Gifted Learners

Tukuna kia rere

Planning for gifted learners

Involve whānau

The people who know the gifted learner best are their families. Contact them as soon as practicable to help you identify and meet their needs.

Nurturing gifted and talented children: A parent/teacher partnership

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Involve the learner

Many gifted students need more challenge and choice. Discover how they learn best. Identify what their needs are.

Twelve year old Mia explains in the video below how she appreciates being given a choice. She also expresses a clear need for the teacher and her peers to enable her social development by recognising that Asperger's Syndrome affects her ability to communicate appropriately.

My name is Mia and I’m 2E and my two exceptionalities are giftedness and Asperger’s syndrome. My preferred way of learning is given a lot of choice. Because at one of my primary schools if we were learning about one subject such as ANZAC Day we’d have a lot of subjects leading off from it, like we’d have a reading problem with ANZAC Day, a maths problem, a writing problem, probably some other things we haven’t done before related to ANZAC Day.

Another thing that I would like to be understood is a general understanding between um, between teachers and students about twice exceptional and giftedness. I’m not really good at being in groups and I think that’s partly because, um, because when I, um, think when I tell someone I have Asperger’s Syndrome they think I have some kind of disease or something contagious. I’d like to have more understanding around what it is, how we think, and just how other children could help us. Like, I have trouble with social skills, like, other children, if I misunderstand, they could just explain, like, what I did wrong and how it’s not socially acceptable or something like that.

Another thing that I think would be helpful for gifted children is if the teachers worked on their strengths and then related that round to their weaknesses. For example - if I’m really bad at time management and one of my strengths is coding the teacher could relate that strength to my weakness. For example, I could have a coding project that I have to complete in a set time and I have a timeline for how I can get that completed.

Assess the strengths and needs

Gifted learners have exceptionalities which need to be recognised and developed to ensure their wellbeing and progress. Gifted learners will have intellectual, motivational, social or emotional needs that need to be recognised and provided for.

Listen to Sasha, Michaela and Te Kiri talk about how their secondary school and teachers have developed their strengths and provided for their intellectual, motivational, social and emotional needs through giving leadership, academic and performance opportunities. They also give insight into the importance to them of acknowledging and celebrating nuerodiversity, gender and cultural diversity.

I’m Te Kiri and my strengths are sporting, leadership, cultural and performing arts.

Hi. I’m Michaela and my strengths are cultural, specifically in the performing arts, and academics in English and Biology.

My name is Sasha and my strengths are in academics and in art.

M: In performing arts, one thing that’s really helped me in the realm of songwriting, I do that myself, is my music teacher - he gets very involved, and he really encourages us to try new things or to maybe try a new instrument in the song, and he actually sits there and he listens to the ideas we have and he doesn’t, you know, say Oh I don’t think it’s going to work, he just works with us on that idea to develop into something that could be amazing for students like us.

S: What’s helped me with my academics is in year 9 and 10 I was in an extension class which we were pushed ahead of the learning curriculum and we did level 1 Maths, for example, a year early. And that really helped, I think. I think if I was in sort of a class that was working at the normal curriculum I would’ve maybe got a bit lazy and wasn’t really be doing what I could be doing so I think being pushed was a really good thing for me in that instance.

T: The sporting opportunity that I’ve received has been really amazing because there’s this sport called golf croquet that I played socially until I came to secondary school then I went to the the sports office and saw there was a Taranaki sports for it and I signed up and then played in a tournament and then I got scouted for the under 21 New Zealand team. That’s just taken me all over New Zealand and it’s just really fun.

M: Yeah, and with performing arts and drama, providing a safe space for your students to be able to actually do what they need to especially when we’re doing roles that aren’t particularly what we’re comfortable with. When you have a group of students in a space where you can develop your character properly, it’s really important otherwise students aren’t going to want to do it, they’re going to muck around, not going to get the grades that they want, or that they should deserve, if they were in a place where they felt comfortable enough to do that.

S: I was able to take a couple of subjects through Te Kura, the correspondence school, and that’s really helped as well I think. Expanding sort of my knowledge and helping me sort of work on self management because I’m not working with a teacher immediately there I have to sort of push myself, and challenge myself, to set goals and time limits and things for myself and that’s been really good for my time management which was not the best beforehand.

M: And that’s another thing that school has brought in is for year 13s is a period of time that we can apply for called self management. Where You can use it as a study period - to go to the library and sit there and study - or for example some students have decided to go to the Endeavour Centre and help with the kids there or go to the Annie Brydon’s which is our elderly people’s home and do things with them so that’s another thing that the school’s done that has helped students to become more independent because we are getting ready to go out into the world where all the time that we have isn’t, you know, split up by bells and whatever so I think that is probably one of the best things we’ve been given for us as year 13s.

