Modifications for Gifted Students: Enrichment & Acceleration

Instructor: Della McGuire

Della has been teaching secondary and adult education for over 20 years. She holds a BS in Sociology, MEd in Reading, and is ABD on the MComm in Storytelling.

Acceleration and enrichment, two curriculum modifications that best benefit gifted students, are important tools for a teacher to have. In this lesson, you'll gain a better understanding of these two strategies and how you can incorporate them into your classroom practices.

Lee's Daily Struggle

Lee struggles in school to stay on task. He understands what the teachers are talking about with the first explanation; however, his classmates need to spend lots of time and energy practicing before they get it. The learning part of school has always come easily for Lee, but not the tedious and never ending repetition. Sometimes, Lee has been given additional worksheets, but ever since he figured out how to tell which of the worksheets count for a grade, he has been protesting them as busywork. The rest of the time, Lee daydreams or distracts other students. Things have gotten so out-of-hand for Lee that there's a chance he will have to repeat the 3rd grade over his lack of participation.


Acceleration of gifted students involves advancing students when they have learned or proven mastery of the material. This is considered a vertical move and allows students to skip assignments or whole grades. Students are pretested and often can move past a lesson if they can demonstrate they already know the information. Some students accelerate by skipping kindergarten or another grade, participating in dual enrollment or testing out early from a class.

Lee would be a perfect candidate for acceleration. He has friends of all ages and never really feels uncomfortable with bigger kids. He has already mastered all of the 3rd-grade curriculum as was evident in his grades and achievement test scores. If he actually had to pay more attention in class to keep up, he might spend less time in trouble for acting out.

Gifted students who are accelerated report being satisfied with their experience. Both grades and achievement test scores are positively impacted by acceleration. Accelerating students is cost effective with little to no social or personal impediments from being younger than the other students in the class. When gifted students are accelerated, they benefit immediately and those benefits last into the long term, but many schools are resistant to acceleration even though research shows it is the most effective approach with the least risk. This reluctance seems to be based on a misunderstanding of gifted education, a lack of training, a fear of perceptions of fairness or unfounded fears about social development from being in classes with older classmates.


Enrichments are described as providing differentiated instruction to gifted students to supplement their curriculum. Typically, this is considered a horizontal approach as it does not advance a student to a higher level or grade, rather it just adds additional content. This content is usually done by giving assignments that engage higher order thinking levels of Bloom's Taxonomy. Gifted students benefit from assignments requiring they analyze, evaluate and create, while their classmates may do an assignment on the same topic that requires them to remember, understand and apply.

Blooms Taxonomy

Gifted students who receive enrichment often feel frustrated that they are given more or harder work without an actual grade level advancement. A gifted student subject to enrichment will often report feeling punished for being smart. By the time students get to the higher grades, they are burned out from the endless onslaught of meaningless work. In fact, enrichment as an attempt to educate gifted students has fallen into such disfavor that it is not listed as one of the recommended practices by the National Association for Gifted Children.

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