Teaching Gifted English Language Learners

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Educators across the United States struggle serving students who are learning English as a second language; especially those students who are gifted or talented. These students are difficult to identify and have different characteristics than the stereotypical gifted student. Hispanic gifted students must overcome a variety of barriers and challenges in order to receive the education they deserve.


The characteristics of a Hispanic or a gifted English language learner include varying degrees of the following characteristics.

  • rapid language development
  • high mathematical ability
  • code switches easily
  • demonstrates high social awareness
  • translates at an advanced language
  • demonstrates appropriate behaviors in both cultures


Barriers that limit student growth and achievement of a English language learner (ELL) may include the following:
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  • An environment that is dissimilar to any of their experiences
  • A disconnection between home and life outside the home
  • A curriculum that seems irrelevant to their lives
  • Instruction that is often irrelevant to their needs
  • A sense of alienation
  • An assumption that because they are limited in English proficiency, they are less able.

The barriers listed can often lead to misplacement in remedial programs or withdrawal from school in general.


Gifted Hispanic students and other English language learners face many challenges on a daily basis. These students are victims of cultural bias and unfair standardized tests that may not capture the knowledge of student due to language barriers. Cultural differences are also commonly unnoticed. According to the Iowa Department of Education (2008), "behaviors signaling giftedness in one culture may signal disrespect in another" (p.16). Students are also are challenged by the unfortunate reality that educators must be able to recognize diverse expressions in order for gifted recommendations to be made.

Created by: Ashton Simpson


Iowa Department of Education. (2008). Identifying Gifted and Talented English Language Learners. Retrieved November 28, 2015, from https://www.educateiowa.gov/sites/files/ed/documents/IdentifyGiftedTalentedELL.pdf

Kamenetz, A. (2015, September 30). In Houston’s gifted program, critics say blacks and Latinos are overlooked. Retrieved December 2, 2015, from http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2015/09/30/441409122/in-houstons-gifted-program-blacks-and-latinos-are-underrepresented

Miss Moore (2009). I AM GIFTED Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Omx_iLtMjZA

The White House (2010). Educational excellence for Hispanic Americans Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9UU9LuOAv8

USAdelante’s Channel (2012). The Latino educational pipelineAvailable from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x827V2D52jg

pgctvonline (2012). Latino education - closing the gap Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkRkP60ljyI

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