S: Sort of worried about it as first because it was sort of taken for granted that we’ve earned a study period at year 13 but expecting us to manage it ourselves I think has been really good. Be interesting to see how it plays out over the year.

M: Yeah, And if they use it again.

T: Yeah, Not only have the teachers encouraged the students to become independent workers, I myself had experience with teachers encouraging me to be, like to go to a leadership role kind ofj. Last year I was fortunate to be an ambassador and we had a few says in things but it was productive, I guess, and not only being in the cultural side has just helped me just mix and mingle with other students as well.

S: So leadership roles for students, other than just year 13s, other than prefect roles in senior years, is probably the right way to expand that responsibility that students feel…

M: And they carry it up throughout the school so when they do get to year 13 the leaders are the top, the top layer cause they’ve already had the experience, they know how to deal with other students and I just think that’s really cool...I dunno….that kids are able to do that cause we all get more involved. One thing that I would like to see a bit more encouraged in the school culturally, not performing arts, but in like, actual culture, Maori culture,Tongans, is having the other cultures more prevalent in the school. Maori is focused on and that’s really important to me because I am Maori but there’s also, you know, I have a band and our guitarist/drummer is, he’s Filipino and we have written a song in Tagalog for him because it’s his culture and we have a South African boy, um, him as well. You know, we have so much diversity not only within our own school but in New Zealand that should be recognised and it’s something I think not a lot of schools across New Zealand do acknowledge and that is something that I feel, as a student, should be acknowledged more.

S: And not only acknowledged but celebrated almost that we’ve got such sort of diversity and sort of a mix of different people in our schools.

M: Otherwise, you know, kids get closed off, you know, they feel like oh well nobody wants to know what culture I am or we all have to learn the certain way when it’s not - you should be proud of who you are, you should be proud of where you’re from.

T: You should be more out there instead of actually trying to just keep it inside them - you may be different but it’s good to actually put it out there and say that you are different and express your culture and not just cos... We’re an English speaking school but it doesn’t mean you can’t speak your own language or anything.

S: Diversity is an important part of our lives at this age I think - it’s a very formative part of who we are and so we’re sort of trying to discover and understand who we are as people and I think it’s quite important to have sort of that support system and that celebration there so that it’s easier for us

M: ...and that just starts with educating people. Educating people like religions, not pushing in your faces or anything but respect and learning about things like that. And then you get a wider view of the world as well and it can really just open your eyes to so many things if we are willing to learn and be taught about other people.

S: Even about, like, the LGBTQ+ community and people with learning disabilities and stuff. Like, a lot of that is sort of tabu. I know a couple of people who have them and not a lot of people do know they have them cause they’re kind of a little ashamed of it. I don’t think it should be something people are ashamed of and it should be sort of acknowledged and should be ...yeah..

M: Yeah...people should know. As a whole though I think our particular school does try hard but there are always going to be areas that need be fixed or put better. I just think it’s good that we’re at least starting as a school, and a community and a country. Yeah. As students, it’s just important that we are prepared for when go out there, we are going to be, you know, building the next buildings, and we are going to be your next, you know, whatever - MPs or the people that you see, or kids that teach your kids in the future. So a good support system within the school, education system, the help we all need to grow properly is essential. Yes.

Intellectual needs

A learner who is gifted may express boredom, complacency, laziness, refusal to engage or more serious behavioural and psychological issues, if they are not sufficiently understood and have their needs met through appropriate provision.

Challenge the gifted learner with:

Motivational needs:

A gifted learner is often self directed, reliable, persistent and highly motivated to reach personal goals. They will thrive in a responsive environment that allows them independence and flexibility. However, they may also be a perfectionist and harshly self critical. This may negatively impact on their well being and can be a barrier to achieving personal goals. Socio-economic barriers can exist for some gifted learners and limit their opportunities and motivation.

Strategies to address motivational barriers:

Social and emotional needs

Gifted learners often have asynchronous development where there is a mismatch between cognitive, emotional, and physical development. They may be very different to their peers and feel a sense of isolation. Their intensities may prevent them relating to others or they may submerge their inner self to ‘fit in’.

Listen to Kaile as she explains some of the social problems she encounters because of her unique capabilities and what she needs to feel safe and supported.

