Indicators and Descriptors

Indicators and Descriptors of Brilliant Behaviors

This chart is a supplement to the basic checklist. The phrases in each box are a bit more concrete and provide a bit more detail. This can be used as a conversation starter in staff development and parent education sessions on the nature and identification of giftedness. It can also serve as a reference sheet to support use of any of the checklists in this chapter when examples and clarification would be helpful.

This chart was developed by Judy Rogers and her colleagues in the Tucson Unified School District (Tucson, AZ).
[Download printable version]



  • creates things that are funny (e.g. cartoons, stories, constructions, songs, dramatic expressions, physical movements)
  • uses concepts or vocabulary from first or second language inappropriately to make people laugh
  • shows a sense of humor that eases tension in a group or that delights, entertains, or surprises other people –either age-mates or adults

Imagination and Creativity

  • poses unique solutions and/or creates unusual products
  • makes up new games and/or invents new rules for existing games
  • adds interesting components to enhance products (e.g., subtle aspects of language written/spoken works; interesting
  • details to constructions, drawings, graphs, novel effects in plays, musical performances, sports performances)
  • combines elements/materials in unusual ways


  • wants to touch, create, experiment, probe
  • questions (e.g., why? how? when? how come?)
  • observes intently
  • uses a variety of tools to access information (e.g., books, people, technology, news reports, magazines)

Memory and Processing

  • remembers and uses techniques introduced only once
  • recalls information, discussions, incidents, stories, movies
  • shares philosophical ideas
  • recreates music, dances, movements
  • imitates sports figures, political or TV personalities, dancers, actors with amazing accuracy


  • notices similarities and differences in the world around him/her (e.g., in mathematical concepts or symbols; variations in color, light, or shape; variations in pitch, tone)
  • recalls verbal and/or non-verbal details
  • senses discord and lack of harmony
  • knows the “right” thing to do or say in uncomfortable situations
  • detects movements/sounds missed by others


  • conveys meaning effectively through any means (e.g., photography, graphs, structures, paintings, gestures, words, music, dance, interactions)
  • creates moods, ambiance in an environment
  • creates products that “speak” for themselves
  • demonstrates or performs steps used to solve a problem even though s/he may not be able to explain steps verbally


  • finds and creates opportunities to think about complex issues, topics, dilemmas
  • constantly generates alternatives; gets lost in possibilities
  • develops plans
  • wonders constantly and intensely about sophisticated, real problems


  • proposes unique solutions to problems ranging from simple to complex
  • invents new ways to achieve a goal and creates personal challenges
  • seeks or creates problems to solve
  • creates complex, intricate products (e.g., stories, graphs, songs, demonstrations, presentations, dances, musical pieces, plays)
  • organizes a group to accomplish the task


  • experiences “AHA’s!”
  • Extraordinary insight but may not be able to explain insights immediately or in terms understandable to others
  • notices connections between/among diverse ideas or objects but may not be able to explain connections
  • readily connects abstract ideas
  • interrupts others to share insights
  • sees the key problem in a fuzzy situation


  • grasps concepts before all others in the class
  • creates more advanced products than others the same age in wiriting, drawings, constructions, plays, discussions, movements, etc.
  • learns to read, write, calculate with relative ease
  • learns an additional language, new musical piece or movement, social skill, or mathematical or historical concept with ease


  • demonstrates an intense interest in ‘tools’ or products of one or more disciplines (e.g., art supplies, books, musical instruments, people, sports, arts, sciences, languages, history, puzzles, games that require logical thinking)
  • collects things
  • social activitist – works solo or finds groups to promote change or accomplish tasks

Moral and Ethical Concerns

  • holds strong opinions about BIG issues (e.g., fairness & justice, war & peace, global warming, world hunger, unemployment)
  • seeks resolution of moral dilemmas
  • may “get stuck” if dilemma cannot be resolved to his/her satisfaction
  • asks DEEP questions (e.g., Why are there wars? Why do things die?)


  • works continuously after others have stopped (e.g., draws, constructs, reads, writes, creates, listens to music)
  • needs and appreciates challenges
  • demonstrates task commitment
  • puts entire “heart and soul” into self-selected tasks.