It is important to gather information about the gifted child’s current level of learning and plan for what and how new learning will occur. This involves analysis of the assessment of learning outcomes to develop a curriculum that will extend the child’s learning.
When planning involves a young gifted child, the following are essential:
- detailed awareness of areas where learning and or skills are highly developed
- utilising integrated teaching and learning approaches that respond to those highly developed areas and provide opportunities for new learning
- assessment that provides information about what the child currently knows and understands – derived from a range of forms: what a child has made, said, done, constructed, drawn, etc.
- providing open ended learning experiences and purposeful interactions that scaffolds and extends the child’s learning.
Awareness of highly developed learning
Professionals can become aware of a child’s highly developed learning with knowledge and competencies higher than expected for their chronological age in a number of ways.
First, an important source is gathering family information and their understanding about the child’s level of learning. Family observations or anecdotes will provide essential insights into what levels of knowledge have been achieved and what teaching and learning approaches are familiar and successful for this child.
Second, identification can take place because the early childhood or school educator is informed by other professionals that a child is demonstrating advanced ability in one or a few ways. For example, this may be a Maternal and Child Health nurse, a paediatrician, a school nurse or other educators.
Third, when professionals have high expectations of children, a gifted child, usually in a most unself-conscious way, will offer information about themselves that indicates their advanced ability.
Integrated teaching and learning approaches
There are a number of principles that provide guidelines for modifying the curriculum to ensure it is stimulating for a learner with advanced ability. These can be used to plan for children in early childhood settings and schools. Such changes can range between small modifications within the curriculum, to a highly differentiated curriculum depending on the strengths, interests and ability level of the individual child.
Some experimentation may be required to find the type of information and skills as well as educational interactions that are stimulating. However, the child’s responses will indicate when a satisfactory approach is found. For more information, see:
Guiding principles to support advanced learning (docx - 24.13kb)
A curriculum for gifted children should include content that is:
- open ended and more complex to respond to children with advanced abilities
- more advanced than ordinarily available for that age group or offered in a different way, for example: content that responds to children with reading skills
- more likely to focus on broad abstract ideas with concrete examples - rather than the other way around. See: VEYLDF Outcome 4.Learning approaches or strategies
The learning strategies for a young gifted child should include:
- opportunities that maximise the child’s transfer of learning, use of memory and general understanding of their world
- the use of higher order thinking. For example: how to apply ‘a piece of information’ in a practical way, or to transfer it to other principles: if some things float how could we use that information in everyday life? how could knowledge about weight/mass help understand floating and sinking? o how to use information creatively, oro evaluating the usefulness of this information in our everyday lives.
- open-ended questions and learning experiences, with educators using a shared and sustained approach to scaffold learning to an appropriate level. In other words, intentional interactions with young gifted children should be based on an understanding that there can be many ‘right’ answers to questions or problems, and the young gifted child is encouraged to think divergently or creatively about possible answers or solutions
- new learning, new materials and new ideas are presented at a faster pace or more frequently than is usual.
The outcome of learning should reflect the level at which the child is currently learning. A young gifted child is likely to be more interested in the outcome of a learning experience than their age-typical peers. The product or end result of a learning activity can be represented in a variety of forms – a child’s contribution to a discussion, a 3D construction, a drawing, a story, a song or dance, a project, a video, photographic journal.
The essential aspect of modifying the outcome of learning is that educators have high expectations for young gifted children. The learning opportunities made available are based on an estimation of the child’s present knowledge and skills with the aim to scaffold their learning to a new level of understanding. This approach satisfactorily integrates the principles of differentiation for gifted and talented children.
One easily accessible resource for differentiation is the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework (VEYLDF). After identifying a child as competent in a learning outcome within the VEYLDF, more complex learning goals can be planned by tracking across the related outcomes to similar outcomes under the AusVELS Foundation and if appropriate to the child’s level of learning, AusVELS Level 1 and 2. For more information, see:
Play and the gifted child
Play is important within an integrated teaching and learning approach and is as important for the young gifted child as it is for all children. Educators are likely to find that young gifted children enjoy more structured play opportunities than is usual for their age group. For more information, see:
Young gifted children often have passionate or specialist interests and look for and respond well to adult interaction to support their play. A particular characteristic of many young gifted children is that they enjoy sustained, shared conversations.
Observing the play of young gifted children is likely to illustrate:
- an earlier interest in complex play
- an earlier interest in rule governed games including formal games like Snakes and Ladders or card games
- more complex ideas and structures in play with age-peers
- for some gifted children solitary play will be intellectually satisfying and they may appear to be less engaged with age-peers
- inclusion of literacy, science and/or maths skills with early mastery of these academic skills.
For more information, see:
Assessing and planning for learning outcomes
When an educator is alerted to a child’s advanced ability in any area, assessment should focus on the upper levels of the child’s knowledge and skills, based on what they can make, write, draw, say and do. From this educators can plan to extend the child’s learning. Subsequent forms of assessment can then identify achievement levels of learning for that child.
At school this may be described as off-level testing. Government schools can access off-level assessments in English and Maths through VCAA website with links to On-demand testing, English-online or Maths-online assessments. For more information, see:
On Demand Testing
At whatever age, when a young child is identified as gifted it is necessary to assess ongoing learning to ensure that subsequent learning goals are providing a rich and stimulating curriculum. This should incorporate high expectations, and avoid repetition of learning content or skills already mastered.
Using the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework and AusVELS, assessment should reflect the whole child. This involves educators assessing a range of learning goals against the learning outcomes, although frequently a number of learning outcomes can be evaluated from one learning experience. The following story illustrates a variety of assessment approaches and assessment possibilities within Zoe’s experiences.
Providing experiences and interactions
A stimulating curriculum for a gifted child involves more than differentiating the content and teaching strategies. As children settle into learning environments outside their home– whether it is in a baby and toddlers room, a kindergarten program, or school class, – other psychological characteristics play a role in how well they engage with the curriculum. This is true for all children but as young gifted children develop differently in some respects, it is important to be aware of other observable characteristics as these children reorientate to new learning experiences.
Two important psychological influences on young gifted children, which depend on the support of the early childhood professional, are motivation and the holistic nature of children’s development. See: Gagné’s model
Motivation is observable when children show energy, effort and persistence in tackling a new task. Gifted children have characteristically high levels of intrinsic motivation and can be less responsive to extrinsic motivation or external expectations of them. Very young gifted children are usually intensely curious about exploring a new environment or new experiences, and also can show this intensity in how they approach and persist in a new undertaking or solving a challenge.
Motivation is accepted as an important element in the realisation of an individual’s potential. Talent development goes hand in hand with a high level of intrinsic motivation and a new skill will not emerge unless it’s accompanied by a strong determination to accomplish a goal. Research has shown young gifted children engage enthusiastically in learning when there are high expectations of their learning within an integrated teaching and learning approach. Such expectations should be based on awareness of the child’s current level of strength in each learning area.
The Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework and the AusVELS note that children develop in an holistic way. Their learning and development advances simultaneously in the areas of health, cognition, personal and social development, and wellbeing. Research shows when support is provided for young gifted children to progress their development in their social, emotional, physical and intellectual learning – even when these areas may be at markedly different levels – their wellbeing is maintained.
Evidence indicates that if young gifted children’s strengths, in particular their intellectual ability, are not supported their social and/or emotional wellbeing can be impacted. As a result, evaluation of behaviours and learning can be more complicated. However, when educators are aware of this, it is easier to interpret behaviours and plan for an appropriate educational response.
For more information, see:
Case Study 10: Holistic Development (Xavier)