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Gifted and Talented @ Science

I always think this is quite a complex part of teaching Science and nobody gets it right all the time. It also can be quite daunting for some teachers who start out from an average understanding of their own subject at a classroom level, despite a 1st from Cambridge!

They suddenly find themselves pushed forwards to some very bright and focussed young minds of which all 30 have laser like vision on every little facet of your delivery and comments. The questions that flow from some children’s minds are like a torrent of incoherency but often have hidden flashes of genius. I also think we often find that now in such a connected world of Youtube and the Internet the questions teachers are faced with are far more complex and varied that anything I ever gave to my teachers.

Hamster Motivation

A while back now I was presenting a Teaching and Learning conference as part of Nottinghamshire LEA with Matt Spoors (LEA Advisor for Science) and also Phil Beadle (English Expert teacher). I was there for ICT in Science and Virtual Learning which is another story. Phil did a really good hands on session and he told me a story about “hamster motivation”.

The idea was to think about pupils like a little Hamster who are across the other side of the room. You really want that hamster to come over and talk to you and take part in your little spinning wheel game. However, the hamster does not want to come. You have three key strategies you can do…

Pulla….. Try and draw him in with a bribe, which is ok, but not always a good long term solution (i.e. you run out of food)

Kicka?…. Walk around and kick him to the other side of the room as hard as you can. (most hamsters don’t like this)

Interest?…. Just get the little dude to come over out of pure choice and curiosity! Make whatever you are doing so interesting that little hamster just comes over anyway!

I think that is the key really to motivating classes in general and also the secret behind G&T pupils.


Key Messages

I think there are several key messages I adhere to for G&T

  • All pupils can be taught as G&T (within reason)
  • Give your pupils time and space to develop. There is no one pathway to enlightenment.
  • G&T often surprise you with novel solutions to classroom activities, embrace that and enjoy it. Potentially you have manged to inspire that in part at least
  • Don’t try and pretend you know it all, clearly you don’t and a really good GCSE or A-level student will always out think you. Embrace the ideas!
  • Listen to all stakeholders and in particular parents. Even if their child is not G&T they are still special.
  • This graphic really explains it all for a G&T student. As beyond that hard bullet proof amazing exterior is a little ego as fragile as a quails egg underfoot.



Pupil Personality Profiles (Mensa)

This is a list of key identifiers for pupils who may be G&T as defined by Mensa. It can scare some people who feel inadequate next to them. They may find it hard to fit in with peers and may seek older company. Also some teachers end up telling them off in class as their abilities clash with teachers own didactic way. Also some parents may think their child has these abilities but for some reason they never test well or when it really comes down to it we can see they are just not G&T. This makes the whole situation rather tricky. Also clearly some pupils will only exhibit in 1 or 2 subjects, whilst others are just “gifted” across the board.

  • An unusual memory
  • Passing intellectual milestones early
  • Reading early
  • Unusual hobbies or interests or an in-depth knowledge of certain subjects
  • Intolerance of other children
  • An awareness of world events
  • Set themselves impossibly high standards
  • May be a high achiever
  • Prefers to spend time with adults or in solitary pursuits
  • Loves to talk
  • Asks questions all the time
  • Learns easily
  • Developed sense of humour
  • Musical
  • Likes to be in control
  • Extrovert or introvert
  • Makes up additional rules for games



I have collected a few resources and my G&T PPT which might help you investigate these ideas more. Some are a little older but I don’t think things have really changed much.

Gifted and Talented by Daniel Powell

Characteristics of Gifted and Talented Children Summary skills

Characteristics of Gifted and Talented Children An Explanation




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