What is differentiation?
Differentiation is about altering the curriculum, teaching style, or pace of instruction based on student need. Each student comes to school with different background knowledge, learning style, and readiness level. It is the teacher’s job to determine how to present the information to be learned in a way that maximizes understanding. Differentiation can help teachers alter how they teach to reach more students.
Gifted and talented students come to class with their own unique learning needs. These students learn material after 1 -2 repetitions rather than the 8-12 repetitions most students need to lean new information. Also, gifted learners tend to already know about 50% of the material to be taught in a school year on the first day of school.
What does this mean for gifted students in your classroom? Teachers should plan lessons keeping in mind that some students may already know the information. An alternative assignment that goes deeper into the topic for these students should be part of the plan before the unit or lesson begins. Also, allowing students to move on when they can show mastery of new learning is important for these students. All students should be able to learn something new in school every day. When students are required to stay on a topic when they can show mastery, they are just wasting learning time.
This is a valuable fable I have found that explains why differentiation is so important for gifted students.