Schools help or hinder gifted students

Promotion of gifted children in primary school

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About the author

Dr. Birgit Ebbert is a freelance author and, as a qualified pedagogue, has been involved in parenting and teacher training for many years. In addition to children's books and thrillers, she writes parenting guides, learning aids, reading stories and books about working creatively with paper.

by Dr. Birgit Ebbert

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Much has been done in the education system in recent years to encourage students who are lagging behind their peers. Compulsory spelling tests for all pupils are no longer uncommon, pupils with disabilities are provided with an integrator and thanks to the obligation to be included, a disability of any kind is not an obstacle to attending a regular school. In the discussion, however - apart from individual initiatives - highly talented students who far ahead of their classmates are. Giftedness is referred to here as special intellectual talent understood and based on the Problem solving and comprehension skillsthat are collected in conventional intelligence tests. This does not affect the fact that there are also other special talents, in the musical, sporting, linguistic or craft area, which are not recorded and measured with the usual intelligence test.

Although the school laws also provide adequate support for gifted children, these will become pupils often not even recognized. Or - as parents report - as low-performing students promoted because they give their potential Not being able to show off at school or deliberately putting it under a bushel so as not to attract attention. It is important to support gifted children at an early stage so that their learning biography and their relationship with the school as an institution are not permanently damaged by failures, rejections, boredom or insufficient demands. The elementary school has through the increasing internal differentiation and the flexible school entry phase provides good conditions to support and challenge gifted children; she just needs to focus more on them. This is not easy, neither for parents nor for teachers, because giftedness is often not perceived as such. Chapter 2 therefore looks at the behaviors that can be signs of giftedness. There is already a sticking point: not every child who shows one of the special features outlined is highly gifted.

Ultimately, however, it is also irrelevant for a child whether they are gifted in the sense of a test. A Intelligence test is a Measuring instrumentthat can bring clarity, but does not change anything in the child's behavior. The recommendations as to whether and when a test should be carried out are contradictory. Some generally recommend testing as soon as several of the behaviors named in Chapter 2 occur, while others only recommend testing if the test helps the student. If he can live out his potential without testing, no testing is required. This should be considered because every test signals that a child is different, which not every child can cope with. It is important that every child is supported in such a way that they can develop their possibilities. Chapter 3 focuses on how this can look like in gifted children. The article ends with a list of Internet articles and books that contain suggestions and advice beyond this article.

Recognize giftedness in primary school

If it is difficult to recognize a child's learning disabilities in an elementary school class, it is even more difficult to interpret the signs of giftedness. Especially since some Behaviors can occur in all students due to their development, for example to act as a class clown in order to gain the recognition of the other students. Other symptoms are similar in children with learning difficulties: for example, the refusal to repeat something. While this is too stupid for the gifted, the learning difficulties are afraid of failing again - the behavior is the same. Against this background, the behaviors outlined below should be seen, which can indicate giftedness. On the one hand, it is crucial that the Special features occur cumulatively and that they on the other hand also outside of school be noticed. That is why an exchange with parents is important. Their own experiences in the early childhood of the pupil and the feedback they received from kindergarten support in many cases the suspicion of giftedness.

The order is not a list of priorities, it is based on what teachers usually do most likely noticeable:

  • The child gets in tests or classwork bad gradesalthough his class contributions and homework give the impression that he surely understood the subject.

  • The child has one vocabularythat of his classmates clearly superior is, and articulated, elected, almost adult.

  • The child grasps new learning material quickly and asks questions that sometimes even teachers cannot answer immediately and that are part of the curriculum for higher grades.

  • Therefore it gets bored easily, especially since elementary school requires frequent repetitions and simple tasks. Depending on the temperament, the child shows his boredom more or less clearly.

  • The child refuses repetitions or monotonous tasks and if it does solve it, it is done quickly, possibly with minor careless mistakes. Difficult tasks, on the other hand, are dealt with carefully, quickly and correctly.

  • The refusal to solve simple tasks is also evident in homework; especially for exercises in which only numbers or words have to be used and the scheme is quickly recognizable.

