Meeting the needs of gifted students does not need to be an all-consuming task. One of the easiest ways to better understand how to provide challenging material is to conduct informal, whole-class assessments on a regular basis.
For example, before beginning any unit, administer the end-of-the-unit test. Students who score better than 80 percent should not be forced to "relearn" information they already know. Rather, these students should be given parallel opportunities that are challenging. I generally offered these students the option to complete an independent project on the topic or to substitute another experience that would meet the objectives of the assignment, i.e. taking a college/distance course.
With areas of the curriculum that are sequential, such as mathematics and spelling, I recommend giving the end-of-the-year test during the first week of school. If you have students who demonstrate competency at 80 percent or higher, you will save them an entire year of frustration and boredom if you can determine exactly what their ability level is and then offer them curriculum that allows them to move onto the next grade.
Formal assessments can be extremely helpful, however, they are expensive, and there is generally a backlog of students waiting to be tested. Conducting informal assessments is a useful and inexpensive tool that will offer you a lot of information.
©2003 Davidson Institute for Talent Development
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