Differentiated Instruction Strategies for Gifted Students

Instructor: Clio Stearns

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

When we think about differentiation, we often think about struggling students. But gifted students need differentiation, too! This lesson offers some strategies that you can use to differentiate instruction for gifted students.

Differentiated Instruction for Gifted Students

After a few weeks of school, you have discovered that your student Angela seems bored. She's distracted, unmotivated and even getting into trouble in class. When you look at Angela's test scores, you notice that she scores significantly higher than the rest of the class. Apparently, she is paying attention, but the material and activities are too easy for her. It is up to you, as her teacher, to help Angela stay motivated and excited about learning. But how?

A gifted student can be identified as a student who shows evidence of above normal achievement capability in various academic areas. To meet their needs, you need to focus on differentiated instruction, or offering different students a variety of activities, strategies, and pathways toward your instructional goals. This lesson will help you learn some differentiation strategies that focus specifically on gifted students, concentrating on the areas of language, math, science, and social studies.

Language Arts

Some gifted students really excel at reading and writing. The strategies here will help you differentiate to meet these students' needs.

More Complex Texts

Sometimes, differentiating instruction is as simple as offering gifted students more advanced texts to work with. Choose books and passages that deal with the same themes and concepts other students are working on, but with more sophisticated vocabulary and sentence structure. Gifted learners will appreciate the challenge.

Writing Extensions

Many gifted students finish their writing activities early. Give them a chance to stretch their skills by offering more opportunities for creative expression in writing. Gifted students might rewrite a story from a different character's point of view or might invent a sequel or prequel to something they read in class.

Discussion Leadership

All of your students will benefit from stronger and deeper conversations about reading. Ask your gifted readers and writers to take on a leadership role by bringing five to six open-ended questions to class. Then, they should use the questions to facilitate discussions about themes in books and language arts that are abstract and deep in nature.


Math is another area where gifted students might require extra challenges in order to stay engaged and make the most of their talents.


Puzzles are a great way to engage your gifted students during math instruction. Some examples are Sudoku, logic and reasoning puzzles, KenKen puzzles, brain teasers, or riddles. These can be used at all grade levels. Keep copies of such puzzles on hand for students to access when they finish other work.

Higher Numbers, More Steps

If your students are working on story problems, consider giving your students similar problems as those given to the rest of the class, but add an extra step or two to make the process more sophisticated. You can also let your gifted students work with the same computation concepts as others, but using higher numbers or longer strings of numbers.

Math Mentors

Gifted students can also be used as mentors for your lower-level students in the classroom. Gifted students may add a new perspective to a math topic or lesson. This may also help your gifted student find new ways to deconstruct math problems and find solutions.


If your gifted students are especially interested or seem to excel in the area of science, these activities can be helpful to them.

Science Projects

Many gifted students will have scientific questions of their own. Give them license and material to pursue their own questions, following the scientific method and carefully presenting their results. Their processes and findings will be inspiring to other students, as well.

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