TeachersFirst's Gifted in any Classroom: General Tools for Differentiating Academic Content
This collection of resources provides general tools and information about differentiating for gifted students in the regular classroom in all subject areas and grade levels.
Differentiating doesn’t mean giving gifted students more work. It means offering them different, more appropriate tasks and challenges that go deeper or make broader connections. This will look different in different classrooms, depending grade level and course content. In some classes, students may be permitted to test out of material (via pretest) and move on to the next chapter (acceleration). In other classes, differentiating may include an enrichment unit or challenge beyond the regular curriculum. Another excellent way to differentiate is with open-ended projects that extend the curriculum. See ideas on the Respecting Creativity page and resources.
Be sure to read specific suggestions about gifted students in the resource reviews. Explore the TeachersFirst Editors’ Choice “best” pretesting tools for students to “test-out” of certain curriculum. Find rubrics for differentiating expectations and requirements. Other resources include personalized, K-8 differentiation based on Common Core standards, resources that offer leveled work in all subjects, an activity generator linked to Bloom’s Taxonomy, and a site to find higher level courses, including college level.
Create a differentiated "center" on your elementary classroom computer by organizing colored tiles based on difficulty levels (see Symbaloo). Offer differentiated resources on your class web page so students can access them without your help both in and out of class. If you simply want to offer a quick challenge, don't miss the Mindstretchers on TeachersFirst.
For more specific subject-area tools, try:
In the ClassroomYou will want to use Symbaloo Learning Paths for many different types of classroom instruction! Create lesson plans to differentiate learning and assign based on student needs and interests. Embed a lesson on your class website for students to complete at home. Using this site allows you to create a clear and concise learning path for any lesson. Share it on an interactive whiteboard with students as you follow through any learning path. Be sure also to include a link to the lesson on your class website for students to use throughout the unit and as a review. Use Symbaloo Lesson Plans as enrichment for independent learning for advanced students, or for remediation with students needing additional help. This site is perfect for use with ENL/ESL students - include links and activities to resources in their native language or add tools for practicing English. There are too many uses for Symbaloo Lesson Plans to include here, be sure to take the time to learn how to create and use this wonderful tool with your students!
GradesK to 12
In the ClassroomYou may not always be able to pretest at the start of a new unit, and sometimes an informal assessment will tell you that a student is ready to move beyond the regular curriculum content right away. You may want to wait a day or two before offering a retest, since many truly gifted students will absorb or even seem to "intuit" the full unit of content very quickly after a short exposure. The great thing about using online pretests is that once you create them, you have them for the next year. Consider teaming up with other teachers in your subject/grade to build a library of pretests that you can share.
GradesK to 12
In the ClassroomOffer individualized rubrics for every project so each student can demonstrate appropriate expertise. These rubrics are perfect to use in the heterogeneous classroom where you might have a mix of ESL/ELL, gifted, and learning support students. Many of these activities are ideal for differentiating for your gifted students and providing challenges more suited to their ability, creativity, and thought process.
GradesK to 8
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In the ClassroomCreate a classroom account. Use MobyMax during centers, for nightly homework, or computer lab time. Share with parents as an excellent resource for practicing math, reading, writing, grammar, science, and vocabulary skills at home. Use the pre-testing features at the beginning of the school year to get students started at the correct levels. Use this tool to differentiate for all students. Your gifted students can pretest out of material already learned and receive activities and instruction at their individual level. Be sure to bookmark this site to use with all levels of students.
GradesK to 6
In the ClassroomShare this site on your interactive whiteboard or projector, demonstrate how to use the specific tool/activity. Create a learning center on your whiteboard or on individual laptops and allow students to try it out on their own. List this as a student and parent resource on your classroom website. Use this site to informally assess skills to tell you which students to allow to do alternative work or go ahead. Allow your gifted students to explore new concepts while providing necessary reinforcement for those learners that need a technology-inspired method to help master learning goals. This is an excellent tool for differentiating. Provide as an anticipatory guide for new units.
GradesK to 12
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In the ClassroomBe sure to know the URL's of the resources you are planning to share or have them open in other tabs to copy/paste. To share you must be able to copy/paste URLs (web addresses). Have older students create their own webmixes, but this resource is best used as a teacher sharing tool for sharing links, RSS feeds, and other resources for students to use in specific projects or as general course links. If shared with the world, the webmix can be viewed by others and is public.
Create a webmix of the most used sites for your class and first demonstrate how the webmix works on a projector or interactive whiteboard if you have special instructions or color coding for its use. Some examples include links to copyright free images, online textbooks, or online tools such as Google Docs, ThingLink, Prezi, and more. Link to teacher web pages, webquests, resource sites for your subject, and any other resource that is helpful for students. Consider creating a login for the whole class to update with suggestions from class members. Use this AS your class website. Color code the tiles on a webmix for younger, non-reader, or ESL/ELL students. For example, color each subject differently from the others. Differentiate by color coding varying levels of skills practice at a classroom computer center or to distinguish homework practice sites from in-class sites. Differentiate difficulty levels using the various colors enabling you to list resources for both your learning support students and gifted students and all in between. Use color to organize tools for different projects or individual students. You may want to share Symbaloo EDU with parents at Back to School Night and the color-coding system for differentiation. This will help parents (and students) find what sites are ideal for their levels. Be sure to link or embed your webmix on a computer center in your room for easy access. Share a review site webmix for parents and students to access at home before tests, as well. Team up with other teachers in your subject/grade to create chapter by chapter webmixes for all your students. If you are just starting with Symbaloo, this is a simple way to differentiate, however, Symbaloo now has a Lesson Plans tool (also called Learning Paths), reviewed here, to help you differentiate for individual or groups of students.
Challenge your gifted students to curate and collaborate on their own webmixes as a curriculum extension activity on topics such as climate change or pros and cons of genetically engineered food. They can use color coding to sort sites by bias (or neutrality) as well as to group subtopics under the overall theme. Use the student-made webmixes with other students to raise the overall level of discussion in your class or as an extra credit challenge. If you embed the webmix in a class wiki, all students can respond with questions and comments for the gifted students to moderate and reply, creating a student-led community of learners.