Stepping Up to the Challenge:
Finding Professional Development Resources for the Gifted and Talented Student
Vanissa B. Murphy, Chair, Mentoring and Professional Development Project
One of the challenges in music instruction is providing for meaningful and enriching experiences for our gifted and talented (GT) youth. As mentors, helping the initial educator understand characteristics of those GT students can “in and of itself” be a challenge in terms of finding resources. Many districts have a gifted and talented department that can assist us in this endeavor. The following information may be generally helpful when considering students who may be “identifiable’ as gifted and talented:
You might observe the student showing some of the following behaviors:
- Exhibits strong verbal skills.
- Asks a lot of questions.
- Tries to do things in different, unusual, imaginative ways.
- Shows a lot of interest in progress.
- Has a lot of information on many things.
- Wants to know why or how something is so.
- Has a really zany sense of humor.
- Becomes unusually upset at injustices.
- Seems interested and concerned about social or political problems.
- Often has a better reason than you do for not doing what you want done.
- Becomes impatient if work is not “perfect.”
- Seems to be a loner.
- Seems bored and often has nothing to do.
- Enjoys new routines or spontaneous activities.
- Seems to understand easily.
- Like solving puzzles or problems.
- Has his/her own idea about how something should be done.
- Talks a lot.
As we look more closely at the characteristics and needs of gifted learners, we should mention a common problem in identifying these students. High achievers are often viewed as gifted. While there can be no certainty as to clear distinction in every instance, gifted children usually exhibit the ability to generalize, to work comfortably with abstract ideas, and synthesize diverse relationships to a far higher degree. The high achiever generally functions better with knowledge and comprehension-level learning. While high achievers get good grades and accomplish much, they may lack the range and diversity of the gifted.
Characteristics of Musically Talented Children, Grades 1-6
- Spontaneous response to rhythm and music
- Love for singing familiar and made-songs
- Relative or absolute pitch and strong feeling for tonality
- Highly developed ear and ability to associate pitch with visual symbols
- Interest and skill in singing descants or other harmony parts
- Remarkable memory and ever-expanding repertoire
- Ability to identify familiar melodies on tonal instruments
- Marked aptitude for playing introductions, accompaniments
- Choice of music as a means of expressing feelings and experiences
- Creative flair for improvisation and signs of ability to compose
- Special interest in musical instruments and a desire to play an instrument
- Voluntary involvement with music and a high interest in learning about music
- Notable skill in performing on one or more musical instruments
- Great enjoyment in listening to both live and recorded music
- Natural sense of aesthetic values (beauty, order, form)
- Keen power of attention, auditory discrimination, and evaluation
- Quickness in discriminating among identical, similar, and contrasting phrases in songs and sections of longer musical compositions
- Sensitivity to the communicative power of music, even to the slightest changes in tempo, dynamics, and tone color
In addition to information that might be found within a district’s Gifted and Talented department, the following additional resources for professional development may be helpful and are listed as follows:
Articles specific to music; from ERIC (Educational Resources Information Center) online at www.eric.ed.gov
MUSICLINK: Nurturing Talent and Recognizing Achievement, Joanne Haroutounian, in Arts Education Review Policy, Jul-Aug 2000.
“Survival of the Fittest or the Most Talented? Deconstructing the Myth of the Musical Maestro,” Roland Persson, Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, Fall 2000.
“A Study of Academically Talented Students: Participation in Extracurricular Activities,” Leah Bucknavage and Frank Worrell, Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, Win-Spr 2005.
“Teaching Special Learners: Ideas from Veteran Teachers in the Music Classroom,” by Elizabeth Pontiff, Teaching Music, Dec. 2004.
“How the Gifted Brain Learns,” by David Sousa, from Gifted Child Today, Win 2007.
“A Planning Tool for Use with Special Learners,” Victoria Hagedorn, General Music Today, Fall 2001.
“Understanding the Theory of Multiple Intelligences” (Staff Workshop Handout), Early Childhood Today, Nov-Dec 2005.
“The Benefits of Exploring Opera for the Social and Emotional Development of High-Ability Students,” Kristin Berman, Gifted Child Today, Spring 2003.
Spotlight on Making Music with Special Learners, Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2004.
Essential Readings in Gifted Education, Sally Reis, National Association for Gifted Children, 2004.
To show the type of books that are available for this subject, the following are representative book titles for the gifted and talented, from the Wisconsin Center for Academically Talented Youth. More information about gifted and talented teaching strategies can be found at their web site: www.wcaty.org.
- Handbook of Gifted Education by Nicholas Colangelo (Editor), Gary A. Davis (Editor)
- Teens With Talent: Developing the Potential of the Bright, Brighter & Brightest, by Ellie Schatz (Author), Nancy Schuster (Author), Elinor Katz (Author)
- Smart Boys: Talent, Manhood, and the Search for Meaning, Barbara A. Kerr (Author), Sanford J. Cohn (Author)
- Smart Girls: A New Psychology of Girls, Women and Giftedness, Barbara A. Kerr (Author)
- Smart Girls, Gifted Women, Deborah L., Ph.d. Ruf (Author)
- Re-Forming Gifted Education: Matching the Program to the Child, Karen B. Rogers (Author)
- “The Gifted Kids’ Survival Guide for Ages 10 & Under,” Judy Galbraith (Author), Pamela Espeland (Author), Albert Molnar (Illustrator)
- The Gifted Kids Survival Guide (For Ages 11-18), Judy Galbraith (Author)
- Guiding the Gifted Child: A Practical Source for Parents and Teachers, James T. Webb (Author), Elizabeth A. Meckstroth (Author), Stephanie S Tolan (Author)
- Perfectionism: What’s Bad About Being too Good?, Miriam, Ph.D. Elliott (Author), Mariam, Ph.D. Adderholdt (Author), Caroline Price (Illustrator)
- Freeing Our Families from Perfectionism, Thomas S. Greenspon (Author)
- College Planning for Gifted Students, Sandra L. Berger (Author)
- Growing Up Gifted: Developing the Potential of Children at Home and at School, Barbara Clark (Author)
- How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, Adele Faber (Author), Elaine Mazlish (Author)
- College Comes Sooner Than You Think!: The Essential College Planning Guide for High School Students and Their Families, Bonnie D. Featherstone (Author), Jill M. Reilly (Author)
- Raisin’ Brains: Surviving My Smart Family, Karen L.J. Isaacson (Author)
- Creative Home Schooling for Gifted Children: A Resource Guide, Lisa Rivero (Author)
- Stand Up for Your Gifted Child: How to Make the Most of Kids’ Strengths at School and at Home, Joan Franklin Smutny (Author)
- Helping Gifted Children Soar: A Practical Guide for Parents and Teachers, Carol Ann Strip (Author), Gretchen Hirsch (Author)
- Genius Denied: How to Stop Wasting Our Brightest Young Minds, Jan Davidson (Author), Bob Davidson (Author), Laura Vanderkam (Author)
- The Social and Emotional Development of Gifted Children: What Do We Know?, Maureen Neihart, Sally M. Reis, Nancy M. Robinson & Sidney M. Moon (Editors)
- Mellow Out: Intensities and Sensitivities of the Young and Bright, by Michael M. Piechowski (Author)