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‘Three Top Tips from Tom’ will be updated weekly with the best advice and tips on behaviour and classroom management.

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Tom Bennett is the TES adviser on behaviour and a teacher at Raines Foundation, an inner city state school in Tower Hamlets. He regularly supports teachers on TES through our behaviour forum and monthly newsletters on behaviour. Tom is the author of The Behaviour Guru, a specialised behaviour guide which includes content from the TES forums.

When Brainiacs attack! Teaching and taming the talented

More able students can often present their own challenges in the classroom- it’s not all hands up and bottles of Scotch at Christmas. The talented students in your room can be a joy; raising the quality of discussion, work and even your teaching. But they can also be a horror, just like any other students. Here are three things to remember when the gifted get ghastly:

  1. Don’t let them brain-bully you - Some more able students like to catch a teacher out by asking them something obscure or arcane…and waiting to see you flounder and bluster your way out of it. If you don’t know the answer to a question they’re asking, don’t style it out- be honest, direct and in command. Say something like, ‘That’s a very good question: I don’t have the answer to that, so I’ll find out and get back to you.’ Then move on, without discussion.
  2. Don’t give them special permission to misbehave - Often newer teachers think that brighter students should be ‘let off’ with certain behaviours that wouldn’t be tolerated from any other student. Example: if a student says something like, ‘This work is so easy, I can’t be bothered doing it.’ Then treat it exactly as you would any other form of rudeness, or shouting out. Call them on it, and don’t have a discussion about it in the classroom. Your room, your rules.
  3. Push them as hard as they can take - I mean this in terms of challenge, not in a Jet Li way. You can resolve some problems with the more able by setting work that really tasks them, that makes them work hard to resolve. It’s a fallacy to say that this will work in all cases, because with gifted pupils, just as with any other ability band, some are lazy and some are not. Lazy, high ability pupils won’t appreciate high challenge any more than the less able. But some students will love it; take them aside after class and say, ‘Listen , I can see that you can do some fantastic work when you want to.’ A little ego massageing can go a long way- as long as it is attached to stern conditions: that they work hard and try their best. And they don’t mug you off when they feel like being smug.

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