By Teachers, For Teachers
As teachers, we know that our job can be just as exciting as it can be overwhelming.
We need to cover so many things—from the Common Core State Standards to our ever-changing curriculum—it can feel as though we are being stretched to our limits from one direction to another.
For most of us, the most challenging part about our job is not necessarily the teaching, but the time we spend managing student behavior. What may seem surprising is what we struggle with the most; it isn’t the children who misbehave that end up wearing us out—the consequences for these scenarios are relatively straightforward—rather, we painstakingly tussle with different ways to manage the students who complete their assignments in a matter of minutes.
With approximately 3 million gifted students in grades K-12 in the United States, how can we be sure we’re meeting their unique needs? We spend so much time helping our struggling students that more often than not our gifted students are getting left at the wayside. Indeed, it’s the gifted students in our classroom that require the constant redirection to keep their intelligent minds engaged.
Thankfully, by implementing a couple of teaching strategies into your day, it is possible to meet the needs of your gifted students.
Let’s take a look at a few suggestions.
Just as you would differentiate instruction for your struggling students, you can do the same for the opposite side of the spectrum.
Bear in mind, however, that this doesn’t mean that you should be giving gifted children more work—no student wants that. These apt minds just want to be challenged, oftentimes in ways that won’t call too much attention to their slightly different activities.
An effective way to maximize gifted learning under the radar is by implementing choice boards, or as some call them learning menus.
Basically, you take a Tic-Tac-Toe board and fill it up with a variety of activities. Students will then complete rows of the board according to their interests, just like in the popular game. You can create unique boards for students who are working at different levels or encourage groups of kids to tackle specific rows if you feel it’d suit their difficulty level best. Any way you choose, it’s a simple and fun way to meet the needs of all your students.
Let’s face it—as much as we’d like to, we teachers don’t have the time or the luxury to customize every student’s curriculum. Fortunately, we can use Bloom’s Taxonomy to engage students regardless of their current achievement. Bloom’s Taxonomy enables us to cater to the higher-level thinking skills our most gifted students possess. As a pro tip, the most effective teachers will use a combination of both lower-order as well as higher-order thinking skills to keep their most advanced students on their toes.
In the case of struggling students, it’s a common scenario to see kids join a different classroom if they need more specific help on a particular subject.
For example, if Johnny would be more comfortable learning math at the pace of the classroom next door, you could send him over when it came time for a new lesson.
Although it’s less common to see, the same treatment can be applied toward a gifted student. If Johnny continually outpaced other students in algebra, you could send him to another classroom where he may be more adequately challenged. Don’t think of your classroom space as a defined set of four walls—use the resources around you to maximize student learning, even if that means allowing them to seek out knowledge in different rooms from a colleague.
As teachers, it may be more commonplace to see us dive right into lessons without assessing our students’ baselines. It may seem like a shellshock to your kids, but before starting a new unit, give them an ungraded quiz to see what they already know. Informal assessments like this provide you with an accurate gauge of your student base while giving you time to figure out what may activities and strategies will help you meet their unique needs.
As we’ve been trying to illustrate, accommodating the needs of your gifted students doesn’t have to be time-consuming. In fact, students that score high on the pre-lesson quiz won’t have to relearn the information at all. Instead, challenge these students by providing them parallel opportunities to what the others in class will be learning. They can be working on an independent project that will stretch their minds and imagination amidst your normal curriculum.
Work closely and collaborate with parents to see that their child’s needs are being met. Most of the time you’ll find that parents are their child’s biggest advocate, and want to see that they are being challenged. Take the time to show parents your informal assessment, how you determine what information their child will learn, and the pace you associate with each achievement level. By incorporating other adults into your academic game plan, they can also play their part in ensuring their child is maximizing their learning at all times.
After all, gifted students aren’t giving the autonomy to decide what they want to learn. It is our job as their teacher to provide these students with opportunities that accommodate their unique learning abilities and needs. When this occurs, our students will be able to soar.
How do you tips or suggestions for aiding gifted students? Have you found any effective ways that work well for you? Please share your ideas in the comment section below. We would love to hear your ideas.
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 a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.