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TAG Characteristics

Understanding Gifted Characteristics

General Characteristics

Source: Clark, B. (2008). Growing up gifted (7th ed.) Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.


  • Keen power of abstraction
  • Interest in problem-solving and applying concepts
  • Voracious and early reader
  • Large vocabulary
  • Intellectual curiosity
  • Power of critical thinking, skepticism, self-criticism
  • Persistent, goal-directed behavior
  • Independence in work and study
  • Diversity of interests and abilities


  • Creativeness and inventiveness
  • Keen sense of humor
  • Ability for fantasy
  • Openness to stimuli, wide interests
  • Intuitiveness
  • Flexibility
  • Independence in attitude and social behavior
  • Self-acceptance and unconcern for social norms
  • Radicalism
  • Aesthetic and moral commitment to self-selected work


  • Unusual emotional depth and intensity
  • Sensitivity or empathy to the feelings of others
  • High expectations of self and others, often leading to feelings of frustration
  • Heightened self-awareness, accompanied by feelings of being different
  • Easily wounded, need for emotional support
  • Need for consistency between abstract values and personal actions
  • Advanced levels of moral judgment
  • Idealism and sense of justice


  • Spontaneity
  • Boundless enthusiasm
  • Intensely focused on passions—resists changing activities when engrossed in own interests
  • Highly energetic—needs little sleep or down time
  • Constantly questions
  • Insatiable curiosity
  • Impulsive, eager and spirited
  • Perseverance—strong determination in areas of importance
  • High levels of frustration—particularly when having difficulty meeting standards of performance (either imposed by self or others)
  • Volatile temper, especially related to perceptions of failure
  • Non-stop talking/chattering

Economically Disadvantaged Gifted Learners

  • Advanced language (casual register and nonverbal)
  • Unusual and unexpected perspective
  • Sensitivity to justice and fairness issues
  • Accelerated learning demonstrated by quick understanding beyond the facts
  • Finely tuned sense of humor
  • Use storytelling in casual and colorful ways
  • Analytical thinking—ability to discern patterns in human behavior
  • Meaning motivated
  • Independent and curious
  • Ask questions focused on relationship
  • Has extensive memory about people and conversations

Additional Information

“Gifted students of poverty may show more uneven development and discrepant test than their other gifted counterparts” . – VanTassel-Baska & Stambaugh, 2007; VanTassel-Baska, 2009

Overlooked Gems

Gifted English Language Learners


Gifted and talented English Language Learners (ELLs) are unique and challenging students. Like all gifted and talented students, they are curious, creative, observant, and sensitive.

Research has described gifted English Language Learners as having varying degrees of the following characteristics:

  • acquires a second language rapidly
  • shows high ability in mathematics
  • displays a mature sense of diverse cultures and languages
  • code switches easily (thinks in both languages)
  • demonstrations an advanced awareness of American expressions
  • translators at an advanced level (oral)

Source: World Gifted Conference, Nashville, TN

Promising gifted ELL may:

  • Acquire the new language at a faster than typical rate,
  • Demonstrate an ability to code switch or translate at an advanced level,
  • Show aptitude for negotiating between cultures,
  • Display inventive leadership and/or imaginative qualities,
  • Read significantly beyond grade level in the heritage language,
  • Effectively assume adult responsibilities at a young age,
  • Exhibit notable street smarts and/or rapid integration into American culture, or
  • Problem-solve in creative, nonconforming ways.

Source: Identifying and Supporting Gifted ELLs

Additional Information: Exploratory Study on the Identification of English Learners for Gifted and Talented Programs

What is a Twice-Exceptional Learner?

Twice Exceptional learners are students who give evidence of the potential for high achievement capability in areas such as specific academics; general intellectual ability; creativity; leadership; AND/OR visual, spatial, or performing arts AND also give evidence of one or more disabilities as defined by federal or state eligibility criteria such as specific learning disabilities; speech and language disorders; emotional/behavioral disorders; physical disabilities; autism spectrum; or other health impairments, such as ADHD.  Twice Exceptional students represent a unique group of learners with diverse programming and emotional needs due to the fact that they may have both gifts and disabilities.  

Source: National Association of Gifted Children website: Exceptional-special-interest-group

Characteristics of Twice-Exceptional Learners

  • Disorganized, often losing track of belongings
  • Uneven Academic pattern with extreme areas of both strength and weakness
  • Trouble remembering to do or follow through with tasks and sticking to a schedule
  • Poor sense of time and difficulty estimating the time needed to complete tasks
  • Difficulty performing multi-step instructions and performing tasks sequentially
  • Slower to process language and respond than might be expected, based on their intelligence
  • Difficulty taking a systematic approach to problem solving
  • Writing difficulties, including trouble organizing thoughts, writing legibly, and spelling
  • Fear of embarrassment that leads to avoidance of risk taking in the classroom
  • May have narrowly focused interests
  • May show less maturity than their age peers

Source: Caring for the Mental Health of the Twice-Exceptional Child, 2011

Additional Resources