I’ve been revisiting this excerpt from Carol Ann Tomlinson’s article Meeting Needs in Regular Classroom:
For gifted learners, an appropriately differentiated classroom will provide [experiences] that are complex enough, abstract enough, open-ended enough, and multifaceted enough to cause gifted students to stretch in knowledge, thinking, and production.
There’s a lot packed into this statement, but I want to call out the last bit: “cause gifted students to stretch in knowledge, thinking, and production.”
First, I love the imagery of stretching gifted kids. They have the right to be stretched and to be stretched early. Stretching feels uncomfortable if you haven’t done it in a while, but ask anyone who regularly practices Yoga – that stretching eventually starts to feel pretty darn good.
Ways To Stretch
It’s really those three ways to stretch students that stands out to me from this excerpt:
Thinking about each of these as different levers for stretching different kids brings a richness to how we design a learning experience. Sure, we could expose students to more advanced content (or “knowledge”), but are we also stretching how they are thinking about that content and how show us what they’ve thought about?
Two kids could be reading A Wrinkle In Time (the same knowledge), but we can push them to different levels of thinking. This is where Bloom’s Taxonomy helps us. Perhaps one is just working to remember the characters and plot, while another is analyzing – comparing and contrasting Meg’s journey with Hermione Granger’s and then forming an argument about who demonstrated the most courage. Some kids might further and create a scenario where the two meet and must work together.
And as kids are thinking, how do we ask them to show us that thinking. Is it a simple written paragraph. Does it involve learning a new skill or technology?
Stretching our gifted students should be a daily goal, whether they’re in kindergarten or an AP class, but we have a rich menu of ways to stretch those students.
If you haven’t seen The Differentiator, it is a fun little tool to play with the different ways to stretch students through a learning objective.
I also referenced this Tomlinson quote in my article about Fuzzy Problems