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Gifted Education » Characteristics of Gifted

Characteristics of Gifted

Characteristics of Gifted and Talented Students


In preschool years giftedness can be demonstrated by early physical development, early language development, and/or exceptional powers of observation and curiosity.  While it is rare for a gifted child to exhibit all of the following characteristics, it is common for a gifted child to manifest many of them:

good problem-solving abilities
learns rapidly
extensive vocabulary
good memory
longer attention span
compassion for others
high degree of energy
prefers older companions
wide range of interests (or narrow ones)
interest in experimenting and doing things differently
unusual sense of humor
early or avid reader with greater comprehension
ability with puzzles, mazes or numbers
at times seems mature for age
insatiable curiosity and persistence
intense concentration
perseverance in areas of interest
may question authority
advanced sense of conscience
perceives abstract ideas, understands complex concepts
sees relationships
may demonstrate intense emotional and/or physical sensitivity
exhibits creativity


Myths and Facts

Gifted education and the "gifted" label are "elitist" because schools with gifted programs offer "special" treatment for smart kids that already have it all. Gifted education is, in fact, about meeting the academic and affective needs of students whose abilities and knowledge exceed what is being taught in the regular classroom.

Gifted kids have "pushy" parents. In fact, parents of gifted children are often less inclined to make an issue of their children for fear of drawing attention and harming their child's school experience. Often, parents of gifted children may be reliving their own negative experience in school and simply want their child to be intellectually challenged each day in school.

Gifted kids tend to be physically weak and unhealthy.] Gifted children actually tend to be stronger, have fewer illnesses, and many are outstanding athletes.

Gifted kids are emotionally unstable and social misfits. The opposite is generally true. Many children fail to be identified by teachers because their outward behavior seems so normal. They are often very outgoing and can be outstanding leaders.

Gifted kids are enthusiastic about school and academic work. Gifted children will, in fact, opt for "alternative" ways to demonstrate their intelligence and creativity, if not encouraged to do so in a school environment. Gifted students will often choose the easiest path to an "A" since the "A" comes so easily to them.

Gifted kids are smart enough to learn by themselves] Gifted children require the same professional educational and emotional support as other children, but that support must be appropriate to their needs.

Gifted kids are usually from upper middle class professional families. Gifted children are found in all socioeconomic groups in proportionate numbers.

Gifted kids with the same level of intelligence have the same abilities and interests. Gifted children, like all children, are unique individuals and differ in their abilities, talents, and personalities.

All children are gifted. All individuals are unique with their own relative strengths and weaknesses, but giftedness refers to extraordinary, exceptional, beyond-the-norm abilities and talents.


Bright Child                           Gifted Learner

Knows the answers                 Asks the questions
Is interested                            Is highly curious
Is attentive                              Is mentally and physically involved
Has good ideas                       Has wild, silly ideas
Works hard                             Plays around, yet tests well
Answers the questions            Discusses in detail, elaborates
Top group                               Beyond the group
Listens with interest               Shows strong feeling and opinions
Learns with ease                     Already knows
6-8 repetitions for mastery     1-2 repetitions for mastery
Understands ideas                  Constructs abstractions
Enjoys peers                           Prefers adults
Grasps the meaning                Draws inferences
Completes assignments          Initiates projects
Is receptive                             Is intense
Copies accurately                   Creates a new design
Enjoys school / Enjoys learning,
Absorbs information / Manipulates information,
Technician / Inventor,
Good memorizer / Good guesser,
Enjoys straightforward, sequential presentation / Thrives on complexity,
Is alert / Is keenly observant,
Is pleased with own learning / Is highly self-critical.

Culturally/Linguistically Diverse Students

Children of color, representing different ethnic, cultural and economic backgrounds, have been under-represented in gifted and talented programs for a variety of reasons:

In addition to the use of culturally biased identification tools and practices, cultural factors such as degree of risk-taking or questioning, the established practice of working to address the needs of the group and not the individual may stand as a barrier to student nomination.  Students may be required to spend time in the home, assuming roles of responsibility or may mask their intellectual abilities at school to not be noticed.  Interests of these students may include culturally related, not school-based activities.

See ELL and Gifted

Students from Poverty

Mobility rates may make it difficult to sustain identification procedures and services.  Parents and students may not trust “special labels” of being identified with special services at school.  Limited self-expectations may be inconsistent with school perceptions of gifted characteristics.

SJ BOCS continues to work toward ensuring that gifted and talented programming serves the needs of all gifted and talented students, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, or socio-economic status.

Twice-Exceptional Students


Student behavior or performance may suggest gifted traits, yet the focus remains on remediation of deficits without a referral for programming for gifted and talented education.  Often gifted students with disabilities do not appear either gifted or challenged as they are using a great deal of energy compensating.  “Street-wise” behavior may be misinterpreted as problematic behavior instead of a characteristic of leadership.


Underachieving Gifted Students


Students who demonstrate through standardized measures a discrepancy between intellectual and/or creative ability or potential and academic achievement and/or creative productivity are considered to be underachievers.  If giftedness is not nurtured, students may become bored, frustrated, and depressed with school activities.  Often focus is on what students cannot do, instead of what a child can do, serves as a deterrent to engagement.


SJ BOCES continues to work toward ensuring that gifted and talented programming serves the needs of all gifted and talented students, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, or socio-economic status.