Rutherford Public School

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Characteristics-Gifted Students

Characteristics of the Gifted Learner

Some of the traits that separate the gifted child from the bright child are highlighted in the following list.  While a gifted child often displays the traits of the bright child, the creative, abstract abilities of the gifted child separate them.  This can? be seen in their response to learning situations, experiences, problems, and questions.  Not all situations offer the chance for these qualities to shine; often they make the management of these children far more demanding.  Because their responses are outside the expected and can?'t be predicted or planned for it is sometimes difficult to ensure that they are not stifled.

Bright Child


knows the answers

is interested

is attentive

has good ideas

works hard

answers the questions

top of the group

listens with interest

learns with ease

6-8 repetitions for mastery

understands ideas

enjoys age peers

grasps the meaning

completes assignments

is receptive

copies accurately

enjoys school

absorbs information


good memoriser

enjoys straightforward, sequential presentation

is alert

is pleased with own learning

Gifted Learner


asks the questions

is highly curious

is mentally and physically involved

has wild, silly ideas

plays around yet tests well

discusses in detail, elaborates

beyond the group

shows strong feeling and opinions

already knows

1-2 repetitions for mastery

constructs abstractions

prefers adults

draws inferences

initiates projects

is intense

creates a new design

enjoys learning

manipulates information


good guesser

thrives on complexity

is keenly observant

is highly self-critical

(Taken from "Challenge?", Janice Szabo, 1989 Good Apple Inc)

Characteristics of the Gifted Learner cont.


Positive Behaviours

Negative Behaviours

Highly curious

  • asks lots of questions
  • inquisitive
  • remembers details
  • asks inappropriate questions
  • poor group participant
  • easily diverted from task

Abstract thinker

  • makes generalisations
  • tests out ideas
  • questions others
  • questions authority

Flexible thinker

  • employs variety of strategies to work something out
  • manipulates people and situations by using a variety of strategies

Clever use of humour

  • enjoys 'adult' humour
  • gets teachers' jokes!
  • uses humour at the expense of others

Superior Vocabulary

  • heightened involvement in discussions
  • enjoys adult-like discussions
  • may be bossy or overbearing when working with others

Advanced Reading

  • reads widely
  • advanced vocabulary and comprehension
  • reads constantly
  • neglects peer interaction and work-prefers to read

Retention of knowledge; fast learner

  • moves beyond core content and skills quickly
  • detailed recall of facts
  • rushes work, then disrupts others
  • monopolises class discussions

Long attention span

  • concentrates and focuses on an area of interest for a long period of time
  • easily distracted unless the task is an area of passion or interest


  • self-directed
  • focused on task in research or study
  • reduced involvement in discussion or group work
  • uncooperative in a group

High level of responsibility and commitment

  • sets attainable goals
  • learns to accept own limitations
  • tolerant of peers in a group
  • self-critical
  • perfectionist when completing tasks
  • sets unrealistic expectations for other group members

Strong feelings and opinions

  • listens to others
  • shows concern and interest
  • considers others' points of view
  • aware of others' feelings
  • speaks out and lacks tact
  • overreacts to others comments and reactions
  • confrontational

Strong sense of justice

  • wants to 'save the world'
  • stands up for other children whom they think have been poorly treated
  • empathises with those less fortunate
  • argues the rules in games eg handball
  • frustration when others don't play exactly by rules
  • asks older children or adults to solve issues seen as ‘unfair?'

Original and creative

  • comes up with ideas 'out of the box'
  • sees problems as a whole
  • connects thoughts and feelings
  • unaccepting of the status quo
  • absent minded or daydreamer
  • asks unrelated questions
  • disorganised

High energy level

  • wide variety of interests
  • organises time well
  • high level of individualised learning
  • often difficult to live with
  • may appear hyperactive
  • easily bored so seeks out new things to explore

Immersion learner

  • wants to know everything about a topic
  • becomes an expert on a topic by reading widely or talking to people
  • shows off knowledge to prove others wrong
  • focuses on topics of interest to them, at the expense of classroom work
Caroline Merrick, 2004
Adapted from Gross, MacLeod, Drummond & Merrick (2001), Clark (1983) and Baska (1989)