I’m Kaile. I like to believe that I’m quite well rounded in all my subjects and might even go to the point where I say that I’m great at everything that I do, not being modest, but just being aware of my skills. My favourite subjects are Math, I do love performing Arts but I’m a little bit scared of the stage cause I could always make a mistake. But then I love being in physical workshops - I’m very hands on - so construction has been a big part of my life, my whole life. Then there’s sports. I’ve been playing sports for as long as I can remember. Mostly football, actually no, mostly netball - I started football last year - and ever since then I’ve loved all sports. So I’ve played rugby, soccer (oh, that’s the same as football - oh my god….oh well!). And then I love reading but the thing with reading is that it takes me off to another place.

What teachers have done to help me with my learning, is they allowed me to be me which sounds weird because it’s not the most normal thing to say. I like to think that I’m very unique compared to most people. I like to learn in a different way, by myself, most of the time. Or the fact that I enjoy having one on one time with the teachers - so that they can listen to me and give me advice that I’m needing even if it’s not what I want to hear. I don’t take rejection well which I’m aware of this, but, I like it when teachers are able to reject me it makes me feel like I am able to do something better with myself. I can improve on a level that I wouldn’t normally be able to do.

When it comes to being socially, I’m very bubbly and a talkative person but most people don’t like that about me, especially with my ethnicity. I’m Maori but most people assume that, well it sounds racist, but they think I’m too white for who I am, which, I don’t care. I like being me, It makes me unique as an individual but it does hurt to think that I’m being judged. But then you meet teachers like my form teacher who’s very encouraging about who I am and makes me feel safer in school environments. But it’s weird because this has only started once I got to secondary school. I’m not sure if it’s because we’re older, because people become more judgemental or what it is. But I know it’s something I have to deal with, not just now, but for the rest of my life. And I know that, no matter what, I will have people beside me to help me through it no matter how hard it gets.

It’s not just the teachers which have an impact on my education. My parents have been with me 100% of the way. Even if I make the wrong decisions in my life they stand by my side and say we’ve made that mistake, how can we move on from this? What can I do to amend that mistake?

And now that I’m in high school I study hard, I manage my time well. The only -one big flaw some would disagree with the school, is how free, they let us be. It’s not that it’s a bad thing, it’s just sometimes they give us too much freedom that we believe we can use it to our will and manipulate it, to do whatever we want which isn’t necessarily a good thing for some people. I’m not a big fan of that because I like my freedom but I like it when I have a bit of structure. It’s going to be different for many people but for me I do prefer it that way.

Another thing is, when it co…. I’m a very emotional person so I feel strongly about things. If I don’t like something I won’t blatantly say it and make others feel bad - I’ll be cautious - but some people don’t see it that way so they can be negative. I think a good way for teachers to help that is to teach them how to react to certain situations. That’s one part of school that I’ve never understood. They teach us how to do English, Maths and all these subjects, but they never teach us how to socially act. I’m lucky because I’ve had the greatest parents who have taught me these things but some people are never going to be that lucky. Whether they don’t have their parents or they’re not the best. It’s not going to be easy. So having some support, whether it’s a friend, a family friend, or anyone, it’s nice to know that you have someone there to lean on or to help you in the situation or just in a sense that someone will always be there for you no matter how bad it gets.

Sometimes with high school though it can get a little crazy, how, we’re growing up, we’re going through all these new stages in life, and we experience all these different parts, whether it can be friendships, relationships, in some cases in can be making a few enemies in my case where - I always thought that the biggest part that made it difficult is that people can be jealous and not know how to deal with that. If you deal with it the wrong way it can lead to the worst scenarios possible and it’s not something that any of us should have to experience but we will because, our world’s not perfect and we know that. But even in the darkest days it will always be positive, there will always be a ray of sunshine, somewhere - even if it’s not where you are, you will find it in the end.

Celebrating Diversity

"Everyone has a gender, an ethnicity, an ability or disability, a sexuality, a religion. We all have a lot of different affiliations. The burning platform here is simply that New Zealand is becoming much more diverse than it was."

Mai Chen, 2018

Twice or multi-exceptional (2E)

These are students whose giftedness may be harder to detect because of learning, behavioural, or physical disabilities.They may experience extreme difficulty in developing their giftedness into talent.


Developing identified strengths and interests should underpin provision. Respond to the strengths, needs and interests of gifted learners through personalised approaches to teaching and learning using these supporting resources.

Provision can be as simple as co-constructing strength based goals for the classroom, school and home/community with whānau and, if age appropriate, the learner. These goals should challenge the gifted learner, develop their strengths and interests, meet their identified needs and be regularly reviewed.