Today, we are going to take a look at gifted kids in the regular classroom and compacting. The number one complaint that I hear from parents of gifted children is that their kids are bored. Rightly so! The gifted child needs approximately one to three repetitions of a concept before they achieve understanding, and slightly more for mastery. Contrast that with most children, who require seven to nine repetitions, and lower level children who need who knows how many repetitions! Consider your child sitting and experiencing those extra six to twenty repetitions beyond what they need. . . As a reward for demonstrating their understanding quickly, most often their prize is MORE of the same work!
You would be bored out of your mind, too. . . The end result is varied but sad. Gifted kids turn themselves off to teachers; they oftentimes are off task when the teacher looks to them, trying to "catch" them in goofing off or not understanding. Teachers try to trick the gifted child into proving that they really aren't as smart as they think they are. Gifted children also under perform. They are either tired of the extra work or permanently checked out. They have given up on school as a learning place. Do you see your gifted child in one of these places right now? It's not a good place to be. . .
What can we as parents and teachers do and advocate? Today, we are going to talk about curriculum compacting for the gifted student.
What is curriculum compacting? It means compacting and condensing the curriculum to the meat, and trimming away all the fat. With curriculum compacting, you are cutting out the needless repetition in a lesson, and getting to the heart of the objective. A typical school lesson consists of an introduction, the teacher doing examples on the board, the students practicing with a partner, the students practicing independently, and the students reviewing for homework. Sound familiar? Each step of the lesson includes at least a dozen repetitions of the task for a grand total of nearly fifty repetitions. How many does the gifted child need? One to three. . . They checked out way back when you were just introducing the lesson, because they thought they already knew what you were talking about.
A compacted lesson includes stating the new objective. Three examples of increasing difficulty demonstrated on the board. Three examples of varied difficulty with each child in the group responding on a small white board to demonstrate understanding. A practice activity with a handful of problems done independently and submitted. Then, students who are not demonstrating mastery are pulled separately for more instruction as needed. See the difference? If a child demonstrates mastery, they are free to move on to the next topic. Period. Full stop. Extra work is for children who need extra practice.
Another way to approach curriculum compacting is called "Most Difficult First". This works particularly well in a classroom of highly varied ability levels. It requires some advance preparation, but is highly successful. After teaching a lesson, the teacher puts the "challenge" on the board. They write the numbers of the five or so most difficult problems on the board, or circle them on the handout. Any child who can complete these more difficult problems is free to skip the others. This works well because all children have the option. The children who need more help will make themselves known by not finishing the most difficult problems correctly. The gifted students will be free to move on, having shown mastery, instead of being chained to the other thirty problems on the page. . .
Another successful compacting method I have used is pretesting. I do this most often in math. Students are given the option to pretest on the math concepts being covered. The pretest includes all the objectives that the unit will be covering. Students can take the pretest to test out of a level and move on in the curriculum. Most math curriculum offer several versions of a post test. I simply doctor one of the post tests to create a pretest. Any student that passes the pretest can move on to the next higher level of that concept.
As a final note- my greatest advice as an expert on gifted children is simple.
Stop giving extra work.
This is the number one step to take in getting gifted kids back into a learning state of mind. They don't need the extra work, you don't need the extra work, and it is not beneficial to them anyway. Studies have shown with repeated drilling, gifted children actually reduce their accuracy. When they have shown mastery- stop. That's it. Just stop. Let them choose another related activity, or have a variety of other mentally stimulating opportunities for them to choose from.
These are just a few strategies I have implemented in my classroom with great success. They are your's to fit to your students and your classroom. I'd love to hear other ways that the content is compacted to meet the needs of gifted learners!
**Most Difficult First is a strategy drawn from Susan Weinbrenner's book Gifted Kids in the Regular Classroom. Several strategies this week originated and/or are adopted from theories presented here. Check it out in my bookstore for blackline masters and more complete implementation instructions. As always, feel free to email me for tips and advice!**