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The Need for Extension Activities
Gifted students often finish classwork more quickly than their peers, and although some may enjoy assisting other classmates during this time, it's also the ideal opportunity to engage the student in challenging learning activities. These can focus on deepening knowledge in the subject area peers are working on, or on special areas of interest the gifted student may have. Extension menus and independent study projects are two ways to accomplish this goal, while allowing the student some control over their work.
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It's very tempting to have your gifted students use their extra time to help other students, however, it's best to keep this practice to a minimum, and to give students a choice. The common practice of peer tutoring may be enjoyable and fulfilling for some gifted students who enjoy sharing their knowledge, but others may not enjoy it at all. Additionally, it isn't often the best use of time for the gifted students. They deserve a chance to increase their learning and challeng themselves. Gifted students have often mastered the material the first time they reviewed it. They don't need to keep repeating it as they assist others, and doing so may quickly become a frustrating experience.
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Extension menus are a great way to provide the gifted student with meaningful activities and incorporate choice at the same time. These can be a useful tool when you're trying to provide extension activities within the subject area peers are working on.
An extension menu is a listing of activities the student can select from once they have completed assigned classwork. They can be arranged in a simple list, or set up like a menu. A specific menu can be designed for each subject, or a more general one can be developed with activities that could apply across the curriculum.
The activities can range in complexity and variety to appeal to individual student strengths and creativity. It's a good idea to have a mix of cognitively oriented and more creative activities included. Dependent on the amount of time available during that session, and if the menu will be used over a period of time, the students can be instructed to choose one or more activities to work on.
Ideally, some activities should be geared to be simple and fun, while others are more rigorous and challenging. For gifted students in particular, at least a few of the activities can require independent research deeper into the subject, or analysis of information using higher levels of Blooms Taxonomy.
The activities can be arranged in levels, or the menu theme can be carried through, arranging the activities as appetizers, main courses, desserts, and so on, with students instructed to choose a specified number of activities from each category.
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Independent Study Projects
Many gifted students have specific areas of interest which can be explored. Working together with the student, you can help them design an independent project to allow them to pursue these interests during the extra time they have after completing assignments. This is a great way to really get the gifted student involved and motivated, while allowing them to pursue their passions.
These projects can be on any topic or area of interest the student selects, with requirements discussed and agreed upon ahead of time. Some examples are science experiments, in-depth research on a topic of interest, or more creative pursuits such as writing a novel, or creating artwork.
The goal of this type of project is to allow the student to engage in deeper learning about his or her area of interest. You may need to provide classroom space, materials or computer access, but the project should be as student driven as possible.
Student motivation is often very high with this type of work, and the results should be interesting.