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Time is of the Essence for Gifted Students

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I often think that the greatest gift we can give our gifted students is time. Time seems to be a recurring theme when thinking about how we should be facilitating the learning of gifted, talented, and creative students. Yet, time seems to be the most rushed aspect of education in general—cramming all the prescribed objectives of core content, skills, behaviors, special areas of interest, etc. within a very constrained number of days and hours. Time that is needed by gifted students to excel, pursue interests of passion, and just think is often wasted with unnecessary review, unengaging content, and general procedural information that is not applicable to self-directed, independently thinking, motivated students.

Malcolm Gladwell popularized the idea that 10,000 hours of appropriately guided practice was “the magic number of greatness”. Whether or not you believe that this amount of practice can produce a professional level of expertise or brilliance, it does seem obvious that it takes a lot of time to excel at a high level of performance or ability.  So, what are some of the ways we can assist students of potential in finding that huge chunk of time.

The most common time-saver that teachers are likely to be familiar with is the concept of compacting or pre-assessing students to see what time might be saved by not re-teaching current understandings, and by allowing students to use that found time for other interests or for accelerated content. By not spending time doing things they don’t need to do or want to do, we can engage them in projects or content that are meaningful, purposeful, and personal, thereby helping them in their journey to greatness.

Compacting may also help students find time to develop their creativity. Many times, creative thought will need time to incubate, or develop, into a fully transformative thought. This process may require an idea to ramble around in one’s head for a while, so teachers should allow several days for assignments that require creative thought. Additionally, resistance to closure is an important time concept for creativity. Students need to be encouraged to delay conclusions about solutions or ideas that require as aspect of creative thought. The initial ideas we generate tend to be on the obvious side, so if we can take the time to generate a large number of ideas or resist coming to an immediate conclusion, our ideas tend to possess insight or originality.

Time also can be gained in the creation of timelines and deadlines. Deadlines can be set, but as in the real world, sometimes deadlines need to be changed to allow gifted students to create products or ideas that are fully formed or are fulfilling to them. Such products may require more time than is expected and we should allow the time needed, as long as procrastination is not the objective. Relatedly, we need to encourage students to improve on their original products or ideas, giving time and luxury to incorporate the feedback, criticisms, and mistakes made from the first product to make an improved product. Again, such is the way of the real world and such should be the gift to the student in preparation for the real world.

Finally, it’s important to take time to keep spontaneity and enthusiastic engagement alive in the classroom for your highly able students. Take time to have an impromptu debate, discuss a history-making current event, or just smell the roses!  Allow your students to live in the timely moment and experience life to its fullest.

If you have ways you have maximized time for gifted students in the classroom, please do share.

All the best,

Dr. Barbara Swicord, Ed.D.
Executive Director, National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT)
President, Summer Institute for the Gifted (SIG)

One response to “Time is of the Essence for Gifted Students”

  1. Amanda Hearn says:

    I am searching for a resource for gifted programs in a title I school. I am a teacher and my daughter qualifies to be tested for gifted. The problem is that we don’t have a program in our system. Can you give me information on where to look for grants for a small title I school system that ranks as residing in the 11th poorest county in the nation? Any help would be very appreciated.

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