Wednesday, October 3, 2012

THAT explains a lot.

"S/he couldn't be gifted; her/his grades are terrible."
"S/he couldn't be gifted; s/he distracts others and is a negative influence."
"S/he couldn't be gifted; s/he never does homework or anything beyond the minimum."


I've spoken with teachers who say all of these things to me (and more), and I've spoken with parents of gifted kids who find themselves completely at a loss to understand their children's behavior.  Even though the list below doesn't provide specific strategies to help with some of these negative behaviors and attitudes, hopefully it will help teachers and parents (and students, themselves!) understand why they do what they do.  I'll come back to strategies in a later post.

No gifted child displays ALL of these characteristics, behaviors, and attitudes ALL the time, but most gifted children display SOME of them SOME or MOST of the time.

Characteristics of the Potentially Gifted Student
(without a documented disability)

Characteristic: learns rapidly
Possible Positive Behaviors/Attitudes: memorizes and masters basic facts quickly; needs 1 to 3 repetitions to master
Possible Negative Behaviors/Attitudes: gets bored easily; resists drill; disturbs others; refuses to complete work on concepts already mastered; resents helping peers

C: advanced vocabulary
PPB/A: communicates ideas well; expresses self in a more mature manner than peers
PNB/A: shows off; invokes peer resentment; purposefully “dumbs down” speech with peers

C: retains a large quantity of information
PPB/A: ready recall and responses; is an "expert" in some topic(s)
PNB/A: monopolizes discussions; resists projects out of academic comfort zone

C: long attention span
PPB/A: sticks with a task or project
PNB/A: disrupts routine tasks; dislikes interruptions

C: curious, has a variety of interests
PPB/A: asks deep and probing questions; gets excited about ideas; conducts individual research independent of assignments
PNB/A: goes on tangents; no follow-through; has difficulty making academic and social decisions

C: works independently
PPB/A: creates and invents beyond assigned tasks; develops products which are very different from those of other students
PNB/A: refuses to work with others; products are extremely eccentric, sometimes to the point of being indecipherable; dominates group projects

C: alert and observant
PPB/A: recognizes problems; is aware of things unnoticed by other students
PNB/A: impolitely corrects adults; ridicules peers for observation failures

C: has a good sense of humor
PPB/A: able to laugh at self
PNB/A: plays cruel jokes or tricks on others

C: comprehends, recognizes relationships
PPB/A: able to solve social problems alone; ponders with depth and multiple perspectives; infers and connects concepts; demonstrates keen sense of fairness
PNB/A: interferes in the affairs of others; is sarcastic or impatient with peers; manipulates information; struggles to move past issues of fairness

C: high academic ability
PPB/A: does school work well; works above peers by 2 grade levels or more
PNB/A: brags; egotistical; impatient with others; deliberately works below ability

C: fluent, verbal facility
PPB/A: forceful with words, numbers; leads peers in positive ways
PNB/A: leads others into negative behavior

C: individualistic
PPB/A: asserts self and ideas; has a sense of own uniqueness; displays spontaneous intellectual outcomes and conclusions
PNB/A: has few friends; irrationally stubborn in beliefs

C: self-motivated, self-sufficient
PPB/A: requires minimum teacher direction or help; is self-critical; is unmotivated by grades
PNB/A: is overly aggressive in challenging authority; is excessively perfectionistic; does not follow through on assignments; does not demonstrate neatness or order in work

Characteristics of the Twice-Exceptional Student
(gifted with a learning or other disability)

Exhibits extensive and high-level spoken vocabulary, but much simpler written vocabulary
Excels in reading comprehension but struggles with or refuses written work (or vice versa)
Has extremely creative ideas, but written expression is very poor (bad spelling, illegible handwriting, etc.)
Obvious brightness is not matched by work produced
Appears unmotivated or unwilling to work when a direct conversation indicates high interest in the topic
Mismatch between parental reports of interests/activities and effort/products in school
Exhibits severe discrepancies between potential and performance

Characteristics of the High Achiever

Completes all the work
Not a risk-taker
Very knowledgeable
Very good at lower levels of thinking
Weak at higher levels of thinking
Usually punctual with assignments
Asks primarily “safe” questions
Usually an A student
Scores close to/in the 90th percentile on standardized tests
Needs 6 to 8 repetitions to master
Memorizes well
Works up to 1 grade level above peers
Helpful, likeable, and well-mannered

Volunteers quickly
Follows the rules carefully


Adapted from:

Goldstein, L.F. (2001). Diamond in the rough. Education Week.

Kingore, B. (2004). Differentiation: simplified, realistic, and effective. Austin, TX: Professional Associates.

Mittan, K. (2006). Teacher pleaser or potentially gifted?: a guide for teachers. Hawthorne, NJ: Educational Impressions, Inc.

Ohio Association for Gifted Children (n.d.). Characteristics of gifted children - positive and negative behaviors which may be exhibited. Retrieved from


  1. It does explain a lot! I'm a High Achiever, parenting a Gifted 5yo, and the differences between us drive us nuts! :) Posts like this have been so helpful in making me feel less like a disciplinary failure, more able to work with her where she is at to expand on her giftedness.

    1. Thanks for your comment! Hopefully you'll get some benefit out of my strategies post, coming in a week or two.

  2. I wanted to read this, but the font is too painful. Based on your comment on another site, I think your input is valuable, but the font is a hurdle. Please consider altering it to something easier on the eyes.
    Thank you.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.



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