Identifying Gifted English Learners

giftedWhat does it mean to be a gifted and talented student? Does your district or state have practices in place for identifying gifted and talented students? How about gifted and talented English learners?

Unfortunately, the fact that some students qualify for ELD support is sometimes reason enough for teachers and administrators to unintentionally disqualify them from gifted programming. But this article from NPR shows that it is possible to meet the needs of ELs, even if their needs come in the form of accelerated and/or more challenging instruction.

The article talks about the gifted program for a school in Arizona, where the coordinator is notably passionate about her students. Even though it seems challenging for a teacher to recognize the indicators of a gifted student in spite of a language barrier, she talks about qualities of gifted students in ways that are easy to spot early on, even if they have only emergent proficiency in English. Some ways to identify gifted students include:

  • They learn new material quickly (most students require exposure to new material 6-14 times before mastering it)
  • They may seem more poised than peers
  • They may make eye contact confidently
  • They can hold a conversation with an adult in a way that’s unlike their peers
  • They are quirky
  • They are argumentative
  • They keep you on your toes and don’t let you get away with anything
  • They are perfectionists
  • They are self-directed

Gifted students aren’t always extroverted, or even well-behaved. Gifted ELs may be wallflowers if they’re struggling to fit in, or act out if they’re bored or insecure. When teachers build personal relationships with each student and family, they are best equipped to know whether a student needs increased challenges at school, and can then take action in pursuing assessments and establishing instructional plans. Even though our attention is constantly split among our students and we may struggle to find the resources to meet their needs, simply “seeing” each student for his/her unique talents is a first step toward their success.

Submit Your Comment