Sunday, January 12, 2014

Six Ways to Meet Gifted and Bright Kids’ Needs in a Regular Class…Without Giving Yourself Much Extra Work

You have a wide range of students in your class. It’s hard to meet all their needs. And you may feel you need to focus on low-achieving kids, maybe because your heart especially feels for them and/or because you’re feeling external pressures such as No Child Left Behind and now Common Core.

You have one or more bright or gifted students in your class but if someone has be shortchanged, maybe it’s them. After all, consciously or unconsciously, perhaps you think they’ll do fine anyway.

I can understand, but maybe your bright and gifted kids are worth a second look. In fact, many such kids turn out to be brilliant failures. Maybe you know one. And after all, all children are entitled to an appropriate-level education, to not be bored too much of the time. And those kids are the most likely to grow up to cure our diseases, be our corporate, non-profit, and government leaders, be our teachers and administrators!

And it is possible for you to better meet their needs without giving yourself too much work. Consider trying one or more of these tips:

Tip #1  Cluster-group. When bright kids are listening to a lesson or are in a group activities where their classmates aren’t as bright, they’re often bored and deprived of their right to grow. Less bright kids may feel that no matter how hard they try, they’ll never do as well and so may just give up and let the bright kids carry the load. 

So, as you deem appropriate, for parts of the day, divide the class into groups by ability: how quickly they learn, reason, and sophisticatedly they communicate. Sure it can help kids if you take the time to create separate lessons and activities for each group but that’s time-consuming, although technology, for example a personal device, may make it easy to provide individualized activity. 

The good news is that even if it’s the same lesson or activity, it’s exciting to watch bright kids build off each other rather than be bored and that’s not only good for them but ultimately for society. So, tip #1:  For parts of the school day, consider dividing the class by ability.

Tip #2. Allow bright and gifted students to propose doing a more challenging assignment or activity of their own choosing rather than the regular one. Or you propose one. 

For example, if you’re about to teach a spelling lesson, you might invite bright kids to write a story using the spelling words. If the class is about to work on a worksheet a child feels is too easy, s/he can propose that s/he be allowed to use some educational software on her iPad, Chromebook, whatever. If you’ve assigned making a diorama on the Civil War for homework, a students who wished to, could opt to write a scene and perhaps act it out for the class on the dilemma President Lincoln faced in deciding how to respond to secession. And again, technology may enable you to find assignments that better meet bright and gifted kids’ needs. So, Tip #2:  Allow or give bright and gifted kids an alternate assignment.

Tip #3. For content that some students in your class knows but could use solidifying, occasionally make them your roving assistant teachers, helping the other students with their seatwork on that content. 

For example, if you’ve just taught a lesson on subtraction with regrouping, ask for volunteers to take a 1-question quiz that demonstrates they know it. Or perhaps you already know they know it without having to quiz them. Anyone you deem to sufficiently know the content or concept can volunteer to be your roving assistant teacher for the seatwork on that topic. When other students raise their hand asking for help, one of your “assistant teachers” can go over to the student and try to help. Of course, that must only be done occasionally. Bright and gifted kids deserve to be learning material that’s challenging for them, not just helping slower students. So Tip #3: When kids know a concept before you teach it, occasionally make them your roving teaching assistant.

Tip #4. Have students actually teach a lesson to a group of classmates or even the entire class. If you like that idea, you might, when the rest of the class is doing independent work, teach your would-be “teachers” a lesson on how to teach a lesson. For example, you might teach them a model such as 
1: Tell the class why the lesson is important. 
2. Model what you want them to learn, for example, the scientific method. 
3. Walk them through an example, such as designing an experiment to test whether Coca-Cola really does eat through car paint. 
4. Have them do an example independently.
5. Ask for questions. 
6. Summarize. 
So, Tip 4: Have kids teach lessons to part of or even the entire class. 

Tip #5. As appropriate, allow students to join a higher grade’s class for a given subject(s).

Tip #6. Consider having a child skip one or more grades. Research indicates that can be wise as long as the child is capable and motivated, the receiving teacher enthusiastic, and the child paired with a popular child in the new class  to teach him or her the ropes and help the child make friends.  So, Tip #6: Consider talking with your principal about having a gifted child skip one or more grades. 

You may want to try none, one, even all those six ideas. But we often promise ourselves to do something but forget. So do you want to write down the idea or ideas you want to try? Whatever you try, treat it as experimental. If it doesn’t work, scrap it or perhaps tweak it. 

In any event, thank you for all you do. A great teacher can make all the difference.

If you have a question or comment, email me at


Maria Lopez said...

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Marty Nemko said...

Thank you, Maria. Usually, I catch those. I missed that one. I've now deleted it.


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