Definition & Characteristics

Characteristics of Gifted Children

“Our kids are normal.  They just aren’t typical.” – Jim Delisle

What does “gifted” mean?

Colorado State Definition

In the Exceptional Children’s Education Act (ECEA), the state of Colorado defines “gifted” as the following:

12.01 (16) “Gifted Children” means those persons between the ages of four and twenty-one whose abilities, talents, and potential for accomplishment are so exceptional or developmentally advanced that they require special provisions to meet their educational programming needs. Gifted children are hereafter referred to as gifted students. Children under five who are gifted may also be provided with early childhood special educational services. Gifted students include gifted students with disabilities (i.e. twice exceptional) and students with exceptional abilities or potential from all socio-economic and ethnic, cultural populations. Gifted students are capable of high performance, exceptional production, or exceptional learning behavior by virtue of any or a combination of these areas of giftedness:

  • 12.01 (16)(a) General or Specific Intellectual Ability
  • 12.01 (16)(b) Specific Academic Aptitude
  • 12.01 (16)(c) Creative or Productive Thinking
  • 12.01 (16)(d) Leadership Abilities
  • 12.01 (16)(e) Visual Arts, Performing Arts, Musical or Psychomotor Abilities                                                                          Rules for Gifted Education CCR 301-8  12.01(16)

Common Characteristics of Gifted Students

Often bright students – those who are motivated, high achievers – are thought to be gifted by their parents and teachers. However, a truly gifted student will demonstrate certain unique characteristics. 

Listed below are behaviors exhibited by both bright and gifted students.  The majority of a bright child’s behaviors will be found in the left column while the truly gifted child will exhibit behaviors from both columns depending on the task at hand.

Bright Child   Gifted Learner
Knows the answers Asks the questions
Is interested Is highly curious
Is attentive Is mentally and physically involved
Has good ideas Has wild, silly ideas
Works hard Plays around, yet tests well
Answers the questions Discusses in detail; elaborates
In the top groups Functions beyond the group
Listens with interest Shows strong feelings and opinions
Learns with ease Already knows
6-8 repetitions for mastery 1-2 repetitions for mastery
Understands ideas Constructs abstractions
Enjoys peers Prefers adults
Grasps the meaning Draw inferences
Completes assignments Initiates projects
Is receptive to instruction Is intense
Copies accurately Creates a new design
Enjoys school Enjoys learning
Absorbs information Manipulates information
Technician Inventor
Good at memorization Good guesser
Enjoys straightforward instruction Thrives on complexity
Is alert Is keenly observant
Is pleased with own learning Is highly self-critical

From The Cluster Grouping Handbook: A Schoolwide Model by Susan Winebrenner, M.S., and DIna Brulles, Ph.D., copyright 2008. Free Spirit Publishing Inc., Minneapolis, MN.

Resources to learn more about the characteristics of gifted children

Take a look at the following links:

“If we were TV sets, some of us would only get five channels.  Others are wired for cable (the general population), and some of us (the gifted) are hooked up to a satellite dish.  That makes these gifted children capable of making connections that others don’t even know exist!  Teaching those types of voracious minds in a regular classroom without enhancement is like feeding an elephant one blade of grass at a time.  You’ll starve them.”

– Elizabeth Meckstroth

For more information please contact:

Rebecca Odegard-Siegele, M.S, Ed.S.

Assistant Director of Gifted and Special Education
Mt Evans BOCES