ERIC Identifier: ED270782
Publication Date: 1986-00-00
Author: Fox, Deborah
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading
and Communication Skills Urbana IL.
Teaching English to the Gifted Student. ERIC Digest.
A recent upsurge of interest in gifted students has prompted parents,
teachers, administrators, and students themselves to inquire about relevant
programs in English. This digest examines both earlier literature on the subject
and two current programs designed to discern (1) criteria used for identifying
gifted students for English and language arts programs, (2) particular resources
and programs in English and language arts for gifted students, and (3) possible
methods of evaluating gifted students and programs.
HOW SHOULD GIFTED STUDENTS BE IDENTIFIED?
Definitions of gifted/talented students are numerous. Many are similar to
that in the 1978 House of Representatives resolution on education, which defines
gifted students as "children, and, where applicable, youth(s), who are
identified at the preschool, elementary, or secondary level as possessing
demonstrated or potential abilities that give evidence of high performance
capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, specific academic or
leadership ability, or in the performing and visual arts. . ." (ERIC
Clearinghouse on Handicapped and Gifted Children 1978).
The use of only grade point averages and IQ scores to classify students as
gifted/talented has led to growing concern about procedures for identifying
gifted students. Howard Gardner, noted Harvard neuropsychologist, has suggested
that although the IQ test measures the linguistic and logical/mathematical
intelligences, it does not account for at least five more intelligences: (1) the
kinesthetic, (2) the musical, (3) the spatial, (4) the interpersonal, and (5)
the intrapersonal (Scherer 1985). Clearly, methods other than IQ tests and grade
point averages must be used for identifying gifted/talented students for English
and language arts programs. Warnock and Holt (1985) further note that
gifted/talented students include not only students who do well in school but
others who may not do well and who may not display easily observable talent.
William W. West expresses a similar point of view. In TEACHING THE GIFTED AND
TALENTED IN THE ENGLISH CLASSROOM (1980), West not only identifies obvious
characteristics of the verbally gifted, such as reading avidly, writing
frequently and fluently, and participating in oral communication activities, but
also stresses the importance of observing students who exhibit signs of
disruptive behavior, pointing out that these students may simply be bored or
Criteria for determining gifted/talented students for exemplary programs
vary, as may be seen in two programs cited in 1985 by the National Council of
Teachers of English as Centers of Excellence. Students identified as
gifted/talented for the Eleventh Grade Honors English program at Temple High
School (Temple, Texas) are selected chiefly by means of grade point average,
writing skills, and teacher recommendations, although IQ scores are also
considered (Post 1986). At Princeton High School (Princeton, Illinois),
admission to the five-course Independent Study Curriculum is based on a number
of criteria. These include not only grade point average and an intelligence
test, but also a critical thinking evaluation (Watson-Glasser Critical Thinking
Appraisal), achievement test scores (SRA and Gates-MacGinitie), and two teacher
evaluations (Scher 1986). Clearly, some successful programs for the gifted in
English and language arts do not restrict admission criteria to IQ scores and
grade point average.
WHAT ARE SOME KEY PRINCIPLES IN DEVELOPING AN EFFECTIVE ENGLISH AND LANGUAGE
ARTS PROGRAM FOR THE GIFTED/TALENTED?
Tuttle (1979), writing about English programs for gifted students, identifies
four principles for developing an effective program.
1. Design a curriculum that builds upon the characteristics of the
intellectually gifted. While all students need to develop "basic skills," gifted
students can often acquire these as they develop their other, more advanced
abilities. 2. Provide for continuity. Teachers and administrators at all grade
levels should arrive at a consensus regarding the different components of the
program and the procedures for carrying it through the grades. 3. Select
teachers on the basis of their ability to work with the intellectually gifted
and the talented. These teachers should be vitally interested in the gifted,
highly intelligent, and emotionally secure, and possess advanced knowledge of
their subject matter. 4. Evaluate success within the program by the quality of
the work produced rather than by tests of mastery of lower-level skills. This
will often necessitate the design of new evaluation instruments and procedures,
since most of the tests we currently use measure acquisition of knowledge rather
than ability to apply knowledge in creative ways.
