How to Create and Manage Discussion Groups for Gifted Kids
In addition to meeting the academic needs of gifted students, it is also important to address affective issues they may have. These bright kids benefit from being with others who are highly intelligent and with whom they can discuss social and emotional issues that may set them apart.
Terry Bradley is a gifted education advisor from Colorado who specializes in social and emotional needs of very bright students. For years, she has facilitated affective discussion groups with gifted middle school and high school students. In these groups, kids talk about issues they have in common and how life looks and feels through the lens of giftedness.
Bradley feels that there needs to be a balance between appropriate academic and emotional opportunities. Gifted kids often share similar characteristics such as intensity, sensitivity, heightened moral and ethical codes of behavior, and the ability to process feelings more thoroughly and deeply. Discussion groups provide a forum where students have the opportunity to express themselves as they truly are.
In her article, Beyond Academics: Discussion Groups That Nurture Affective Growth in Gifted Students, Bradley explains the difference between affective education and counseling. She also offers a step-by-step guide for adults who want to start discussion groups in their own schools. Topics include getting support, the optimum group size, frequency of meetings, choosing discussion topics, and encouraging participation. She describes specific activities that she uses as well as communication techniques. Outside resources are also included.
If you do not already have a social/emotional discussion group established at your school, consider starting one. Whether you already have a group up and running or you’re considering the idea, you will find the ideas in Bradley’s article to be helpful.