It is a sad fact that most schools spend more time and energy coming up with policies to help challenged students than developing ways to teach the academically gifted ones. It is important for teachers and administrators to keep in mind that both groups require special attention. While the students that are struggling definitely require a little extra attention in order to help ensure their success later on, exceptional children also need special curriculum in order to keep them actively engaged in school. Children that are gifted academically run the risk of becoming bored and uninterested in school if they are not consistently challenged.
One key element in teaching exceptional children lies in keeping them together. Gifted students must be given the opportunity to advance at their own pace as much as possible. Placing gifted students in groups not only gives them the opportunity to move through the curriculum at a higher pace, but allows them to encourage one another along the way. Depending on the age group of the students, this may require setting aside some special time for these students on a regular basis or putting them in their own class altogether. The students also benefit from teachers that approach the curriculum a bit differently.
Teachers faced with exceptional students should be encouraged to ask open-ended and thought-provoking questions rather than simple yes or no ones. When it comes to handing out assignments, the students will benefit from more thought-provoking projects rather than simple stacks of worksheets. Gifted students are unique not only because they have the answers, but because they also are likely to have a lot more questions on the subject matter. The students should be encouraged to ask questions even if the teacher is not 100% confident that they know the answer.
A common mistake that many teachers make when teaching exceptional children is forgetting that intelligence does not translate directly into maturity. The age group of the students must be constantly kept in mind. Younger children, regardless of how gifted they are, are just as likely to get cranky or upset when they are hungry, tired or frustrated. These students will also be much more comfortable than their peers when it comes to trying out something new. They are likely to be a lot more willing to step out of their comfort zone but may be reluctant to participate in activities that they do not excel at. Encouraging them in these activities will help them to grow up and be well-rounded adults.