ESL/LEP Gifted Students
As the population of students who do not speak
English as a first language increases, it will become more and more
important for teachers to be able to recognize giftedness in these
young people. The following information comes from a presentation by
L. Warren, A. Seitz, D. Hanson, and M. Smelser, Purdue University
SOME THINGS TO REMEMBER ABOUT
- The ability to demonstrate talent is colored
by students' ability to communicate in their second
- LEP learners are often placed in environments
that are incongruent with their previous education
- Many LEP students come from economically
- There is a high drop-out rate for LEP/ESL
students who are placed in low level classes.
- Many LEP/ESL students are victimized by overt
racism and low expectations.
- Even sympathetic teachers and administrators
sometimes "dumb down" curricula or track students into
unchallenging classes that may be inappropriate for students'
- Concepts learned in one language usually
transfer into another.
- There is a positive association between
bilingualism and cognitive development.
CHALLENGES IN IDENTIFICATION OF
- Untrained teachers are often unable to
recognize indicators of high potential in traditional populations.
This problem is compounded with language minorities.
- Teachers' judgment of talent in LEP/ESL
students is sometimes clouded by prejudice and lowered
- Many LEP/ESL students are also from "low SES"
families. Therefore, LEP/ESL students may have had fewer
opportunities to discover, develop, and display their talents and
- Traditional screening methods used for
identifying gifted students are often inappropriate for LEP
students. Therefore, scores for LEP/ESL students are frequently
- Assessing verbal/linguistic talent in LEP/ESL
students is especially challenging, particularly in schools
without multilingual staff trained to identify talent in this
- Schools should work to develop collaborative
relationships with bilingual parents and community members.
Schools should also work to help ESL/LEP parents feel
- "Cross-training" in gifted education and
teaching ESL is helpful for teachers involved in identifying and
teaching potentially gifted LEP/ESL students.
- Identifying talents and gifts as early as
possible is ideal. However, identification must be regularly
repeated, particularly considering that many LEP families are part
of migrant populations.
- Welcoming LEP/ESL parents into school and
classrooms is important.
Back to: How do you
identify gifted and talented students?