Voice from the Field:
Recognizing and Nurturing Gifted Potential

Bertie Kingore, Ph.D.


Some people like to say that all children are gifted. Actually, all children are a gift but only some children exhibit gifted potential when learning. Gifted potential means a child learns at a faster pace (with minimum repetition) and a higher level (with more complex and in-depth ideas). Children with gifted potential are not more valued; they just learn differently and need nurturing to experience continuous learning.


What Gifted Potential Looks and Sounds Like

Your observations regarding students' learning responses in your classroom provide a long-term view of each child's potential. Young children with gifted-potential intensely and frequently demonstrate behaviors that are beyond age-expectation in three or four of the following categories.

  • Advanced language.
    Children with gifted potential unassumingly use verbal comparisons and words with multiple syllables, such as the four-year old who explained: I know that seems obvious...
  • Analytical thinking.
    They surprise us with the complex, in-depth insights and relationships they express: If we just took it apart, I bet we would find...
  • Meaning motivation.
    They are little experts who know more than many adults about one or more topics.
  • Perspective.
    They interpret what influences or motivates others: What he meant was... They often draw from an unusual angle, such as a bird's-eye view or the view from behind a person.
  • Sense of humor.
    They laugh at humorous incidents that peers do not understand, such as the young child who winked at his teacher when the other children did not understand the teacher's humor.
  • Sensitivity.
    They verbally or nonverbally exhibit intense concern for human and animal issues and want action taken to correct the problem. A young gifted child's face may reveal empathy for a character in a read-aloud story or for a peer in the classroom.
  • Accelerated learning.
    They often master a new skill with unusual speed. Particularly watch for unexpected math applications since math talent is less influenced by cultural or language differences. A bilingual kindergartner asked his teacher: Tell me about the numbers that come before zero. I know they call them 'negative.'

Identifying Advanced Potential

  • Do not fear that some children are just environmentally enriched. Something within the child enabled the environmental nurturing to work. Keep extending that learning.
  • Children of poverty and diverse cultures are successful learners whose environments provided different experiences than the opportunities for literacy development we seek in school. Offer a wide-range of rich learning opportunities and watch which children bubble up over time.
    --Read aloud well-crafted stories and discuss characters, their motivations, and inferences such a: What might happen if...
    --Talk up to children. Use interesting words in a meaningful context and encourage children to use those words.
  • Over time, collect products to document the high-level behaviors you observe and to substantiate that advanced children continue to progress rather than remain at one level waiting for others to catch up.
  • Listen to parents. Children may demonstrate at home some skills that are not prompted at school.


Classroom Suggestions
  • Call on advanced children proportionately to other students. They should not dominate class discussions nor should they be ignored. All children need our acceptance and encouragement.
  • Provide fast-paced instruction. Children with advanced potential learn well and stay more mentally engaged with minimum repetition of skills and concepts.
  • As children work, talk with them about what they are doing to provide a window to their high-level thinking.
    --How did you figure that out?
    --What is another way to do that?
  • Young gifted children often want to talk with adults not because they can't socially fit in with their age-mates but because they seek idea-mates who understand what they are interested in discussing. They enjoy someone who gets their jokes!
  • Advanced children's heads are often ahead of their hands. They experience frustration when their writing or drawing cannot express what they want to say.
    --Listen to their ideas as often as you can.
    --Scribe for them sometimes.
    --Let them use a tape recorder to orally record their ideas.
    --Arrange for them to work with an aide or older student for brief times.
  • Acquire a range of materials for every segment of learning you plan. When students demonstrate understanding at one level, enable them to continue learning rather than repeatedly practice what they already know. Ask a librarian or media specialist to help.
  • Provide non-fiction materials. Advanced readers have a voracious appetite for reading about their interests.
  • Use different peer learning groups. Gifted students need to work with other advanced students some times, with a mixed-range of learners some times, and by themselves some times.
  • Encourage and honor diverse ideas rather than expect only simple, right-answer responses:
    --Tell me what you mean?
    --Why do you think that?


___________ References ___________

Kingore, B. (2005). Assessment: Time-saving procedures for busy teachers, 3rd ed. Austin: Professional Associates Publishing.

Kingore, B., Ed. (2002). Reading strategies for advanced primary readers. Austin: Texas Education Agency.

Kingore, B. (2005). Voice from the field: Recognizing and nurturing gifted potential. In Morrison, G. Early Childhood Education Today, 10th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.