Photo by Tulane Public Relations
A great quote addressing a common misconception from Dina Brulles and Sara Winebrenner (emphasis mine):
Surprising to some, gifted students do not make the best academic leaders because of their ability to learn more quickly and with less effort than others.
Gifted kids don’t just learn faster… they learn differently. Brulles and Winebrenner continue:
Teachers recognize that many gifted students are abstract learners who make intuitive leaps in their thinking processes. They make connections between ideas and concepts that others do not make. They do not always follow the same linear-sequential steps as others when solving problems or reaching conclusions.
Since they think differently than other students, they cannot explain their thinking to other students. The result:
Therefore, they are frequently incapable of guiding others who learn in a more traditional manner, and are often impatient with classmates that learn more slowly than they.
But… They’re Done So Quickly!
Some kids chew up tasks and spit them out. Before you can sit back down, they’re asking, “Ok, so, what do I do now?”
Remember, the fact that they’re finishing so quickly is a symptom of a larger problem. Instead of asking gifted kids to tutor their peers:
- develop a differentiated task that is appropriate to their needs. Then, (surprise!) they won’t finish so quickly.
- create a system where kids can easily move onto a known activity after finishing required work. This may be an independent study or some other ongoing creative work.
Weekly, Not Daily, Tasks
In my class, I tried to focus on larger, weekly tasks, that were due on Friday, rather than smaller tasks due that day. These would be hefty enough so that kids could fill their free time throughout the week as needed.
Make some parts of this task optional. This will help kids who want to take on the bigger task, but simply don’t have the free time that your fastest-moving students have. They can complete the required parts, but leave the optional pieces unfinished.
You will find literally hundreds of these tasks at Byrdseed.TV.
These larger tasks really work best when you can incorporate student talents.
For example, rather than assigning a simple spelling task each day of the week (snore!), have students write one brief story using a more advanced set of words. As a “may-do” option, they can illustrate the story, record an audio book, or prepare a play for Friday. See how the task scales? We’re aiming for a high ceiling, low floor here.
The Ongoing Project
Then, if students finish their story before Friday, added an artistic element, and still need something to do, they can pick up their ongoing interest-based research project, experiment, or another creative task that has a longer (perhaps a month- or quarter-long) time frame.
Your students must know what to move onto next without asking you. This means you need to teach them the system you’ve created. It can be as simple as an ordered list on the whiteboard for that week. However you set it up, students should go to the list, not you, for their next step. This will probably take training.
And, for those kids who have flown through everything (and produced quality work), don’t be afraid to ask them, “What would you like to do with your free time this week?” They might have a great idea that you would never have thought of.