Differentiation is crucial for gifted students.  Their advanced cognitive development, combined with their asynchronous development in other domains, requires differentiation to best serve them.  It also helps maintain a peaceful learning environment for all your students.

It is important to understand that differentiation cannot be assigned to one particular time of the day or week, it needs to take place all day, every day in every classroom.

The Key To Differentiation

The key to continual differentiation is observation or “kid watching.” This is the only way to give each student the individualized learning they need and deserve.

Observation will keep you aware of which students has already mastered the information being taught and needs to be given something more challenging to work on.

Myth of The Well Rounded Gifted Child

An essential component of differentiation for gifted children is to abandon the idea of a “well rounded” child and start to celebrate the ways in which these children are unique or excel.

Enrichment activities are a valuable addition to the classroom but they are not sufficient for gifted students on their own. These students need a full menu of educational challenges all day just like other students.

It can be more useful to modify class assignments for gifted students in a way that will appeal to them specifically. The key to doing this is to tap into their individual interests.

Supporting Individualization In The Classroom

It is also necessary to support individualization in the classroom which means that different students can be doing different things at the same time. This can be achieved very naturally by providing several different choices for all students.

The most powerful words in a classroom are “you have a choice.”

This includes choices for free time and for academic assignments.

Differentiating Based on Development

In order to differentiate well we must be aware of each student’s zones of actual and proximal development and always be seeking to pull them from one to the other.

To more accurately determine their zone of actual development give them hints when they run into trouble, instead of providing the answer, and see how far they can proceed with that hint.

Your focus should be on their potential to learn and not on the current level of learning.

Five Ways to Differentiate

  1. Their interests as discussed above.

  2. You can differentiate based on pace, on how quickly they master the material.

  3. Then there is breadth, the amount of material they are able to master, as well as the depth and complexity they are able to comprehend.

  4. Gifted students may also require the ability to test out of already learned material

  5. Have a choice of assignments when the class assignment is not challenging enough for them

The first three are good for gifted but are also necessary to some degree for all students. Differentiation is necessary in order to provide gifted students with an education that meets their developmental needs.

We’ve only covered the tip of the iceberg in this article.

For a comprehensive and detailed overview of what differentiation should ideally look like for you, consider the 6 Hour Core Training on Differentiation by by the esteemed Dr. Joyce Juntune.