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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 19, Number 5, March 2007

Teachers' tips: Different, not more

by Charlene Watts

Gifted students are gifted 24 hours a day. Consequently, classroom teachers have the responsibility to ensure that gifted students are involved in appropriate learning experiences as much as possible. This is an easily accomplished goal as teachers come to recognize that "more" work is not the same as "appropriate" work.

In BC classrooms, teachers assess what their students already know. After the assessment, a list of students who have demonstrated mastery of the objectives can be compiled. The free time for students that is generated from having learned the desired outcomes needs to be co-operatively planned with the students. Time, could be provided to explore self-selected topics on a conceptual rather than a factual basis. Students could be encouraged to set some of their own learning goals and evaluate their work. To assist students in wisely using their time, they may be involved in an independent study, a learning contract, a co-operative learning situation or have the curriculum compacted. All will provide for the necessary adaptations to pace, breadth, and depth of curriculum.

All curriculum and instruction ought to be based on the needs of the students as indicaed by their characteristics, attitudes, and behaviours. Not only do schools strive to meet intellectual demands but affective needs must be addressed. It is essential that gifted students be given opportunities to work alone and in small ability or interest group situations to explore passion areas. The classroom environment needs to be one that invites risk-taking and making mistakes. Assignments ought to be open-ended providing a focus on complex and abstract thinking. As creative thinking, critical thinking, and problem solving are essential, it may be necessary to allow for a flexible timeline so that gifted students may have longer time blocks for in-depth studies. A variety of products ought to be encouraged and shared with appropriate audiences.

Research shows that 40% to 50% of the content might be eliminated for gifted students. As educators, the biggest contribution that we can make to meet the needs of gifted learners is to:

  1. Find out what they already know. 
  2. Give them "credit" for the concepts they have mastered. 
  3. Refrain from having them repeat grade level work just because its there. 
  4. Provide alternative challenging activities for them to do instead of grade level work. 
  5. Discover what their interests are and build projects around those interests. 
  6. Allow them some flexibility in the way they use the time they "buy back." 
  7. Trust them to learn in non-traditional ways. 
  8. Thrill them with choices, choices, and more choices. 
  9. Give them lots of experience with setting their own goals and evaluating their own work. 
  10. Enjoy the results.

Adapted from Susan Winebrenner, renowned gifted education author, previously published and taken from AEGTCC BC publications: Brochure series "What educators of gifted learners need to know about...", The Leading Edge newsletter.

Charlene Watts is president of the Bulkley Valley Teacher’s Union.

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