Photo by Mr T in DC
In his article Gifted Readers and Reading Instruction, Dr. David Levande compiled a list of general guidelines for working with gifted learners in language arts. Here’s an excerpt:
- Instruction in basic word attitude skills should be kept to a minimum
- Challenging materials should be made available, especially to young gifted readers
- Instruction should facilitate critical and creative reading
- Use of analogies should be studied, especially in classes for older gifted students
- Inductive, rather than deductive instruction should be provided
- Flexibility in assignments should be provided
- Unnecessary repetition in instructions should be eliminated
- Students’ divergent and diversified interests should be nurtured
- Independent projects such as sociograms, time machine models, newscasts, games based on story themes and simulation role-playing activities should be encouraged
Set Up Systems To Support Gifted Learners
In reading these ideas, I immediately started brainstorming ways to address my students’ needs. I especially wanted to come up with some repeatable systems I could incorporate week after week.
1. Keep Basic Word Skills To A Minimum
Move beyond simple sentence writing and copying definitions. In your vocabulary program, set up a system that encourages the exploration of:
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- homonyms and multiple meaning words
- Greek/Latin roots
- loan words
Susan Winebrenner’s Teaching Gifted Kids in the Regular Classroom has an excellent starting point for spelling and vocabulary contracts.
2. Give Students Books and Assignments That Require Critical and Creative Reading
For many of your gifted readers, grade level anthologies may be too simple.
- Set up opportunities for literature circles.
- Investigate the Jr. Great Book program.
- Use your base program, but incorporate depth and complexity into students’ reading.
- Have students read selections multiple times, with different purposes.
- Look for books with relatable characters (here’s a list of novels with gifted, female protagonists)
3. Provide Flexible Assignments, Eliminate Unnecessary Repetition
- Differentiate assignments through products
- Pre–assess your gifted students, allowing students to move onto more advanced content.
- Offer menus of assignments, rather than one-size-fits-all assignments.
- Give students choice in: group sizes, working environments, use of time, etc.
4. Students’ divergent and diversified interests should be nurtured
- Create an interest survey (such as Renzulli’s Interest-A-Lyzer(pdf)).
- Introduce and team students with similar interests.
- Use Sandra Kaplan’s independent study book to generate student-centered projects. Hopefully these ideas stir up some practical ways to address gifted students’ needs in language arts.