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Highly Gifted: Book Review

Challenging Highly Gifted Learners

By Barbara Gilman


This book is part of The Practical Strategies Series in Gifted Education, and it addresses effective ways of teaching profoundly gifted students. The book opens and closes with a story about a gifted child: these types of stories are interwoven throughout the book, making the book both profound and interesting.

Reading about Savannah, the first child mentioned in the book, allows the reader to discover just how complicated it can be to educate a highly gifted child. Although she is able to accelerate in math and then eventually in all of her classes, the uniqueness of her situation challenges the rules set in place by the district, from when students can earn high school credit to who can become valedictorian.The story also addresses social acclimation and the findings from the longitudinal study by Miraca Gross (2004).

Next, the author explores the assessment of highly gifted students and suggests IEPs as an effective way to plan and assess students. The story of Ben illustrates how ability tests may have ceilings that mask a child’s high level of giftedness. Private testing can provide a clearer picture. The chapter includes a table of ability tests, the differences, and how/when to use them. For achievement, the author explains that talent searches and informal assessment are also valuable testing options. Planning for the gifted child reiterates the idea of an IEP and of using the test results to help develop plans.

Acceleration is a prevailing theme: “Acceleration is a misnomer because students are not pushed ahead. They are simply given access to instruction at their actual level” (Gilman). The book explores research that has revealed that acceleration helps students to succeed not only in school but also later in life. For middle and high school students, online classes, mentorships, and independent study options can be ways for students to challenge themselves beyond the regular gifted classroom, while extracurricular activities do not seem to be enough.

Socialization is something else for parents and students to explore.The research shows that “same-age peers present the greatest social challenge,” and that students adapt well to older peers who are closer to them academically.

The author writes specifically about highly gifted and twice–exceptional, pointing out that often the quick ability of such a child can actually mask the disability. “Distinguishing the highly gifted child who underachieves for lack of challenge from the highly gifted student who struggles with disabilities” is a key part of teaching to a child’s strengths “while gently accommodating their weaknesses” (Gilman). Talking about the story of Joshua, the author covers a variety of topics about highly gifted children with disabilities.

I found the last chapter of the book inspiring, as Gilman outlines the importance of flexibility and gives specific guidelines about becoming an outstanding teacher of highly gifted students.

On a side-note, this was the first time I read an e-book! I downloaded it on my new Kindle, and it was a wonderful way to read the book, especially because the Kindle allows me to take notes along the way. I could not see any page numbers, however, so I was not able to write those in, even after I searched for help online. I’m sure there is a way, but I have not found it yet! One of the disadvantages of the ebook without page numbers is that I had no idea how long the book actually was until I looked it up again for my bibliography. It’s short! It is worth reading and using as a reference despite its brevity.

Gilman, Barbara. Challenging Highly Gifted Learners (The Practical Strategies Series in Gifted Education). 2008. Prufrock Press. Accessed July 19, 2011. URL: http://www.prufrock.com/productdetails.cfm?PC=758