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Curriculum Development for Gifted Students

Instructor: Linda Winfree

Linda has taught English at grades 6-12 and holds graduate degrees in curriculum and teacher leadership.

In this lesson, you will explore various considerations and strategies for developing curriculum for gifted students, such as differentiated goals, increasing depth, complexity and rigor, and modifying curriculum and pace of learning.

Curriculum Development for Gifted Students

Whether you are teaching gifted students in a homogeneous or heterogeneous classroom setting, curriculum development involves careful consideration of the particular needs of gifted learners. Gifted students often learn quickly and experience boredom with curriculum for traditional students. They often prefer to delve deeply into a particular area of interest or to express their learning in creative ways. The strategies below will help you in creating appropriate curriculum for gifted learners.

Differentiated Goals

One method, especially useful in mixed-abilities classrooms, is to create differentiated goals. Administering a pre-test for a unit reveals what material students have mastered and what concepts still need work. With this data, you can accelerate your gifted students through individual goals.

For example, a literary reading unit might contain standards on theme, plot structure, and characterization. A pre-test reveals Maya, one of your gifted students, demonstrates mastery level understanding of plot structure and characterization. She can identify theme in a literary work, but she still needs work analyzing how a theme is developed. For Maya's personal learning goal, she will explore theme development in various literary works and compare the different ways authors develop theme. This goal allows Maya to show mastery through multiple pieces of work while not being mired in content she already knows.

Increasing Depth, Complexity, and Rigor

Another way to develop curriculum for gifted learners is to incorporate greater depth, complexity, and rigor. You can achieve this through a variety of strategies. One simple method is to provide students with questions requiring a higher level of critical thinking. Discussion groups, such as Socratic seminars and fishbowl discussions, in which students explore such questions are particularly effective--you can ask your students to paraphrase their peers' responses and then add on or pose other questions.

Another strategy is to increase complexity and rigor by using open-ended assignments. For instance, in math, students are given an answer and asked to create three to five different problems leading to that answer. In other content area classes, you might provide students with an assignment that has an open-ended product. Perhaps you ask your gifted students to research the impact of a historical figure on a certain time period. Rather than being assigned a product to demonstrate learning, the student designs the product, allowing for complexity and creativity.

Yet another way to increase complexity, rigor, and depth is to use differentiated texts. Many gifted students read and comprehend texts above grade level, and more sophisticated texts enhance their level of rigor. Remember, though, that students may be advanced readers, but the materials you provide should remain age-appropriate in content.

Modifying Existing Curriculum

If you are teaching in a heterogeneous classroom, where your gifted learners are blended with non-gifted students, you may choose to modify the existing curriculum.

Tiered Assignments

Tiered assignments offer a nearly invisible method to differentiate instruction for all students while providing appropriate rigor for your gifted students. Based on pre-assessment data, sort students into three levels of achievement. Assignments can then be tiered for each achievement level. For example, in a narrative writing unit centered on understanding how authors use point of view, students who need practice can work to change the point of view in a passage. Students who are close to proficiency may be given the beginning of a narrative with guidelines to continue the passage using a certain point of view. Finally, gifted students who demonstrate mastery on the pre-assessment might receive a more open assignment to design their own narrative to demonstrate understanding of point of view.

Centers or Learning Stations

Centers or learning stations are another strategy for modifying your existing curriculum. Similar to tiered assignments, centers allow you to provide challenging or engaging activities for your gifted students without writing a separate curriculum. In stations, students move through a variety of activities. For your gifted students, the first station includes passages, websites, or videos that introduce them to a topic. In their next station, they meet with you for direct instruction or to answer questions they have from the introductory material. In their final station, students complete activities to interact with the material. A choice board offers students a menu of activities from which to choose and is an excellent strategy for centers, providing for student choice as well as several modes of learning and scaffolding of tasks for gifted students.

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