My first teaching job in public school was teaching “Talented and Gifted” students. I had differentiated instruction to meet the needs of my highly abled students before, but it was not easy. So, once I was assigned to the “Talented and Gifted” students, I thought it would be different.
To my surprise, I leaned that although I had a few gifted students; most of the students would be considered only highly abled. Some were certainly gifted in specific areas (math, reading). However, their strengths were different. The result was I was still designing lessons to include variations in both content and techniques. However, all good teachers know that differentiation is necessary to meet student needs. It’s difficult, but necessary.
3 Gifted Learner/Highly Abled Strategies
- Differentiated Lessons – Lesson design focus should combine two types of thinking: critical thinking and creative thinking. Critical thinking involves using evidence to support a conclusion. Creative thinking involves students learning to generate and apply new ideas. Both skills are important to thinking and learning.
- “Guide on the Side” Instruction – It was humbling to teach gifted students. No longer could I be the “sage on the stage”. Some of my kids were just smarter than me! The truth was that I needed to do detailed planning to be able to answer and/or explain student questions. My role quiet often, was more of a “guide on the side”. I had to learn to ask them the right questions.
- Opportunities for Group Work – According to NAGC, research shows that enabling gifted students to work together in groups boosts their academic achievement . It also benefits other students in the classroom. When gifted students work together, they bounce ideas off one another to expand a peer’s idea. Activities that share personal interests can be eye opening for highly abled students. They may not know about the topic and become more active learners.
The above strategies can be used in all classrooms during the school year. All students benefit from being challenged at times. However, this is difficult in the general education classroom. Teachers already have a “full plate” in meeting the various student needs. However, for gifted/highly abled students, using differentiated instruction techniques are a necessity. All students have the right to learn something new every day. This includes both highly abled and gifted students.