I recently saw the movie Gifted, the story of a single man raising his niece, a child math prodigy. A conflict arises when the child’s grandmother wants to provide the little girl with the very best gifted education possible while Frank wants to raise his niece in the most “normal” setting possible.
Having spent nearly thirty years working with gifted students and their parents, I understand the conflicts that raising a gifted child can present. One thing I have learned about gifted children is that their “normal” is not other students’ normal.
Generally, gifted students love to learn. They crave finding out the unknown, investigating why things happen, and being immersed in topics they find interesting. Many find learning to be the most fun they can have in a day.
Some adults who have had little to no experience with gifted students will say these kids need to spend more time being a kid or getting outside. They don’t realize that, for gifted kids, learning is the playground. Yes, I admit that sometimes we need to pry the books out of gifted kids’ hands to get them to look up and see the world around them—to engage with others and play with no outcome in mind.
Summer can be a great time for gifted kids. It can give them the opportunity to explore learning they don’t get to explore during the school year. Here are three ideas for how to help gifted students use summertime to engage in the fun of learning.
1. Deepen Passions
It’s a well-known fact that gifted kids have deep interests and passions. Sometimes they don’t get the time to engage these passions during the school day—or even after school, due to homework and other commitments. Summertime is a great opportunity. Give gifted kids the time to explore their passions and engage in deep learning. Allow them screen time every day (say one to two hours), take them to the library to wander among the books, or head to a museum—all with the intent of gaining more knowledge in their topic of interest. This is also a great time for kids to write letters or send emails to experts in their passion areas. What better way to broaden your love for a topic than to connect with somebody who knows a lot about it!
2. Learn Something New
Even though gifted kids love to delve deep into their passions, they should also try to learn something new over the summer. It could be anything from learning a new language to learning how to play a harmonica. Learning something new helps build brain connections and stimulates the continued love of learning. I’ve also found that learning something new can help counteract the “fixed mindset” of some gifted kids. They believe their giftedness is why most things in school are easy or accomplished early. However, when things get difficult and require some effort, they fear their giftedness was just a passing phase. Learning something new during the summer—on their own schedule—and failing when it’s okay to fail will teach gifted kids a great life lesson for when things become more complex and difficult in school.
3. Relax and Renew
One of the things gifted kids may forget to do in their drive to deepen their passions and learn something new is take time to unwind and smell the roses. During the summer, encourage gifted kids to go for a walk simply to take in the nature around them. They should learn to sit and watch the clouds roll by—thinking about nothing can bring about some pretty amazing ideas. Get gifted kids on a health kick during the summer. Since fresh fruits and vegetables are more abundant, there’s no better time to really enjoy them. Summer is also a good time to learn relaxation techniques to employ throughout the school year. Too many gifted kids get stressed out (see the fixed mindset suggestion above), and helping them learn how to relax, unwind, and de-stress is a valuable life tool.
Just like our students, teachers look forward to summertime. I suggest following the three ideas above yourself as well. We, too, need time to explore our passions, stretch our brains in new ways, and rejuvenate for the next school year. I hope you and your students find these ideas helpful for an enjoyable and engaging summer.
Richard M. Cash, Ed.D., writes the monthly Cash in on Learning blog posts for Free Spirit Publishing. He has given hundreds of workshops, presentations, and staff development sessions throughout the United States and internationally.
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