occasionally, it will become apparent that some students are particularly gifted and talented and thrive on being stimulated intellectually and possess a thirst for knowledge beyond the level of their peers. We have to acknowledge this and alongside parents cater to these needs through creating a stimulating learning environment that specifically tailors itself to each student’s needs. Our article below helps explore some of the most effective strategies to support, empower and engage the student to reach their full potential.

Identifying Gifted and Talented Students

The first step in being able to support a gifted and talented child is identifying the characteristics within them. Unfortunately, there is no single definition of this, and so we must look for certain characteristics and they often exhibit a combination of some of the following:

  • Cognitive Ability: The student exhibits strong skills in reasoning, complex problem solving, thinking outside of the box and emotional intelligence
  • Thirst for knowledge: A student has a strong thirst for knowledge remaining curious and motivated to explore a topic in more detail and taking this interest further than that particular subject matter or outside of the classroom. This may be in particular subjects or across a range of subjects
  • Creativity: The student might think outside of the box when solving problems, perhaps not giving the stock answer and creating their own unique solution to problems or tasks
  • Leadership Potential: A student might possess and exhibit natural leadership skills, able to encourage, inspire and collaborate with their peers and show heightened interpersonal skills, self-confidence and emotional intelligence
  • Work Ethic: The individual sets themselves ambitious goals which go above and beyond the standard or minimum standard. Highly motivated individuals who push the boundaries and possess strong self-encouragement skills

Whilst official and standardised testing of students can be useful in identifying particularly gifted students, we do not like to use this as the ‘single source of truth’. As teachers, supporting staff and parents we should make it a priority to observe each student, taking into account their favoured learning styles, their behaviours and their interactions to achieve a more holistic understanding of them as an individual.

A tailored learning experience

Using the traditional and standardised ‘one size fits all’ type educational curriculum often does not meet the needs of a gifted child and therefore must be adapted or changed both in the classroom and at home to develop the student with a learning environment which stimulates them. Some strategies which can help this are discussed below:

  • Variety: Variety is the spice of life after all! Using different methods of instruction, learning materials, presentation of problems and diverse activities help stimulate different knowledge levels and differing styles of learning. Including independent research and learning, enrichment activities (such as clubs, workshops, competitions or performances and recitals), visits to museums/galleries/work experience placements etc. can all encourage the child to delve into topics and foster a more complex and detailed understanding
  • Acceleration: For those students which have already completed or mastered age appropriate work and subject matter, acceleration tactics can be considered. This may take the form of skipping years/grades, specific subject acceleration and additional learning/tutoring sessions and might even qualify for early college/university enrolment programmes
  • Mentorship: Mentorships between students, between students and staff and even students and experts within a relevant field can help greatly. Sometimes being gifted can also be isolating so establishing connections with mentors who can give guidance, pertinent conversation, challenge a student intellectually and provide friendship develops the student even further
  • Collaboration: Establishing a connection and collaboration with students at a similar academic level encourages students to both learn from and challenge each other, often developing strong friendships and working relationships

Fostering Social and Emotional Development

For a gifted child, obviously, intellectual development and empowerment are essential, however, it is also crucial to recognise that support for the child in their social and emotional wellbeing is often just as important, we have suggested some ways in which these can be addressed as well:

  • Social and Emotional learning: We integrate social and emotional learning throughout our curriculum, helping children develop social skills, emotion recognition and regulation, self-awareness, self-confidence, as well as healthy relationships with friends, peers and staff
  • Peer Support: Often, enabling opportunities for peers and students who share mutual interests, intelligence and experiences to mix and mingle can help foster a sense of community, belonging and support. We try to ensure ample opportunities for groups, clubs and workshops to nurture this spirit and for students to share their thoughts, feelings and excitement surrounding a particular subject
  • Developing Empathy: Allowing gifted students to engage with their peers, offering guidance and providing them with leadership opportunities helps foster rewarding relationships and develop strong empathy and understanding

School community and Parent involvement

Teachers, School staff and Parents all play an important role in supporting gifted students and there several ways in which they can work together to ensure the optimum learning environment:

  • Open Communication: Establishing and then maintaining an open communication stream between parents and the school is vital in order to discuss a child’s goals, progress, individual needs and aspirations. At SISD we pride ourselves on strong communication between our staff and our students’ parents and encourage any and all feedback to help get the best from our pupils
  • Advocacy: Parents can advocate for their child’s needs and work with the school to ensure appropriate resources and support are available
  • Collaboration: SISD creates an environment where students, school staff and parents can work together in creating individual learning plans to show our commitment to continued educational excellence

Extra-Curricular pursuits

Gifted students often also have talents which go beyond the classroom and at SISD we believe each student should be given the opportunity to explore these additional talents and extra-curricular activities. We advocate for parents to encourage their child to participate in the following:

  • Arts and Creativity: Taking part in music, theatrical production, creative writing and visual arts
  • Sports: Support involvement in sports teams or individual athletic pursuits
  • Leadership and Community Service: Offer opportunities to develop leadership skills and give back to the community through volunteering or charity work. We offer a service programme to help our students give back to the community

At SISD, we look to empower the whole child, by working with the student and their parents, the interior academic faculty as well as encouraging extracurricular and emotional and social learning, we create an ecosystem that can truly foster a gifted child’s needs and achieve to the best of their ability.

SISD is proudly part of the Nord Anglia Education family.

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