Now That's Funny: Humor in Gifted Students
By Samantha Darpel
One of the lesser-known identifiers for Giftedness is humor. While it may not be one of the biggest indicators like executive dysfunction, hyperfocus, or a large vocabulary, it is something to watch for. Typically, the jokes of children tend to mimic the jokes told by their parents. They may give nonsensical knock-knock jokes or repeat movie phrases to make you laugh. The gifted sense of humor; however, is quite different. The keen analytical and observational skills of the average gifted child create a plethora of opportunities for children to expand their thinking. A study published in The Journal for the Education of the Gifted Child states, “The results indicated that the gifted subjects performed significantly higher in spontaneous mirth response and comprehension than the general population group.” (Shade) Overall, gifted children could respond faster and with a more succinct answer than their peers. Because of their ability to react quickly and synthesize situations, gifted children are often seen as witty and as if they have a quip for everything. Along the same lines, sarcasm can be seen as a gifted indicator. When I was in one of my orientation meetings for teaching, the leader of the workshop stated emphatically that teachers cannot use sarcasm at all with their students. They worry that it will be interpreted incorrectly by our students. Teaching at a school for gifted and talented students, I’ve found that sarcasm is my personal greatest resource in my classroom. While my classroom is an anomaly, it seems as if it may be indicative of a larger trend in gifted education. Another trend in gifted education is disruptive behavior in the classroom. The “class clown” is a common role that students may take on simply because they are bored. In Sandra Manning’s article she explains, “Especially if left unidentified for an extended period, gifted students resort to class clown status out of boredom. This is not the fault of the child who is simply trying to cope with a sometimes torturous situation.” This so-called “tortuous situation” is often cited as the reason that students find themselves unable to focus on the task at hand. Many students with a hard time focusing are just labeled as “problem children” and are treated as such. With a focus on the sense of humor, quick wit, and sarcasm of the individual student, educators can more effectively identify gifted and talented students. When students are identified, they are more likely to be challenged in school and enjoy the process of learning, so keep on laughing it up!
Samantha Darpel is Director of ExploreMore! and teacher at Covington Latin School in Covington, Kentucky.