Meeting All Students’ Needs: Differentiation From Disabilities to Giftedness
This post will discuss differentiation with reference to teaching science to gifted first-graders. Science lessons for first-graders cover multiple topics, including studying wildlife diversity and a variety of animal habitats. To differentiate for a gifted child, I would increase tasks’ complexity. Instead of simply connecting the pictures of animals and their habitats just like ordinary learners, the gifted child would be proposed to find the matching pairs and then move from “applying” to “analyzing,” the levels of Bloom’s taxonomy.
Rather than making connections intuitively, the gifted learner would be proposed to analyze each link with reference to at least one fact about each animal. For instance, the answers could be the following: fennec foxes can live in the desert because their large ears prevent them from overheating, Arctic hares can live in the Arctic because their white fur helps them to hide from predators, etc. Thanks to additional and challenging questions, the gifted child would be able to proceed from isolated facts that he or she easily remembers to an understanding of consistent patterns regarding how animals adapt to their environments.
Next, I would use group work to differentiate for the gifted child. Overloading gifted children with extra tasks is not the best strategy, so the next measure would involve the creation of flexible working groups to enable a gifted child to collaborate with learners who demonstrate similar knowledge. For instance, children are supposed to work in groups and see how many animals living in particular habitats they can name. Including a gifted child in a group of average learners would create a sense of unfair competition among average students, and there would be no challenge for an exceptional child.
At the same time, in a group of other advanced learners, a gifted student would be motivated to make a larger contribution to the team’s results. Just like learners who fail to keep pace with peers, gifted children are sometimes perceived as a challenge to schools. Inexperienced teachers may find it rather difficult to alter instruction to meet the needs of those demonstrating intellectual giftedness.
To meet the learning needs of a first-grader who has already mastered the majority of standards for the grade level, it would be important to balance between assigning extra tasks and providing new opportunities for learning. For instance, things to be done for such children would include keeping them busy with additional and more challenging tasks to prevent misbehaviors and encouraging them to collaborate with other gifted students. Additionally, it would be practical to learn more about an outstanding learner’s interests and enable the child to select an interesting activity, such as developing a project.
Importantly, instead of overloading the student with extra tasks, it would be pivotal to meet with the child’s parents, explain opportunities for academic acceleration, and come to the best possible decision. Doing nothing apart from giving such children additional work is not enough due to two important reasons. To begin with, too many additional tasks can make children tired instead of supporting their greed for knowledge since such tasks often fail to add something new and are aimed at polishing the skills that gifted children already have.
A gifted child is interested in working on challenging and complicated assignments, so emphasizing quantity (many simple tasks) instead of quality (tasks that can challenge this particular student) is a no-win strategy. Next, overloading gifted children with new tasks if they finish the work earlier than classmates is actually similar to penalizing them for being “too smart” for their age. To some extent, the unwillingness to do additional work may discourage gifted students from demonstrating their talents and the ability to make correct conclusions faster than their peers.