In my last post in this series, I talked about the idea of how we service gifted students across the country. One of the methods for organizing gifted education is different than the others, so I saved gifted pullout services to have its own post. There’s a lot of hype and professional dialogue around this method of instruction, so let’s take a look at this service format.
Should gifted students be pulled from the regular education classroom?
The short answer is…. there is no short answer. This question is a complicated, messy question with no final answers.
It is important to consider the following points about a gifted pullout service:
- Gifted students should be pulled when appropriate. Several research studies have been completed that have concluded that gifted students need separate instruction at times. As we’ve spoken about before in this blog series, gifted students are often not gifted in every subject. A student who excels in Math may struggle in Reading. They should be in a gifted cluster or gifted pullout for Math, but in a general education classroom for the other subjects. There are many factors within a school structure that can make this difficult. If gifted pullout services just aren’t possible in your current situation, the next best idea is to cluster gifted students in the same homeroom.
- Gifted students should not be totally segregated from their peers. Gifted learners need different instruction. For sure. However, they don’t need to be separated from grade-level peers all day. Our gifted learners often have social and emotional struggles, so allowing them to interact with non-GL peers is a necessity. We want them to be in heterogeneous groupings for social interactions as much as possible.
- Resources for gifted learners are limited. As of April 2018, only 4 states in America and 0 provinces in Canada fully fund gifted education initiatives in their schools. That leaves 46 states, DC, all USA territories, and all of Canada’s schools without as many resources as gifted students should have access to. Many schools can’t afford to pay for Gifted Intervention teachers, nor are they mandated to do so. The financial piece of the puzzles poses an obvious problem.
Students should be pulled from the regular education classroom when it is possible (financially) and when it is appropriate (only for subjects in which they have tested gifted).
How Do I Support Gifted Learners in My General Education Classroom?
You’ve got this!!! Here are some proven methods for getting the most of your gifted learners while they’re in your general education classroom.
- Long-term, open-ended projects are your friend. Project-based learning (PBL) is crucial to the development of your gifted kiddos. While your regular ed (and possibly special ed) kiddos might need supports and grade-level guidance, your gifted learners can be forging ahead with deeper content inside of the PBL you’ve set up. STEM and STEAM projects are also great!!
- Example: In Science, you are doing a unit on electricity. Your gifted learner(s) might want to explore how electricity is transmitted around your community. They might do a cost analysis of local companies and their electric rates. They might explore the efficiency of certain light bulbs.
- Allow variety and choices in curriculum. There are some things we just have to teach. I get it. Whenever possible, allow the gifted students to make a choice in the curriculum. Let them choose their own topics or design their own project or assessment. They could explore content outside of what Common Core (or your state/provincial standards) mandate and then link it to the standards you need them to!
- This book has excellent ideas on how to design and organize these opportunities for your students!
- Use critical thinking. Every student deserves (and needs) critical thinking questions. Gifted students need that cranked up even more. Try a Depth of Knowledge Level 4 question such as explaining alternative electricity sources across multiple sources (analyze and synthesize). Isolated critical thinking with gifted learning is not enough; they need to be exposed to this kind of thinking and problem solving daily.
- Flexible grouping and flexible grading. One thing that drives gifted learners batty is being compared to others, or being asked to do the same thing as typical peers. Throw in the fact that many students compare their grades during group projects or discussions, and you are asking for a meltdown.
- Homogeneous grouping is the most effective for gifted learners in terms of academic interaction, while heterogeneous grouping is the most effective for social skills and emotional health. The more you can allow your gifted learners to flex between these groupings, the happier and more challenged they’ll be!
- You can use a different form of assessment, a different rubric, and/or a different method of work samples when grading using your “typical peer” rubric isn’t appropriate. There is nothing wrong with allowing your gifted learners to do things a little differently.
- When possible, compact the curriculum. Compaction of curriculum is one of the easiest tricks of gifted education. What is compaction?
- Take, for example, the computation of decimals. An average learner needs to learn addition of decimals, then subtraction, then multiplication, then division. A gifted learner can pick up the four operations quickly – allow them to do so, then challenge them with new material.
- Another example is figurative language. In 4th, Common Core asks students to recognize and define some figurative language devices. My gifted learners fly through this, so we focus on adding it to their writing and written responses in class instead (which also increases the rigor).
There is no magic bullet to teaching gifted kids in a regular education classroom. It’s not easy, but it’s so worth it. My goal is to make it easier for you. We’re teachers, gosh darnit… we can do it!
Please reach out to me with questions, comments, or if you need help with this! I’d love to hear if you implement any of these ideas in your own classroom. Let me know how it turns out by commenting below!