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Motivating Gifted and Exceptional Students With Enrichment Activities

By Finn Orfano

Students who are classified as gifted and exceptional are extremely intelligent and understand many concepts beyond their years. When they enter school, it's easy for them to become bored and unmotivated by what their classmates are learning. Enrichment activities provided by teachers can help.

Challenges Faced by Gifted Students in School

Gifted students who are enrolled in a traditional school setting often have a difficult time blending in academically among other children who share their chronological age. For example, in a second-grade classroom where the teacher is giving instruction on adding and subtracting large numbers, the gifted student who already understands algebraic concepts may understandably be bored. A prolonged lack of motivation and interest on the part of the gifted and exceptional child can result in academic frustrations and underachievement. Therefore, it is important for teachers to plan enrichment activities for the gifted student so that he or she may enjoy learning along with classmates.

Gifted Students in the Mainstream Classroom

There are several enrichment activities that a gifted student can work on individually while the rest of the class is learning grade level concepts. One idea for teachers is to develop an Independent Study Project that combines traditional classroom topics with more advanced themes. A gifted child who enjoys history might be motivated to prepare an extensive biography of Abraham Lincoln while the class as a whole learns about President's Day. Educators may also consider assigning a mentor to spend time with the gifted student and to encourage his or her interests. An older student or a parent volunteer can set aside some time each week to meet with the child, discuss academics, and provide support. Alternatively, teachers can also supply the gifted and exceptional student with curriculum from a higher level, which can be worked on after the regular class assignments are completed.

Gifted Students and Peer Interaction

Relationships with classmates can be challenging for gifted children, who may feel isolated and unpopular due to their intelligence and interests. Social awkwardness combined with non-stimulating schoolwork causes the lack of motivation in these children to be more intense, which can result in behavioral problems. Teachers can alleviate these issues by exploring enrichment activities that involve both the gifted student and the other class members. Group projects and presentations provide an opportunity for students to work together while contributing their own ideas to the discussion. Learning centers, through which the students can rotate in groups, are also a great resource for gifted and exceptional students. They can develop social bonds with peers while participating in academic exercises.

Thinking Outside the Box

When preparing enrichment activities for the gifted child, teachers should encourage the concepts of creative thinking and exploring. Many gifted students respond positively to assignments and projects that allow them to "think outside of the box", and will be motivated to do well in school when they have a chance to maximize their talents. Emotional and academic support from teachers and other staff members can work wonders for motivating a gifted student as well.

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