Reading Needs & Instruction for High-Achieving Students

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will discuss effective ways to meet the needs of high-achieving students by selecting appropriate texts, providing open-ended assignments, and differentiating instruction.

Challenging High-Achieving Students

Researcher Lev Vygotsky theorized that cognitive skills develop when students are challenged within their zone of proximal development. The zone of proximal development (ZPD) is the developmental level just above the student's independent level. Students are able to work within their zone of proximal development with teacher support. What if the student has already achieved grade-level expectations? High-achieving students are entitled to a relevant and challenging curriculum, just as you would provide for on-level or struggling students. Let's look at some ways to enrich your reading program for high-achieving students.

Selecting Texts

Imagine having to sit through a class for eight hours a day to learn information you already know. One of the ways that teachers can make reading challenging for advanced students is by differentiating texts. Even after students become fluent readers, they continue to expand their vocabulary and learn content knowledge by reading texts within their zone of proximal development. Encouraging high-achieving students to read higher-level, high-interest materials from various genres will meet students' needs for continued growth. In many cases, high-achieving students can be provided with higher level texts that cover the same content that on-level students are reading about. The school librarian should be able to provide recommendations.

Open-Ended Assignments

How can you differentiate for advanced students while using mandated texts? Providing open-ended assignments helps all students work to their capacity. Open-ended assignments are activities that set very few parameters on students. For example, after reading a story from the mandated text book, students may be asked to rewrite the ending and present it to the class in any format they wish.

While doing this assignment, the higher-achieving students will likely demonstrate vocabulary development, creativity, and an understanding of characters that goes beyond other students. This assignment also allows students to cater their presentation to their individual learning style. For example, a child may create a written document, a poster, a graphic organizer, or do a dramatization.

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