For the past few weeks I’ve been reading a lot about underachieving gifted kids, including the subset known as selective consumers. In Jim Delisle’s book, When Gifted Kids Don’t Have All the Answers, he introduces that term. Previously referred to as non-producers, he suggests selective consumer. I do like that much better. The reality is that usually these selective consumers are producing, although they’re not always producing what we need them to produce. And they are truly being selective about what they process. Typically, these students are producing all sorts of wonderful things . . .they just don’t align with curricular expectations. What worries me about selective consumers is that there is a very thin line between that and a true underachiever. I really feel that if a student continually chooses to zone out, moving in and out of assignments, projects and discussions, then gaps will begin to form. Often, a gifted learner can not pay attention, but still do the work because it’s knowledge he already has. But if that happens continually, then eventually he’ll be missing out on too much and not be able to perform as he once could have. Now it’s not necessarily that he doesn’t want to participate, he can’t and the frustration grows. It’s such a vicious cycle. And what makes it even more of a challenge is that there are standards (a lot of them) that must be taught and there’s not really a lot of give on that. But this is also where a teacher’s creativity comes into play. How can we make the standards relevant to students based on their interests. Challenging? Yes! Doable? Absolutely! And worth it in the end! Read about how Jim Delisle did this when he first began his teaching career in this interview, Dumbing Down America.
To me, this is why differentiation is so important. Knowing how to preassess, compact, group, and give choice is important for all kids. But it’s absolutely critical for gifted learners. It acknowledges what they already know, offers them choice,and allows them to explore topics and issues that are relevant to them. But that is for another day.