Transitions for young gifted children

Transition can be both exciting and stressful for young children. Transitions occur when young children move from their home environment into an early childhood setting, into a new grouping within their setting, into the first year of school or from grade to grade at school.

Settling into the new environment

At the heart of transition for each child, no matter how young, is the requirement to re-orientate their sense of self to the expectations and culture of the new learning environment and curriculum. The experience of transition is influenced by a child’s past experiences of learning relationships with adults, and the extent to which the new environment contains familiar expectations and learning practices across intellectual, social and emotional domains.

The particular challenge for the young gifted child is that their expectations and approach to learning can be distinctly different between home experiences and the format of learning in the early childhood or school curriculum. It is important that early childhood professionals know what and how the young gifted child has learnt at home or in their previous early childhood setting and ensures there are familiar aspects within the new curriculum. This supports the continuity of learning for the child.

Learning how to learn

Support may also involve helping the young gifted child learn ‘how to learn’ in the new setting. For instance, a young gifted child may have to acquire more independent learning skills with less dependency on adults to provide intellectual stimulation. Similarly, they may require explicit explanations of the new expectations about learning. Whatever the nature of difference between the previous and new curriculum, it is the responsibility of the educator, in partnership with the family, to help the child manage the transition. Explicit explanations  can be helpful, such as: ‘In this group the resources are on open shelves and you help yourself to what you need’ or ‘In this class you check your spelling by yourself from the class dictionaries; over there on the shelf’.

Two girls and their teacher work together in the classroom.Research shows that young gifted children have different expectations of starting at school from those of more typical children. Where typical children are more focussed on making new friends and the rules that will apply at school, young gifted children often feel that the prospect of new learning will be the most exciting feature of starting school.