How Do You Do It?
Gifted students, in particular, need variety. Below, you will find various ideas that may be adopted for any classroom to aid in differentiating instruction for gifted students. Please note that I am merely offering suggestions. Instruction may be differentiated in many, many ways.
·Reader’s Theater allows students to interact with a text. Some are rewrites of classic stories or fairy tales, while others discuss the lives of settlers or the invention of the light bulb, thus allowing them to be adapted for most subjects. By implementing Reader’s Theater in the classroom, teachers offer students a new way to approach written works. Reader’s Theater may be done as a whole class, but I suggest having students do it in small groups, with each group presenting their version of the play, or even having the various groups each perform a different play of their choosing. Doing so allows for differentiation, in that students can view and present in different ways. Since no two people are alike, no two presentations will be. One group may use a lot of expression, whereas another may not. Giving students the option to use props or design their own props is of added benefit. A teacher may even allow the students to use costumes when they present.
·Projects are a great way to differentiate instruction because you can offer a choice of topics or outcomes. For instance, if you are having your students complete a research project, you can offer a variety of topics, all pertaining to some aspect of the unit being taught. Another option is to vary the final product. Instead of telling students their end result will be a picture, the teacher might offer the picture as an option amongst writing a story or creating a comic strip. When writing projects, be sure to accommodate all learning styles and present options for the various levels of learners in the classroom. Doing so allows the gifted students and the struggling students the abilities to choose projects geared specifically for them. All students will be represented, in other words.
·During journaling, which again can be used in any subject, allow students the option of choosing between different prompts. Or, give students the option of drawing a picture or writing an interview with someone related to that topic. They can present their results to the class when they are finished. Most students would enjoy having options. Gifted students in particular need options.
·Learning stations are another great way to differentiate instruction. Please note, though, that stations are not automatically differentiated. They are differentiated if the activities vary in complexity, depending upon student readiness. For example, a teacher may have a small group that he/she works with, while students who do not need that small group attention can complete a different assignment geared more toward their level. Finding stations that are of high interest to gifted students is definitely beneficial. Stations can even be combined with some of the other suggestions, specifically independent study and paired/group reading. Ideas for learning stations on a variety of topics are found in the Take It to Your Seat series by Evan-Moor.
·Independent study projects are preferred by some students. Choices can be presented, and it is okay if each student is working on something different. Independent study allows students to research a topic that is of interest to them. They go at their own pace, but I strongly suggest giving some sort of timeline or assessment schedule up front. Doing so allows a teacher to communicate his/her expectations without hindering the learning that is taking place. This type of project is often used to differentiate instruction for gifted students in particular, since they can select their own topic and find appropriate material for that topic.
Paired/Group Reading can be of particular benefit to struggling readers. Students are given the opportunity to practice reading aloud, which ideally helps with fluency and comprehension, without the teacher directing the reading. Texts can be altered or varied according to readiness. Literature circles are another form of paired/group reading that allows students to choose what they read and discuss it with students reading the same text. Books are often selected by the students, and assessments are necessary to ensure comprehension and growth. Gifted students are not always the better readers. Using literature circles or something similar allows students to read a book of interest at their own pace and on their reading level. Books that are of a higher grade level can be provided for gifted students who are advanced readers.