Everyone knows that students who are not challenged or have their educational needs met can be a handful in the classroom. What do we do with these students? How do we see them in our classrooms? I can guess that you see them as a negative. So how can we change what can seem like a negative into something that is a positive? Its up to you!
Teachers are unique people. Natural teachers have a deep desire to see all students succeed. We can’t help it; we are born with it. We are also very creative people. So when I see gifted students being bored or being a handful to their teachers, I have a good idea that some of that creativity isn’t flowing. So I thought that I would help give a few ideas to help teachers who have gifted learners in their classrooms.
Let’s start off with one natural way to help gifted learners succeed. Here are a few posts that I wrote that can help shed some light on this topic: Have meaningful lessons, and have a big idea, and help them find their inspiration. (Sorry for the shameless plug…)
All learners need to have their needs met. Don’t get me wrong here, but I honestly believe that it’s the top-tier of students (gifted learners) that get their needs met last or not at all in some regular classrooms. We need to help this group of students not be left behind. Here are a few ways to help gifted children have their educational needs met.
Gifted learners need to have some choice. One of the best methods for this is choice boards. Choice boards are:
A way to make decisions about what they will do in order to meet class requirements. A choice board could be for a single lesson, a week-long lesson, or even a month-long period of study. In order to create a choice board:
- Identify the most important elements of a lesson or unit.
- Create a required assignment or project that reflects the minimum understanding you expect all students to achieve.
- Create negotiables which expand upon the minimum understands. These negotiables often require students to go beyond the basic levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.
- Create a final optional section that requires students the opportunity for enrichment. The optional section often reflects activities that students can use for extra credit.
from Fair Isn’t Always Equal: Assessing and Grading in the Differentiated Classroom by Rick Wormeli (Accessed from this website)
Tic-Tac-Toe is a simple way to give students alternative ways of exploring and expressing key ideas and using key skills. Typically, the Tic-Tac-Toe board has 9 cells in it, like that of the game. This can, of course, be adjusted.
- Allow students to complete any 3 tasks–even if the completed tasks don’t make a Tic-Tac-Toe.
- Assign student tasks based on readiness.
- Create different Tic-Tac-Toe boards based on readiness.
- Create Tic-Tac-Toe boards based on learning styles or learning preferences.
- Create Tic-Tac-Toe boards based on Multiple Intelligences.
From Fulfilling the Promise of the Differentiated Classroom by Carol-Ann Tomlinson (Accessed from this website)
Extension menus come in all different shapes and sizes (from tic-tac-toe boards to baseball-themed menu) but all offer students choices in how they demonstrate understanding. Menus can also give students a relevant, go-to assignment when they have independent time. (Accessed from this website).
What I love about menus is the fact they are independent assignments. This way students can choose which direction they want to go. They also have several choices in these menus (3-9 different choices), which is based on a topic that the teacher has chosen, or the student has decided from because of interest. These assignments can be for a short time period or for weeks at a time.
Like a lot of things in education, choice boards, tic-tac-toe boards, and extended menus are not something you can whip up at the last-minute. I learned this by personal experience. They do require work on the teacher’s part. You need to be creative in the assignments. What you have to watch out for making sure the assignments are challenging, not just more pointless work for gifted students to do. There is a difference. I have seen in it some classrooms and it angers me. Just because these students are smart doesn’t mean they need to be overloaded with more work. So, make sure the assignments are appropriate and meaningful.
What am I getting at? We need to differentiate our teaching in our classrooms. It’s not easy, but the rewards of doing so will be too numerous to count. By doing this we will be meeting the needs not just for gifted learners, but for all learners.