Higher Learning (Book Review)

 I have always liked the idea of teaching gifted students. Teaching students who “want to learn” can make classroom life more enjoyable for everyone. However, I was not familar with how to go about teaching gifted students. Until I read Bloland’s book, Gifted Students, I did not realize how much I needed to know about gifted students.

        The most inquisitive question about this subject is how does one recognize a gifted student? Are gifted students always the first ones to raise their hands in class? Do they always get answers right and stand out amongst other students? 

         According to Bloland, gifted students are often times the ones who fall behind in the classroom. This happens when they feel that they have not been adequately challenged by the coarse work. If they feel that the lessons are going too slow, they easily get bored and will turn their attention elsewhere. They will “act out” in ways such as getting bad grades or solving their problems through violence. Bloland refers to gifted students as Gifted, Talented, and Exceptionally Conscientious (GTEC). She states in her book that many gifted student get “lost” in the system because they do not have teachers who know how to meet their needs.

    This book is good for teachers because it can help new teachers learn how to address these students. It also helps teachers recognize gifted students when they teach in regular classrooms. When I was in ninth grade, I was in the high school drop out program for “at risk” kids. However, my teacher at the time (Ms. Dorsey) realized that it was three members in the class who read at a higher level than the rest. She put us in a quiet room by ourselves and had us read our text seperate from the class. This teacher realized that we had special needs and she catered to them. The three of us who were in this group went on to be high school graduates while many others in the class did not achieve this goal. This is a great example of what Bloland is trying to convey to teachers; that there are gifted students who are in “basic” or even “at risk” programs in high school. According to Bloland’s definition, “a gifted student is when a six year old can comprehend what a ten year old can.” (p.6) She states that when parents are told their kids are doing well, its because their child is achieving slightly above grade level. Achieving above grade level, however, is not good enough for most gifted students. Teachers should realize that gifted students have a closer relationship with their parents at an earlier age than many other students. Many of these students trade books with their parents. This is the reason why so many English teachers are attracted to gifted students because gifted students enjoy reading just as much as they do.

     Gifted students are taught differently than other students. A teacher should have a routine that supports their goals, for example having then bring a book to class. Gifted students tend to benefit more from reading young adult novels about adolescent problems. They tend to read more once they realize that they have more choice in the selection process. Bloland suggests that if a teacher were to teach a gifted class or be involved with gifted students, they should try and use challenging texts. The best way to ensure that the students read the text is by keeping a log. She states that gifted students often times tend to over excel and if you give them six pages to read, they will read twelve. Bloland is an advocate for small group discussions over large because they give the students more time to interact in discussion.

     Bloland also recognizes that there are many similarities between gifted and standard students. She finds that both groups tend to need assistance when it comes to grammar. In regards to grading, gifted students should be given a self-assessment or porfolio so they can analyze their own work. Gifted students tend to need less governance and often times are trusted by their own decisions. Gifted students stand out from their counterparts mostly in regards to their committment to learning even in the most difficult times. They are dedicated to the tasks and will not stop until the job is complete.

        Teachers can learn from this novel and can help make the classroom a more enjoyable place to learn. How to teach gifted students is not a topic this is widely addressed and needs attention. Many classrooms today are integrated with slow and fast learners. This may help some of the slow learners get ahead but the fast learners are often times bored because they are not being challenged. Many are not being prepared for college and many teachers are not being taught about how to recognize a gifted student. Many of the classrooms today are quite the opposite and gifted students get ignored while slower members tend to get most of the attention. It is true that many teachers may not even have the time to address a student which is gifted and it is difficult for a high school teacher to address the personal needs of every member of a class. Teachers are often bogged down with lesson plans and the pressure of getting students ready for statewide tests. However, Bloland gives a resolve for how the teacher should address the gifted student and how it is equally important for all students to reach their full potential. If one student is left behind them the entire system is responsible.

 Ray Canada 

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