These principles may be applied to the development of English and language
arts programs for gifted students. As Scher points out, "A gifted program not
only gives students a sound foundation in verbal, reading, and critical thinking
skills but allows them to use these skills in an interdisciplinary fashion."
WHAT SPECIFIC RESOURCES EXIST FOR TEACHING ENGLISH AND LANGUAGE ARTS TO THE
A number of publications may assist the English and language arts teacher in
identifying gifted/talented students and developing an appropriate program for
them. For example, the text by West mentioned above not only explores the
identification of gifted students, but also suggests classroom activities that
will allow teachers to gain insight into students' verbal fluency, originality,
flexibility, and ability to elaborate, synthesize, and reach closure. A design
for a lesson sequence and an example of a teaching sequence are included, as
well as suggestions for selecting unit themes.
Jane D. Reed's TEACHING GIFTED STUDENTS LITERATURE AND LANGUAGE IN GRADES
NINE THROUGH TWELVE (1978) discusses topics related to English programs for
gifted high school students: philosophical principles, the study of literature,
specific examples of subject matter content in literature, the relationships
among various phases of language, descriptions of kinds of gifted English
students, procedures for conducting literature and language programs for the
gifted, and the evaluation of English programs for the gifted student.
HOW SHOULD GIFTED STUDENTS AND ENGLISH AND LANGUAGE ARTS PROGRAMS FOR THE
GIFTED BE EVALUATED?
Gifted students, like any other students, must be evaluated. Although it is
possible to use traditional methods of evaluation, more innovative methods are
also appropriate. Not all practitioners agree, however, on the best methods of
evaluation. Scher says that students in the Princeton (Illinois) High School
program are not given objective tests, since they have already demonstrated
their ability to do well on such tests. Instead, evaluations are based on the
writing process, with precision and accuracy as primary evaluation criteria.
Students enrolled in a research and analysis course must apply their knowledge
of logic, reasoning, and research methods to an investigation of their choice
and produce a project in a form compatible with the topic. Students must also
make public oral presentations of their findings and answer questions from the
Reed (1978) notes a method of evaluation in which the teacher evaluates not
only individual students but also the program itself by carefully observing the
class during the course or during a unit to determine whether or not students
are progressing satisfactorily. One technique involves having each student
maintain a manila folder containing descriptions of projects in progress or
completed, lists of things read, and written papers that have been graded. These
folders will allow the teacher to do a simple check of the accomplishments of
Program evaluation is often conducted through external tests, from
standardized achievement tests, to SAT verbal test scores, to advanced placement
tests. Reed cautions, however, that such tests are imperfect tools in the
evaluation process and so should not be heavily considered.
Evaluation can also be conducted by having students evaluate a course while
they are participating in it. Although student surveys may exhibit some bias,
they are worthwhile because gifted students tend to be able to cite strengths
and weaknesses of programs in which they participate. Finally, program
evaluation may be conducted after students leave school by sending evaluation
forms to past students or by inteviewing them.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
ERIC Clearinghouse on Handicapped and Gifted Children. ERIC/EC NEWSLETTER,
ed. Jean Nazzarro, 2 (Spring 1978).
Post, Linda Williams. Telephone interview, March 4, 1986.
Reed, Jane D. TEACHING GIFTED STUDENTS LITERATURE AND LANGUAGE IN GRADES NINE
THROUGH TWELVE, updated edition. Sacramento: California State Department of
Education, 1978. ED 157 075.
Scher, Bruce E. Telephone interview, March 4, 1986.
Scherer, Marge. "How Many Ways Is a Child Intelligent?" INSTRUCTOR 94 (Jan.
Tuttle, Frederick B., Jr. "Providing for the Intellectually Gifted." SLATE
STARTER SHEET (Oct. 1979).
Warnock, John and Sue Holt. "Gifted and Talented Education." SLATE STARTER
SHEET (May 1985).
West, William W. TEACHING THE GIFTED AND TALENTED IN THE ENGLISH CLASSROOM.
Teaching the Gifted and Talented in the Content Area Series, Fred B. Tuttle,
Jr., editor. Washington, DC: National Education Association, 1980. ED 197 521.