Activities to Challenge Gifted Students

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Gifted learners sometimes require extra thought on the part of teachers. This lesson offers you some specific activities you can use to challenge your gifted elementary and middle school students and keep them engaged in the learning process.

Differentiating for Gifted Students

When we think about differentiating instruction, we often think first of the struggling students in our class. Yet differentiation is also important for meeting the needs of our gifted students. No two gifted students are alike, of course, and the ways that gifted students learn and work can look very different at different ages and subject areas. Still, it can be helpful for elementary and middle school teachers to have some ideas in our back pockets for activities that will help gifted children learn and remain engaged in the learning process. This lesson offers some general activities that you can modify to meet the specific needs of your students and the subject areas you teach.

Language Arts

Many gifted students excel as readers and writers. They can benefit from activities that challenge their capacities.

Letters to Authors and Editors

Regardless of exactly what you are reading, gifted students might be interested in learning more about the author's process, engaging in a conversation with the author, or expressing their opinion to a wider world. Help your gifted students get into a routine of writing letters to authors, magazine editors, and newspaper editors to engage in broader literary, social and political conversations. Whether or not they get an answer, they will feel challenged and excited by the prospect of making their voices heard.

Perspectives Across Time and Place

If you teach gifted students who have a tendency to finish their reading material quickly, it can be challenging and exciting to get them involved in reading about the same topics or themes but from different time periods or cultural perspectives. For instance, if your class is reading stories about friendship, challenge gifted students to take on books dealing with friendship as a theme in a different century or different cultural milieu. This reading material often takes longer and pushes gifted students to think through more complex issues and points of view.

Document It

Sometimes, gifted students benefit from taking on a leadership role in the classroom, all while working at their own cognitive level. You can put your gifted students in charge of documenting the ideas and questions that come up during big social studies, science, or community conversations. Ask them to take notes and then find a way to organize their discoveries, presenting the documentation back to the rest of the class.


Many gifted students also benefit from enrichment work in math. Here are some activities that you can cater to the precise math work your class is doing.

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