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Selecting & Adapting Resources for Teaching Gifted Students

Instructor: Alexis Jones

Alexis has taught grades 1 through 6, and has a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction.

Students identified as gifted and talented may be in self-contained classrooms, enrichment pullouts, or regular education classes. Any of these placement options requires knowing how to select and adapt materials for an array of learning needs.

Not One-Size-Fits-All

Brian always finishes his work early. He then becomes distracted, drawing pictures all over his notebook or walking around the classroom talking to his friends. Does this remind you of any of your students? Not sure what to do? This lesson will give suggestions for keeping your exceptional students learning productively by adapting and modifying the materials that work well for everyone else. We know that children are not a one-size-fits-all commodity, so it is important for teachers to know how to change things up for your challenge-ready students!

Increase Complexity

During Class

Adapting the materials for your students can increase the depth of their understanding in a subject. Select advanced materials for each unit you teach. If most students are getting one set of basic comprehension questions for your reading assignment, maybe your gifted children can get a similar worksheet that includes critical-thinking questions. If most of your class is able to add fractions with like denominators, but your gifted students have proven mastery in this area, perhaps they can work on multiplying fractions with like denominators or adding fractions with unlike denominators.

Whatever you select for them, gifted students often learn quickly, so a quick meeting with them before class or in a small group during silent reading will probably provide enough direct instruction to keep them engaged for a bit!

After Finishing Assignments

Students who are identified as gifted often finish regular classroom tasks early, and having a good book to read on the topic at hand can be an appropriate anchor task for them. Even a shoebox that contains a selection of advanced literature on the current science or social studies topic would be appropriate. A good piece of advice is to find literature with the help of your school media specialist because there are a number of nonfiction books available now that present a unique and humorous take on particular social studies or science subjects.

Examples include Steve Jenkins's What to Do When Something Wants to Eat You (a great book for grades 2-4 that explores unique defense mechanisms) and Rosalyn Schanzer's George vs. George: The American Revolution As Seen from Both Sides (better for grades 4-6, and useful for teaching about the multiple perspectives involved in the American Revolution).

Work with a school media specialist to develop a selection of advanced literature for gifted students
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Modify the Pace

As teachers, we know that time is an enormous resource. While students may not be able to articulate it, it is for them as well! You can select activities for students, or have them help you select activities, to 'buy back some of their time' in your class. This is a Renzulli technique, where students are allowed to prove their mastery in one area so that they are allowed to explore topics of interest in another area.

You can also adapt your instruction so that the pace is accelerated for your gifted and talented students. One strategy that teaching specialist and author Susan Winebrenner suggests is allowing students to complete the most difficult first, which means they first complete the most difficult problems on a math worksheet, for example, showing you they have mastered the material and can work on something more challenging.

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