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Curriculum Compacting Teaching Strategies

Janelle Cox

As teachers continue to face the challenge of adapting the curriculum to meet the needs of the students who experience difficulty in learning, teachers are also experiencing frustration with those who have already mastered the curriculum. These gifted students who are already ahead of their classmates academically become bored with the daily lessons and deserve to be challenged by our teaching strategies. One way to do so is called curriculum compacting. This simple technique is easy to implement, can reduce redundancy and challenge students. Here we will take a quick look at what these teaching strategies are and how they can be used in the classroom.

Teaching Strategies: What is Curriculum Compacting?

Simply put, this strategy is all about the pace. In order to challenge your gifted students, you need to first identify the learning objectives and pre-test students for prior mastery. Once you determine what they already know during the pre-assessment. then you make a decision about how to meet the needs of each individual student.

What are the Benefits?

The benefits of using curriculum compacting, besides that it will meet the needs of gifted students by challenging them, are reduced boredom, increased enrichment, and the likelihood that students will pursue their interests or advanced topics.

How to Determine What Students Need this Strategy

Students’ behavior will determine if you will need to use the curriculum compacting teaching strategy. Here are a few things to look for. A potential student:

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  • Finishes tasks quickly.
  • Appears bored during instruction.
  • Finishes assignments first.
  • Is performing high academically in more than one area.
  • Expresses interests in advanced topics or further information.
  • Acores excellent on tests.

How Can Curriculum Compacting Be Used in the Classroom?

In order to use this strategy in the classroom, there are a few steps that you will need to take first.

Step One – Identify your objectives. What cannot be learned without instruction?

Step Two – Find or create a pre-test. What has already been mastered and what have the students not yet mastered?

Step Three – Identify students who should take the pre-assessment. Use your academic records and class performance to help you determine what student would benefit from this pre-test.

Step Four – Use the pre-assessment test to determine mastery of the topic or subject.

Step Five – Eliminate instruction time for students who have mastered content in the pre-assessment. Student who have completed mastered content can skip or move on, and students who have mastered “Some” sections of the topic or subject may skip those sections.

Step Six – Streamline instruction for students who are capable of mastering more quickly than others. Oftentimes, gifted students need less practice than others, so for these students you must streamline instruction.

Step Seven – Offer challenging alternatives for gifted students. Learning centers, research projects, or self-directed learning can all be alternatives to replace content that has been eliminated through compacting.

When implementing curriculum compacting, start the process small and only target a few students or a small group. Select one area of content that students have previously mastered, then experiment with the pre-assessment testing. Be sure to compact by chapter or unit rather than by marking period -- this will make it much easier for you and the students. Find a variety of alternative activities and projects to replace the content that has been eliminated for the students who have mastered the material. 

Types of Compacting

This teaching strategy can be used by compacting basic skills or content. If compacting by a student’s basic skills, you will eliminate the skills that students have already acquired which will make pre-testing much easier. If you compact by content, then pre-testing can be less formal than an actual test such as an essay or open-ended task.

Teachers like using curriculum compacting because it’s an effective teaching strategy that can be used in any grade and in any school district. It’s also flexible enough that teachers find it easy to implement. Just remember that meeting the needs of all learners takes time and patience, so go at a slow pace.

Have you used curriculum compacting as a means to differentiate instruction with your gifted learners? If so, do you find this an effective form of teaching strategies? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below we would love to hear what you have to day on this topic.


Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.