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Differentiating Instruction for Gifted Students in the Regular Education Classroom

By Margo Dill

One problem gifted and talented children can have is falling behind with regular classwork because of attending the gifted and talented program, failing to turn in work they feel is boring or too easy, and organizing problems. Differentiation strategies can help students stay caught up and engaged.

For Students Who Miss Class to Attend Gifted Program

Many gifted and talented programs are set up where gifted students attend the program one day a week, but they are still responsible for assignments and classwork they missed in the regular classroom. This policy may differ from district to district, school to school, and even teacher to teacher. Gifted teachers and parents of gifted and talented students should know the policies and make sure the child does also. If motivating students to turn in missed classwork is a problem for the gifted teacher, regular classroom teacher, or parents, then try these suggestions for differentiating instruction for gifted students in the regular education program:

  • Allow the student to have one homework pass a week that can not be used on any long-term projects
  • Make sure the student understands the assignments and what needs to be turned in. (This is often a teacher oversight. If the material is completely new, such as the causes of the Revolutionary War, a gifted student may not be able to complete the assignment if she never learned the causes, no matter how bright she is.)
  • Give students a definite deadline to turn in work. Students should know they have two days to make-up the work and not "turn it in whenever you get the chance."
  • Give gifted students the assignments the night before their gifted class. Students can take their work with them to the gifted and talented program and complete work during free time.

For Students Who Are Bored

Parents and teachers of gifted and talented students become frustrated when children do not turn in easy assignments. Sometimes, gifted students do not see the point of assignments and are completely bored by work that they could practically complete in their sleep. It is up to the teachers and parents to figure out a system for teaching students responsibility for turning in assignments but also motivating students to learn. Here are some suggestions for differentiating instruction for gifted students in the regular education classroom:

  • Modify work for gifted students. If most students are learning their multiplication tables, give exceptional students a page of two-digit by two-digit multiplication instead.
  • Allow gifted and talented students chances to pursue their own projects during classwork, if the classwork is too simple for them. For example, if students excel at reading, then instead of reading the same book as everyone else, gifted and talented students should choose a more difficult book and conduct an independent study.

Gifted students should not have zeroes in the grade book. If they do, it is not because they cannot do the work. Figure out why they are falling behind and modify assignments for them.

For Students Who are Unorganized

A common problem for many gifted and talented students is organization. These students often have so many thoughts, projects, and activities going on in their lives that they easily misplace assignments and school books. They can also be forgetful. In this case, motivating students may be as easy as teaching them some organizational skills such as getting a daily planner, cleaning out their backpacks each week, preparing school supplies and assignments the night before, and reminding them to turn in assignments as soon as they walk in the classroom door.