Just a few weeks ago, I wrote about the difference between extension and enrichment. In that post, I wrote this:
An extension activity is an activity that extends the learning of the lesson. Extension activities can be done in small groups or by a single student. These extension activities are leveled to fit the student. For gifted students these are challenging. For struggling students these activities can be a reinforcing skill activities. Students don’t choose their extension activity like the enrichment project.
I absolutely believe that extension activities are important not only in the regular classroom, but also in the gifted classroom. We have to stretch our students minds, skills. and strengths to help them to become better students. Taking that thought one step further, we need to stretch them to be productive citizens in whatever field they choose to do in society.
What I like about extension activities is the fact they are leveled to the student. So if your gifted student needs to be stretched in an area it is leveled for that type of child. It’s a great way to use differentiation in any classroom. So what does differentiation look like in the gifted classroom? I think that is something that isn’t looked at often enough. According to the Queensland Educational Department they believe in the following (I do as well):
For gifted and talented students you can:
- Adjust tasks so they are required to process more complex and abstract information from a variety of sources. (content)
- Use a faster pace –this still means providing clear instruction and scaffolding –but with few repetitions. (process)
- Challenge and support students to set learning goals and develop higher-order thinking skills including problem-solving strategies, critical and creative thinking, and self-reflection. (process)
- Provide opportunities for students to demonstrate imaginative, innovative and rigorous responses that may involve extended outcomes. (product)
- Encourage students to pursue their interests in independent inquiries and negotiated tasks. Provide flexible groupings to enable collaborative work with students of the same or higher ability; or with shared interests. (learning environment)
The fourth one down is one I want to focus on: Provide opportunities for students to demonstrate imaginative, innovative and rigorous responses that may involve extended outcomes. Extension activities have to happen to help our gifted students, but to also help our regular education students to demonstrate the processes they learned in the lesson that was taught. Every teacher should be thinking of extension lessons or ideas for the content they are teaching. They should stratify these extension lessons to meet the needs of special education students, regular education students, and gifted education students. I know these lessons are hard to make, and take a lot of time to do, but not doing them would be an injustice for all students. I am not saying that every lesson needs to have an extension activity. Teachers familiar with the curriculum know which standards need to have or should have an extension activity. It seems that in an age where we measure students growth in all kinds of assessments throughout the year we should be doing something to help them grow. I feel that one of those “somethings” are extension activities.
How do you feel about teachers doing extension activities in the regular and gifted classrooms? What kinds of extension activities do you do in your classroom? What have you done that works or didn’t work? Is there a formula to make a great extension activity for all students?