What do we mean by gifted?
Children who are gifted are able to perform significantly above their peers. This means all children their age not just the children in their class, school, district, state, etc. You can be gifted intellectually, creatively, artistically, or in a certain field of study. Giftedness is not federally recognized so the criteria and services vary from state to state. Some states evaluate for intellectual giftedness. When we consider intellectual giftedness part of this relates to their cognitive ability or IQ. Often we look for children with cognitive ability around the 94th percentile or higher. This means they scored the same as or higher than 94% of the kids their same age.
It can be challenging on a surface level to determine if the child is just a high achiever or are they gifted? You might want to consider if the child is in the top 10 percent when considering national norms, but this can also be tricky. Often bright, high achieving students can perform better at school as they are teacher pleasers and hard workers. Our gifted students often have challenges that high achieving students do not. Also, gifted students can be high achievers, but sometimes they are underachievers.
Just as all of you are teachers or educators you share many similarities, but you also have several differences. Therefore, the following examples won’t always tell you if a child is gifted or high achieving, but they can help form your thought process.
A bright child will often know the answers whereas a gifted child will ask the questions. The high achiever has absorbed, memorized, and understands the content. The gifted student already knew the information and understands it at a more complex level. For example, a high achieving child may know animals are able to adapt, but a gifted student may question if humans are adapting slower or quicker than medical advances.
The high achiever has to work to achieve, whereas the gifted student knows or doesn’t need much effort to understand concepts. High achievers are very motivated by getting good grades and pleasing others, but a gifted student may not care about their grades. I’ve also found from personal experience that high achievers don’t really care about what they are learning they just want to do well on it, but gifted students will often be disinterested or want to know the value of learning something.
This takes us to our next point that high achievers like school, but gifted learners will engage in self-directed learning. This can be linked to their curiosity. A bright child will be imaginative but a gifted learner has original ideas. High achievers are interested while gifted students are very curious. Our high achievers pay attention and have good ideas, and gifted students are mentally and physically involved and their ideas are wild and silly. Hopefully, this information helps you compare and contrast gifted learners from high achieving students. Please see below for a few more comparisons:
|Works hard||Plays around, yet tests well|
|Answers questions||Elaborates and goes into detail with answers|
|In the top group||Doing work above the rest in the top group|
|Listens with interest||Has strong opinions and thoughts|
|Learns easily||Already understands and knows|
|Needs 6-8 repetitions||Needs 1-2 repetitions|
|Understands ideas||Is able to create abstractions|
|Prefers peers||Shows a preference for adults|
|Understands the meaning||Able to make inferences|
|Completes assignments||Creates projects|
|Enjoys school||Enjoys learning|
|Absorbs information well||Manipulates information well|
|Preference for straightforward tasks||Prefers complex tasks|
|Pleased with personal success||Critical of self-performance|