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This article by Joyce VanTassel-Baska offers more than 100 curriculum ideas for gifted children. Ideas are geared for educators and organized by subject. In addition to academic subjects, there are suggestions for developing creativity as well as social skills and leadership.

Author: VanTassel-Baska, J.
Publisher: College of William and Mary Center for Gifted Education

Recommendations are intended for consideration by those who know the child well and can make informed decisions about the relevance and practical application of a recommendation to an individual child’s aptitude, interest, and needs.

Language Arts, Reading

  • Use an inquiry-based study of appropriate children’s literature (e.g., Junior Great Books).
  • Select biographies and books in the content areas (including subjects dealing with multicultural issues) for supplementary reading.
  • Encourage and provide time to pursue free reading based on student interests.
  • Individualize a reading program that diagnoses reading level and prescribes reading material based on that level.
  • Form a literary group of students with similar interests for discussion.
  • Provide literature that is broad-based in form (myths, non-fiction, biography, poetry, etc.) rich in language and provides role models for emulation.
  • Utilize children’s literature that involves finding solutions to scientific, environmental, and mathematical problems or mysteries.
  • Encourage participation in library-based programs.
  • Introduce student to new genre of books (e.g., science fiction).
  • Provide the opportunity for author study by having the child read several books by the same author.
  • Provide the opportunity for topic study by having the child read several books on the same topic and contrasting authors and writing styles.


  • Use a writing program that encourages elaboration and incorporation of ideas from literature into stories.
  • Develop expository writing skills.
  • Encourage extra-curricular experiences that are language-based such as school paper or yearbook.
  • Encourage personal journal writing.
  • Encourage use of a wide variety of words in writing through use of thesaurus and dictionary.
  • Suggest keeping a journal for “word of the day” or “word of the week”. 18. Encourage parents to transcribe child’s stories at home.
  • Have students draw pictures to illustrate their stories and develop titles for them.
  • Use tape recorders to initially record a story and transcribe it later.
  • Encourage free story building; provide students with a set of givens (character, plot pieces, a setting)
  • Have students respond in writing to a piece of music, a picture, or a poem presented in class.
  • Allow young students the freedom to write without requiring accurate spelling and grammar.
  • Provide opportunities for students to read written work out loud to individuals or to small groups of students.
  • Encourage child to submit written work for publication to children’s magazines.
  • Attend available creative writing opportunities (e.g., special courses or writing camps).
  • Teach the writing process: prewriting, organizing, writing, editing and rewriting.
  • Use writing skills across the curriculum.
  • Teach word processing.

Verbal Expression

  • Include experiences in foreign language in the curriculum.
  • Use storytelling techniques.
  • Teach debating skills.
  • Focus on vocabulary building.
  • Develop word relationship skills (e.g., analogies, antonyms, homonyms).
  • Allow for oral reports before the class.
  • Encourage child to join debate team.
  • Provide opportunities for student to speak in public settings.
  • Encourage theater club participation.
  • Provide the opportunity for the child to act out what is read.
  • Teach oral presentation skills.


  • Focus on developing spatial skills and concepts through geometry and other media.
  • Focus on problem solving skills with appropriately challenging problems.
  • Use calculators and computers as tools in the problem-solving process.
  • Focus on logic problems that require deductive thinking skills and inference.
  • Emphasize mathematical concepts more and computational skills less.
  • Emphasize applications of mathematics in the real world through creation of special projects.
  • Emphasize algebraic manipulation.
  • Focus on the use of probability, estimation, statistics, and computer technology.
  • Apply mathematical concepts across the curriculum, for example, by having the child read and report on a book about a famous mathematician, assess the mathematical challenges of planning a Civil War battle or study a unit on the history of mathematics.
  • Facilitate the child’s attendance at career seminars in math.
  • Utilize a diagnostic-prescriptive approach to mathematics that allows the student to move at a fast pace and not be subject to instruction in skills already learned.
  • Begin college preparatory courses as soon as possible.
  • Teach the creative process in mathematics including problem finding and problem solving.
  • Encourage the student to participate in math related challenges such as Math Olympics, Math Counts, Virginia Math League and The Great Computer Challenge.
  • Allow student to substitute the 5 most difficult problems in a set for the 10 easiest.
  • Provide manipulatives such as pattern blocks, tangrams and Cuisenaire rods.
  • Utilize computer assisted drawing programs.
  • Assist the student in developing her/his own computer programs dealing with problem solving skills.
  • Provide opportunities for the study of computer technology.


  • Provide opportunities to visit museums of science and natural history.
  • Provide reading material that suggests experiments the child can try and also provide a balance between text and activities.
  • Help the child develop a scientific hobby like birdwatching, shell collecting, gardening, or electronics.
  • Provide opportunities for naturalistic observation at the beach, mountains, or local pond.
  • Provide well-made scientific toys.
  • Provide basic tools like a magnifying glass, binoculars, and a camera.
  • Assist the child in selecting biographies and autobiographies about scientists.
  • Consider summer science camp experiences.
  • Provide opportunities for interacting with practicing scientists.
  • Place a strong emphasis on the inquiry process.
  • Emphasize topics that place science in the context of human decision making and social policy.
  • Teach skills that help children to define a problem, make an hypothesis, and draw implications from data.
  • Teach the child to conduct literature searches.
  • Use open-ended questioning techniques.
  • Foster use of collaborative techniques by allowing students to work in small groups.
  • Establish a science mentorship program.
  • Explore educational programming at community facilities such as NASA and CEBAF.
  • Suggest the student volunteer in a hospital, doctor’s office, veterinary clinic, or science museum.
  • Review each December issue of Scientific American for science books for children.
  • Focus on problems that require deductive thinking skills and inference.
  • Teach critical thinking skills.

Social Studies

  • Provide opportunities for students to develop timelines.
  • Teach visual spatialization techniques.
  • Teach mapping strategies.
  • Teach metacognition.
  • Use puzzles and mazes.
  • Develop understanding of cultures.
  • Study the development of cities.
  • Develop geography skills and map making.
  • Develop cultural literacy around important historical events in American history and world history.
  • Develop an understanding of global interdependence.
  • Analyze primary documents, including the Declaration of Independence.
  • Teach critical thinking skills.
  • Assist the child in selecting reading in history, biography and historical fiction.
  • Foster discussion of social and environmental issues.


  • Practice skills of fluency, flexibility, elaboration, and originality.
  • