Meeting the Need of Gifted Students in the Regular Classroom
What sets gifted children apart from other students in a classroom? It is primarily the ability to absorb abstract concepts, organize them more effectively, and apply them more appropriately. The following suggestions will help you develop a classroom environment that will challenge and nurture gifted learners.
Create an Independent Project activity. You will find that many gifted and talented students tend to have a lot of extra time on their hands in your classroom because they finish their work rather quickly. Use this time to help them develop their creativity by allowing them to explore a special area of interest related to the topic being studied.
Involve gifted and high achieving students in an academic competition. These highly motivating events can be held right at your school and have relatively inexpensive registration fees. They are computer driven and test students' knowledge in a variety of academic disciplines. Not only do they challenge students academically, they provide an opportunity to develop skills in leadership and group dynamics. Here are two organizations that can provide competitions and more information.
The Knowledge Master Open (Elementary, Middle School, and High School)
P.O. BOX 998, Durango, CO 81302
1-800-321-9218 or 970-247-8738
Thinking Cap Quiz Bowl (Elementary and Middle School)
4220 Park Hill Circle, Urbandale, IA 50322
Plan "vertical enrichment" activities with gifted students. Design assignments or projects that go above and beyond what is covered in the regular classroom. Don't just give gifted students "more of the same." There are a number of educational products designed for gifted and talented students that can be easily adapted into regular classroom activities. Here is a list of vendors offering affordable materials that can be used to challenge students in a range of academic disciplines while developing their higher level thinking skills and problem-solving abilities.
PO Box 8813, Waco, TX 76714-8813
The Critical Thinking Co.
PO Box 448, Pacific Grove, CA 93950-0448
121 5th Ave NW, New Brighton, MN 55112
Find a Mentor:
Don't turn your gifted student into a tutor or teacher's aide! Instead, find a mentor who is willing to work with him/her in an area of interest. Start with the parents of students at your school. Ask other teachers. Contact local organizations. The bottom line is that you want to help the gifted student reach his/her potential and tapping outside expertise is sometimes necessary. Gifted children need "tutors," too!
Try a New Approach:
Change your approach when working with gifted and talented students. Instead of being "the expert," become "the facilitator." Rather than just "giving" them information, help them to discover it!
Use Bloom's Taxonomy:
LetBloom's Taxonomybecome your guide in working with gifted students. This web site explains clearly and simply each level of Bloom's Taxonomy - a model of critical thinking that progresses from the most basic level to the most complex. Examples of appropriate questions are given as well as illustrations for use in the classroom and ways to use technology within each level on the taxonomy. Gifted students should be asked to utilize the upper three levels - analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Below are some examples of lesson planning "actions" that should be incorporated when planning activities for gifted students.
|Level||Ask students to:||Suggested end results:|
| Report, |
solution to mystery or mock crime scene, questionnaire
| Original story, |
piece of artwork,
| Book review, |
current events debate,
Incorporate Multiple Intelligences into your lessons! Developed by Harvard Professor of Education Howard Gardner, this Theory of Multiple Intelligences states that all people possess at least seven different kinds of intelligences - linguistic, logical-mathematical, visual-spatial, body-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. These intelligences exist in varying degrees within each individual. Applying this theory to your classroom activities ensures that every student will be individually challenged in one or more specific area. The multiple intelligences web site provides many practical ideas for using Multiple Intelligences across the curriculum. Explore the Multiple Intelligence posters (and comics). Print some to hang in your classroom.
TeachersFirst offers extensive resources and ideas for Nourishing Gifted Through Technology in Any Classroom. Find hand-picked tools and strategies for differentiating academic content, injecting and respecting creativity, helpful gifted students form personal connections in areas of interest and collaborations with other gifted students, and managing the logistics of gifted in your classroom.
Try leveling class assignments and learning outcomes. In this way, you can explore the same material with all of your students, but require different outcomes depending on the students' individual abilities. This strategy can also be applied to testing. Again, refer to Bloom's Taxonomy and include higher level questions on exams for gifted students.
Working with Gifted & Talented Students • How to Spot a Gifted Student
Differentiating Homework for Gifted Students
As part of Mary St. George's New Zealand Gifted Awareness Week Blog Tour, this post addresses homework for the gifted student.
Admittedly, as a classroom teacher, I avoided differentiated homework for many years. The idea of finding, assigning, grading, and following-up with multiple assignments seemed prohibitively time-consuming. Until I tried it.
This post begins with essential understandings and ends with some practical ideas.
1. Homework for gifted students should not be 'more of the same'. If you want your class to spend their homework time reviewing the process of adding fractions, gifted students will not learn anything additional if you give them 20 computation problems while the other students do 10.
2. The homework objective should align with the class objective. Let's say you're studying groups of people native to your country of origin. You want the class to use a few websites or book pages to locate information critical to the understanding of the natives' culture. You have a student in your class who is a font-of-all-knowledge on the topic. Assigning the student to research modern Estonia won't lead the student to a deeper knowledge of native cultures. Asking the student to make a video portraying his or her knowledge of the culture may help the student learn more about tech skills than native culture. You want to further this child's understanding of native cultures - the same objective you have for others.
3. You don't need to create a new differentiated assignment each day for each subject. You can't. You just can't.
4. Make sure the student (and parents!) know that the gifted child is not expected to spend any more time on his or her assignment than you expect of the rest of the students. One of my favourite Australian phrases is "Have a go." Some gifted students will pressure themselves to find a correct answer the next day (After all, the other students have to have all their answers correct the next day). Ask the gifted student to work on the alternate question or topic for 20-30 minutes. The next day, the student can tell you what he or she thought about or tried. If you have multiple gifted students who did the same alternate assignment, they can meet together to come to share thinking and come to consensus on an answer.
Option 1: Add a thought-provoking question.
In my ground rules example, I mentioned a homework assignment for practicing the addition of fractions. With gifted Year 5 students, the directions change. Say,
"Instead of doing all of these problems, pick two - just so I know that you know you remember how to add fractions. But I'd like you to spend the remainder of your homework time thinking through one of my dilemmas: We teachers tell you that fractions and decimals are the same. I'm not sure if that is true. When I add 1/3 + 1/3 + 1/3, I get 1. When I add 0.333 [repeating] + 0.333 [repeating] + 0.333 [repeating], I get 0.999 [repeating]. Those aren't exactly the same. Can you help me figure out why? What happens to the extra 0.001?" - or
"We've been working on the rules of divisibility for 2, 3, 5, 6, and 10. Can you figure out rules for 4, 7, and/or 8?"
Many teachers get stuck on the idea that students have to turn in something to be graded. If a gifted student has grappled with a difficult question, write anecdotal notes about your conversation(s) with them. You're holding them accountable by having the follow-up conversation.
Option 2: Give the student choices as to how to extend knowledge
Returning to the example of the student who could give a college lecture on many aspects of native culture, consider giving the student a few other homework choices that deepen knowledge or add complexity. The conversation goes something like this...
"Look, Jung Ho, I now that you already know everything in the reading assigned for tonight. I'm wondering if there is anything else you might like to know.
- If I set up a Google hangout with an historian or a person of Aboriginal descent, what questions would you want to ask that person? How 'bout you spend tonight thinking about those questions and we'll discuss them tomorrow?" - or
- I've been thinking about the apologies made to the Aboriginals by the Australian government. Have countries like New Zealand, South Africa or the United States made similar apologies? What, if anything, might they need to apologise for? Would you say the colonists' treatment of native Australians is better or worse than the treatment of those native to New Zealand, South Africa or the United States? Would you like to look into that?" - or
- I watched the All Blacks do the haka before yesterday's football game. It made me wonder about all the ways the Maoris' culture is similar to or different from the culture of the Aboriginals. Would you like to look into that?" - or
- I've been thinking about all the explorers who encountered native cultures from different countries. If you were a native, which explorer would you have most wanted to 'discover' your country? Which one would you dread the most?" - or
- "When I was in Mexico, I went to an art gallery and saw pictures of the native Mexicans' encounters with Cortez. The natives were visibly oppressed. Then I went to Spain and saw Spanish artwork of Cortez's encounter with the Mexican natives. The natives were smiling. Would you like to look into some artwork depicting colonials' encounters with natives and see if you notice other things?"
Option 3: Work with the student to develop a learning contract.
The beauty of a learning contract is that the student both plans it and completes it. Your input is critical, but the onus of the contract (especially for older students) lies directly on the student(s).
Homework contracts may contain any of the following:
- Overarching question
- List of sources to investigate
- Journal pages to document investigations and thinking
- Presentation format or picture of the end product
- Timeline of due dates (most important!)
Projects can seem overwhelming for some gifted students. Also, gifted students sometimes get so engrossed in reading and research that they never get to information synthesis or presentation.
You'll want to hold the student accountable for an end product but also allow the due dates to be fluid. As students continue to research and think, a final project may morph into something completely different. Your goal is to make sure students are working and to push their thinking.
Option 4: Make worksheets two-sided.
Worksheets are most prevalent in math. One side of a sheet could comprise computational problems that help students review the day's lesson. The other side could extend the concept with a problem-solving situation or a thought-provoking question.
As much as possible, align the mathematical strand with the problem-solving concept. One side might be the addition of decimals. The other side might ask students to make an organised list to find the number of possible combinations of coins could pay for a $5 load of laundry.
The key is that students can choose. Many students not identified as gifted will want to 'have a go' with the challenge problem. Some parents will require their child to do both sides, even if you're explicit that students should only spend x-number of minutes per night. It doesn't hurt them.
If you ask students to do 'more of the same' or you require them to do things they already know, you teach them that homework is pointless. You want to teach gifted students that homework can be valuable for them too.
Need more ideas? Check out Dr. Sarah Eaton's post on Alternatives to Traditional Homework.
What ideas do you have for differentiating homework?