  • In the class or in the test, the child can Often not answering questionsbecause they are too easy and cannot imagine teachers setting such easy tasks. This is why gifted people are often very poor at oral cooperation.

  • The child often acts in class absent. If it is called, it still knows what the class is currently working on and can usually even give the correct answer.

  • The child likes to study alone, avoids group work and is easily bored with intellectually challenging group games. This can also be seen in breaks, where he often detests loud activities without a cognitive challenge.

  • In order to still gain the respect of the other children, the gifted pupil slips into the Role of the class clownthat gets attention.

  • The child observes classmates and teachers very closely and, if necessary, draws your attention to your mistakes.

Support gifted primary school children

The basic principle of accompanying gifted primary school children is the same as that of supporting children with learning difficulties or disadvantaged children. It always applies that Recognize the potential of the individual and to enable the development of this potential with suitable offers. Well implemented internal differentiation is therefore a good basis for support. But even this may not be enough to satisfy the gifted students' hunger for learning. Exactly what support is needed can only decided on a case-by-case basis and even young elementary school children can express clear wisheswhat else they would like to learn, experience or experience. Not everything can be implemented in school, but with the desire to help this child too, a lot is possible even in a regular school. Especially since all school laws provide for individual support and thus possibly also cover unusual methods or paths.

  • That is crucial Attitude of adults towards gifted children. They too have to experience that they are right as they are. Gifted children are usually sensitive and feel when they are not really valued.

  • Is helpful with the child to consider togetherwhat support would be necessary and possible, also with regard to the other students. It depends on a class whether a gifted student is allowed to do more demanding tasks and not have to do repetition exercises like the other ones.

  • Every way to Internal differentiation should be used to enable the gifted child or children to have special challenges, such as special tasks or small assignments. It is even conceivable - depending on the class - a Coaching system, with which the gifted students help their classmates.

  • All forms of the Free work, on the computer or in a book corner, with weekly plans or project work. Regardless of these possibilities within a class, different models are organizationally implemented in schools, currently more in secondary schools, but in principle they can also be implemented in primary schools.

  • Skipping classes (Acceleration). With this model, children are transferred to the next higher class at one of the witness appointments or during the current school year. This has the advantage that they are materially challenged, but this also means the loss of the familiar class environment and should therefore be carefully considered.

  • Partial jumping into the next higher class (Partial acceleration, pull-out, revolving door model). This model, which circulates under various names, is based on the fact that children are only for individual subjects attend classes in the next higher class, depending on the focus of the content. In principle, this can be done in any subject and has the advantage over skipping that the child stays in the class. However, it is then important that the class is explained why this child is receiving the privilege.

  • Under the term Enrichment special offers for gifted children are subsumed, which either take place in the class in which the child is given special tasks, or instead of lessons (such as the Discovery Day in Rhineland-Palatinate) or even outside of lessons in working groups or courses.

  • Some schools or federal states set up special classes for gifted students, so-called Express train or project classes. However, these exist more in secondary schools than in elementary schools, which is also due to the fact that a minimum number of students must be available to set up such a class, which is not always the case in elementary schools.

Whatever measures are taken to develop gifted primary school children according to their cognitive potential, it is always important that theirs too emotional and social development is taken into view and they treated as children even if they seem mentally older.

Links and literature



  • Info brochure Initiative for the Promotion of Gifted Children V. n.d. PDF:

  • Olaf Steenbuck, Helmut Quitmann, Petra Schreiber (Eds.) Including support for gifted students in primary schools: Concepts and practical examples for school development. Beltz 2011

  • German Society for Gifted Children e.V .: Gifted children in school and society. LIT publishing house 2001

  • Jost, Monika: Recognizing and accompanying gifted people. A guide for school and home. Universum Verlag 2003

  • Reketat, Heike: Open teaching. A funding opportunity for gifted children in mainstream schools !? LIT publishing house 2001

  • Sabine Schulte zu Berge: Gifted children in primary school. Recognize - understand - take into account in the classroom. LIT-Verlag 2005

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