In a parent’s eyes, all young children are remarkably clever, intelligent and creative. But how do you tell when a preschool child is gifted?
Truly gifted preschoolers might teach themselves to read, or develop intense interests in subjects they might not tackle for several years in school, says Dina Brulles, Ph.D, gifted education director for the Paradise Valley Unified School District.
The self-contained gifted preschool class at Desert Cove Elementary School has 14 children, with the class enrollment limited to 20 students. The room doesn’t look all that different from a regular preschool class, with books, colorful bins of classroom material and a word tree, calendar and student artwork on the wall. There are also a fair number of Google Chromebooks students use to access online information and activities. Though it looks typical, in this classroom gifted students learn differently and are taught differently. Their learning is accelerated.
An IQ of 130 or above is considered gifted. Only three percent of the population test as gifted. It’s essential to identify them early, Brulles says, so they can get the proper attention. The Paradise Valley district has 5,000 gifted students, many of whom have come from charter and private schools as well as other districts. Brulles and Susan Winebrenner developed cluster grouping which is a method to ability group students. Gifted students with an IQ of 130-139 are clustered in a classroom with average and slightly below average children where they can receive gifted services at their level. Other classrooms have clusters of students from high average to well below average. No classroom has a range from gifted to well below average as that range of abilities would be too great.
Children with an IQ of 140 or higher, only seven out of 1,000 children, are in a self-contained gifted classroom in Paradise Valley.
An example of giftedness in preschool is 4-year-old Reagan, who saw glitter slowly drift to the bottom of a snow globe and wrote on a piece of paper, “The sparkles have setteld. (sic)” Not typical vocabulary for a 4-year-old, especially considering the correctly applied past-tense ending.
The gifted preschooler, according to Brulles, makes connections between pieces of information and assimilates information faster than typical children their age. Brulles says gifted students have expanded vocabulary, they reach academic milestones early and they have an insatiable appetite for learning. “They ask why, why, why all the time,” says, Brulles.
Brulles says gifted kids are intuitive, come to conclusions by figuring things out and see answers without having to do all the steps of a problem or activity. Gifted children need to be taught differently and be allowed to use their unique abilities because they think in leaps and bounds rather than incrementally, Brulles says. She says gifted children in a typical classrooms without proper instruction tend to get bored and look for distractions, which can get them in trouble.
From a presentation Brulles created called “The needs of highly gifted students,” are the typical characteristics of a gifted student:
- Are intensely curious and have many interests
- Process information with great speed and deep understanding
- Possess great memories
- Make connections from interdisciplinary fields
- Readily grasp underlying principles and make generalizations
- Are highly sensitive and intense
- Prefer to work alone or with intellectual peers
- Relate well with older students and adults
- Demonstrate advanced sense of humor
- Require individualized instruction
- Sustain long periods of attention and concentration in areas of interest
- Are intuitive
More information is available from Paradise Valley School District Gifted Education Department.
Paradise Valley has an afterschool program, the Digital Learning Experience (DLE) for gifted and talented students who attend private and charter schools or are in other school districts. DLE is free for grades 4-6 and is DLE is online as well as on-site at Sunrise Middle School. Students must apply to participate.