A gifted pupil is intelligent, very creative and very motivated to learn everything about a subject that appeals to him or her… and that’s where the primary school curriculum comes in. Which of the subjects on the curriculum appeal to the gifted pupil, and if a subject appeals to him, can he challenge himself as much as he wants?

It’s quite an art to go into this as a primary school, but it’s a necessary art to learn. After all, it is also important for this pupil to be given the opportunity at school to learn and to acquire skills in making mistakes, in persevering and in not giving up.

What the gifted sometimes show in the classroom may not be what you would expect: undesirable behaviour. Boredom can be the root of this undesirable behaviour which is disruptive for the teacher, for the class and for the pupil himself. It is good to investigate the cause of any undesirable behaviour in order to then prevent it. The cause can be found not only on the cognitive level but also on the emotional level. It is important to know the cause so that you can also find the right solution and can transform negative behaviour into positive – from a pupil who disrupts the lesson, who exhibits bullying tendencies, who is absent or lazy, uninterested, dominant or intimidating, to a pupil who ‘feels good about themselves’ again.

A good conversation with such pupils can significantly speed up the search for a solution. Knowledge about giftedness is essential. An IQ of over 130 is just one of the criteria for giftedness. Giftedness is also expressed in creatively devising solutions (excuses), having enormous perseverance and missing the sense of ‘being different’ from other pupils. As a teacher, knowledge of this highly gifted group is just as necessary as knowledge of pupils with an IQ of lower than 70 and taking account of them ‘being different’.

Today, there is plenty of information available about what giftedness means for the pupil and for the teacher. One of the many sources is, for example, Talent Stimulation of the SLO in the Netherlands or Potential Plus in the UK. Visit the websites (https://talentstimuleren.nl/ or https://www.potentialplusuk.org/) to subscribe to the newsletter or become a member and attend lectures/conferences.

Every year, the publisher of the magazine Talent (Koninklijke van Gorcum) organises a day of workshops and lectures in the form of an event called ‘Talent in the classroom’.
(I exhibited with an interactive stand at the most recent edition on 4 April. Read more about it in the next article.) Every month, the Dutch magazine Talent is full of information about gifted people as well as features written by gifted young people. 

At a fair like ‘Talent in the classroom’ you have the chance to meet great people like Tessa Kieboom (Director Exentra vzw – Professor of giftedness at UHasselt). She explains very well the two important aspects of the gifted: the sensitive side as well as the cognitive one.

A gifted pupil’s sensitive side is different from that of most other children his age. However, he does not experience a sense of ‘being different’. That sensitive side can cause harm/trauma during his school career. It is important to realise that the gifted pupil can suffer harm, or as Tessa Kieboom calls them “embodios”, because they are not being treated in the right way.

Embodios include:

  • they see themselves as the norm
  • they don’t know what to do if they make a mistake
  • they have not learned to communicate properly; they are often very direct and say what they think of something without an introduction or reason
  • they find it difficult to leave their comfort zone
  • they haven’t experienced that achieving something takes time
  • they experience very strong emotions or are overwhelmed by things that happen in the world
  • they have trouble with ‘social talk’
  • they want to perform too well
  • they can be incredibly stubborn
  • they don’t know and haven’t mastered any tools to enable them to learn new subjects, they don’t know how to plan, manage their time or apply structure
  • they’ve never been told that being different is allowed and is okay for everyone.

For more knowledge about giftedness, watch Tessa Kieboom’s videos (only in Dutch):

  1. Video from 2013, lecture CBO 25 years: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCvG6oDWWHI
  2. Video from 2016 about the exact meaning of the term ‘underperformance’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nE5tMuzTCLE
  3. Video at meeting SLO 2017 about embodios: (Embodios are injuries that can happen to gifted people and which will make it harder for them to fulfil their potential or sometimes make them afraid of taking chances): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJxXve4XDIA

and/or this videos in English:

4. Kathleen Vendrickx from the same university has published a video called ‘Why do so many gifted people fail to graduate?’ Also Dutch spoken but you can turn on English subtitles in the YouTube settings (https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=10&v=oFCLdJVoHVg)
5. Finally you can watch this English spoken video from James T. Webb held on a conference of SLO in 2015. He has written many books on giftedness and misdiagnoses. Unfortunately, he has passed away last year.

Continue to amaze and marvel at your pupils and keep track of your own and your school’s knowledge about teaching and supporting gifted youngsters!

Finally, I advise you to challenge these pupils with Juan y Rosa, a difficult but also fun method for children from the age of around 5 to 12 to learn Spanish together with their classmates. They learn to take responsibility for their own learning and they develop executive skills. There are three parts to work with spanning a period of six years, enabling them to take a long-term approach to practising and gaining experience with something difficult to learn: a foreign language.