Including Gifted Students in a General Education Classroom

So You Have Gifted Students in Your Regular Classroom?

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Gifted students always have their hand up!. Sean Gallop/Getty

editors notes:  I am revisiting this article, written in 2005, since much of the information is dated.  There was also the problem with "advice" in the title.  I prefer the articles on this site reflect best practices.   

Gifted students are not identified and provided IEP's.  Ironically, in many rural or small town districts, these students may see a specialist once a month if they are lucky.  Some districts continue to use a pull out design so students are still spending a significant part of their time in a general education classroom.  Too often, as I have heard from parents, gifted students end up as the support staff for their struggling peers -- after their work is completed they are expected to tutor the struggling students, rather than being exposed to more challenging materials that expand their skills and their knowledge.  JW

Supporting gifted students in a general education classroom is a challenge many general education teachers may not be prepared to fill.  It's our role as teachers to teach ALL students. Sometimes it's easy to get caught up in the teaching of content which is often referred to as filling up the vessel. However, you really want to ensure that all students are learning - it's our key role. Delivering content in creative ways to maximize student learning and determining how they know is the main ingredient of teaching.

Gifted students present an additional challenge in that they already know most of the content and will be able to learn what they don't know in much less time than the rest of the students in your class. Believe it or not, if you don't plan well for the gifted students, they will be the ones who will probably learn the least.

The challenge you face will be: What Am I going to do with these students who already know what my others don't?

How will I keep them busy? If you don't make adjustments for these students, you'll soon find that they'll become bored and disruptive in your classroom. Put yourself in the mind of the gifted student:

I already know this stuff, I don't want to do these activities.
I'm bored, I wish I could do something different.

To make sure you reach all students, it's important to plan for the needs of all students.

Choice:  When you have certain activities you to support or deepen student understanding, plan for the weakest and the strongest students. Provide choice. For instance, if you're asking the class to summarize key points in the topic, consider the following. Weaker students may begin with point form. Gifted students may create a poster or write a commercial selling others on the key points in a persuasive manner. You'll want to have three or four options available for students to demonstrate their understanding.

Sponge Activities:  Even when you don't have students designated as "gifted," you will have a range of abilities.  It's important to have activities ready to engage students in appropriate activities when their work is finished.  Be ready, have a challenge box (extra activities related to the topic with challenging options). It's quite acceptable for these students to move onto something else that interests them. 

Compacting the Curriculum:  Often in inclusion classrooms, a strategy that works well is called Compacting the Curriculum. To compact the curriculum means to provide students a means of proving mastery so they can then mov on to more challenging materials.

  Gifted students with strength in math, might use additional time in language areas, thus you're compacting the math. You already know they take less time to learn, let them take the lesser time and make sure they have procedures they can follow to move on to something else. Capitalize on their interests. One of my gifted students used to love analyzing data (5th grade). He was a sports enthusiast, therefore I made sure he had copies of the sports section of the newspapers and I had him analyze data of scores and make predictions based on the data. He was provided with a sharing time each week and soon, many of the students would participate either by agreeing or disagreeing with his predictions. This worked well all year with the various sports being played at different times throughout the year.

Provide ownership to capable students. Let them keep a chart of what they'll be working on each time they finish what you've assigned them. If they don't come up with their ideas, keep a challenge box full of activities that promote problem solving. NEVER have the child work on remediation or drill type activities. These chilren need to enjoy extension type activities within their areas of strength.