100%, 100%, 100%. If you’ve ever taught gifted students math, you’re probably familiar with those kids who can knock perfect scores out week after week. You’ve probably also questioned what good you’re doing for those students.
They Already Know It? Then Why Teach It?
If a student can score above 90% on material that you have not instructed, it’s fair to say that they do not need your instruction! Instead, differentiate for these students by offering advanced content or increase thinking skill requirements.
- Students who already know material are allowed to work on challenging, independent projects.
- On-level students receive instruction in a smaller group.
- Everyone works at their level, reducing behavior problems and boredom while increasing learning.
My System: Three Groups
- Group 1: Took a pre-assessment and passed with over 90%. Size: usually one to three students.
- Group 2: Took the pre-assessment and scored between 80-89%. Size: usually up to five studens.
- Group 3: Either did not take the pre-assessment or scored below 80%. Size: the bulk of the class.
Use as much of your base program as possible. Our math program comes with two sets of chapter and unit tests: a free response and a multiple choice version. Since we use the multiple choice as a post-assessment, the free response sits all alone in the assessment folder. I use this as my pre-assessment.
- Students choose whether they will take the pre-assessment (if they aren’t motivated enough to do this, they won’t be motivated enough to complete an independent project).
- Must achieve 90% or higher (this usually means they can miss up to two problems)
- Students must use the open response test, not multiple choice (they’re too good at guessing when there are choices).
- Students must complete an independent project of high quality (or forfeit the privileged to pretest for the next two chapters).
Honestly, I still have not found an optimal time to give the pre-assessment. I’ve done it during recess (bad because kids have to give up their time and twenty minutes is too quick for some of these tests). I’ve also done it right after the previous chapter’s post assessment (bad because they just finished a test and may be math-fatigued). Please leave your ideas about how to improve this in the comments.
This group contains the students who always try the pre-test and never quite make it. They’re constantly in the B range. I feel like this is still pretty impressive, so I created a third group. This group completes the daily work, but is free to begin the work while I am teaching.
- Must achieve between 80%-89% on the open ended pre-assessment.
- Must complete daily homework and quizzes.
- May begin homework during lesson, not required to be present for my instruction.
- Must retake the chapter’s test.
- Since these students usually finish their work early, they work on an extension menu related to the unit.
How To Create Assignments
This is the most difficult part of the program: creating the projects for compact groups. I try to make these authentic activities in which students apply content to interesting problems. It may also be useful to integrate the depth and complexity tools. I always try to incorporate a construction element that can be made more or less complex depending on how long the unit takes for the rest of the class. Again, mine your math program for some starting points.
Here are some sample projects I’ve used:
- Comparing percentages: Students analyzed fat from calories in McDonald’s food. Students developed menus highlighting the healthiest options at McDonald’s.
- Probability: Students developed a model of the school and tested the probability of acid rain landing on buildings versus grass. Students analyzed theoretical and experimental probabilities.
- Geometry: Students designed a zoo utilizing geometric shapes. They calculated the cost of building cages, filling aquariums, and constructing exhibits by finding area, surface area, and volume.
Although creating a program like this is truly an enormous amount of work, planning, and training, it has amazing affects on students. It really celebrates their giftedness and rewards students for putting in some early studying. The rest of the class benefits from being in a smaller group.