Informal Identification

There is a range of informal approaches and strategies that can assist with identifying young gifted children. They include informal tools specifically designed to help professionals and families identify possible giftedness and talent, as well as the typical day-to-day assessments, observations and documentation that professionals undertake in their work with young children.

Informal identification tools can be used by a range of professionals across a whole group as a basic screening tool or with individual children where giftedness is suspected. These tools are only a preliminary stage in the identification process and should be followed by other informal assessments and observations by professionals and families.

Formal assessment can be considered but it should be noted that these tools do not reliably identify all gifted and talented children. They should be regarded as an aid to professional judgment, not a substitute for it.

Observation and documentation

Professionals  can use their usual forms of assessment, observation and documentation to assist in identifying young gifted and talented children. These may include anecdotes and narratives, learning stories, portfolios and information from children,A teacher talks with a child in a classroom setting.

families and other professionals. These approaches have the advantage of being undertaken in authentic everyday contexts and providing information from multiple occasions.

Professionals can build a profile of the child to support identification, by recording and documenting children’s development and learning over time. This sort of documentation can also be useful when working with other professionals and when the child is transitioning to another setting.

Another useful approach to identification of giftedness or advanced development in young children is the Nebraska Starry Night Protocol: Individual Record Sheet. This alerts the early childhood professional to consider behaviours in addition to intellectual ability that may identify giftedness in some areas. For more information, see: Nebraska Starry Night: Individual Record Sheet

In her book Gifted Young Children: a guide for teachers and parents, Louise Porter developed a model to assist the identification of advanced development in young children. This model emphasises the importance of ongoing observations and multiple forms of assessment for the identification process. It also shows that the role of the educator or other professionals is to use these observations to actively alter curriculum for children showing advanced development. 

Louise Porter also offers a comprehensive list of characteristic behaviours on pages 2, 3 and 4 of her online booklet Gifted Children: meeting their needs. This includes a list of observable behaviours characteristic of gifted children across all areas of development – intellectual, academic, social and emotional. There is also a useful list of different learning approaches (styles) including a description of behaviours characteristic of creative thinking in gifted and talented children. 

For more information, see:

Identifying learning approaches

Gifted children may learn in different ways that are unusual or do not ‘fit’ standard teaching approaches.

For example, children who are called auditory-sequential learners are well suited to the typical classroom. These children cope well where the teaching strategy requires them to take in information through listening, and learning is step-by-step.

However, some gifted and talented children display what has been called a visual-spatial or conceptual-holistic learning approach. These learners think visually and holistically, rather than sequentially, and they often make leaps in understanding. As a result they can struggle with teaching approaches that emphasise sequential step-by-step learning, and may not demonstrate their advanced potential in these situations.

It is important that early childhood professionals understand that gifted and talented young children may display different learning approaches. Identification of these can assist educators to plan experiences and interactions that stimulate and provoke deep involved learning.

More information

  • Signs of Giftedness in Young Children - Dr Louise Porter explores learning styles or approaches.
  • Visual Spatial Learners - Linda Silverman provides information about what she terms ‘visual-spatial learners’, including a checklist of characteristics to help identify different learning approaches and strategies for responding to these.