Instructional Options for Exceptionally Gifted Students

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  • 0:04 Exceptionally Gifted Students
  • 0:30 Differentiation
  • 2:54 Acceleration
  • 4:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Linda Winfree

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

In this lesson, you'll learn about various instructional options you can use for students who qualify as exceptionally gifted, including options for differentiation and acceleration.

Exceptionally Gifted Students

Although all gifted students have unique instructional needs, children identified as exceptionally gifted, usually indicated by an intelligence quotient (IQ) above 160, have particular needs. Because all children are different, one instructional option is not appropriate for all highly gifted learners. Indeed, a range of options must be employed. How, then, can you best serve a child who is highly gifted?


Some profoundly gifted children will have the opportunity to attend special schools or programs designed just for them. However, as a gifted educator, you may find that your classroom includes students identified as highly gifted. These children will definitely require differentiation, in which you adapt instruction or the learning environment.

For example, Samantha teaches middle school gifted classes. On her campus, gifted children attend a school-within-a-school, grouped together in one hall for their academic classes. This year, Samantha's classes include Caitlin, identified at an early age as being exceptionally gifted. Like many highly gifted children, Caitlin learns rapidly and has a voracious appetite for knowledge. While she is generally happy and well adjusted, she struggles somewhat with peer interactions because she is aware that, even in the gifted classes, her high IQ sets her apart. Caitlin's mother shares with Samantha that her daughter often prefers the company of adults to people her own age.

The first differentiation Samantha plans is to adapt the peer setting, effectively making changes to increase Caitlin's comfort level. Samantha reviews the available data on her students and identifies those who have the highest achievement levels. When creating groups or seating charts, Samantha places Caitlin with these students. Further, Samantha reduces the size of Caitlin's working groups, aiming for no more than three students total. Often, Samantha joins Caitlin's group so that she can monitor whether the grouping strategy meets Caitlin's needs.

Next, Samantha works to increase Caitlin's learning opportunities. Caitlin is a passionate reader who cares deeply about social issues. With Caitlin's input, Samantha creates learning contracts, which outline specific projects or learning targets. A recent example included a multi-genre study, in which Caitlin read biographies and novels focused on social justice issues. She conducted research and developed her own website devoted to the issues she was most passionate about.

Finally, Samantha reaches out to content experts, or professionals who have mastered their fields of study. Wanting to foster Caitlin's love of reading, writing, and social justice, Samantha reaches out to a writing professor at the local college, as well as lawyers and activists in her area, all of who agree to volunteer to mentor Caitlin during the school day. With their help, Caitlin is soon writing her own novel centered on a local social justice issue.

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