A Field Guide to Gifted Students: Author Q&A
A Field Guide to Gifted Students: Author Q&A
PUBLISHED: Monday, July 13, 2020 by Andilynn Feddeler

School can feel like the wrong fit for many gifted learners, but through learning how to notice and support gifted students’ diverse traits and needs, educators can build ideal classroom climates for student success. A Field Guide to Gifted Students: A Teacher’s Introduction to Identifying and Meeting the Needs of Gifted Learners is a practical manual to the unique characteristics of gifted and advanced learners, presented as a concise 32-page, full-color booklet available in sets of 10. Learn more about how this great resource can help you support gifted learners in this interview with the authors, Charlotte Agell and Molly Kellogg.

Q: What makes the Field Guide different from other resources for teachers new to gifted education? 

A: The Field Guide is both informational and interactive, with its vivid descriptions of characteristics of giftedness as well as its workbook-style component. The illustrations and narratives bring the fictional children to life, making it easier for teachers to see their own students in the pages. And then educators have a succinct list of strategies to try to support these kids in the classroom, so they can apply their new learning right away. With its conversational tone, we imagined it to be a sort of friendly mentor for teachers new to gifted ed. Both the text and the illustrations are there to spur teachers to recognize learners they may have met in their own classrooms, to provide that “Aha!” moment.

Q: How did you develop the different profiles of gifted students presented in the guide? Are they based on real experiences/people? 

A: The profiles of fictional children were inspired by 12 common characteristics of giftedness, which we brought to life with traits and experiences of real children we know. The anecdotes are all true stories.

Q: How can gifted teachers best meet the varying needs of all of these different types of learners? 

A: You will find that gifted learners can be especially intense, curious, challenging, frustrating, sensitive, and passionate (to paraphrase Galbraith). Tuning into a particular child’s academic and social-emotional needs takes practice. Some tools are intuitive, but there is help out there. This Field Guide hopes to begin to fill such a niche. Pick one strategy and try it out. Find collaborators. Record what works and what you need to modify. Then try again. Start small and stick with it. It may feel like you’re not doing enough for all of your students if you’re not meeting all of their needs at once on day one, but taking the time to get to know your kids, creating strong relationships and sending them the message that you understand them will speak volumes. 

Q: How can the Field Guide be best used in professional learning sessions? 

A: The workshop we created to share the material in the guide with other teachers is a wonderful way to get educators thinking and talking about their students. Who demonstrates these characteristics? Any surprises? What can you do to support these students? What have you done in the past? During this workshop teachers collaborate and share experiences, which personalizes and enhances the material in the Field Guide. When they head back into their classrooms, they can refer to any part of the guide and record their strategies and ideas right in the book. In the book, you’ll find a link to the online facilitator’s guide to run this workshop in your school. This step-by-step workshop can be administered by a GT professional or even someone just entering the field.

Q: What do you hope readers take away from this book? 

A: We hope that readers will go back into their classrooms and find new ways to see their students, understand their needs, and support their success. We hope that teachers will look at unconventional gifted learners in a new light. We hope that teachers will feel energized by this introduction to gifted characteristics and seek out more resources to deepen their learning about giftedness. We hope our readers come away with renewed commitment to working with the often complex but always rewarding gifted learner.

Charlotte Agell is the author/illustrator of 14 books for children and young adults, as well as a longtime public school teacher, with almost 2 decades of experience in gifted instructional support. Molly Kellogg is a teacher and consultant with more than 20 years in education, more than half of which have focused on gifted education. Both of these experienced educators reside in Brunswick, ME, and are recipients of Maine’s Gifted Teacher of the Year Award.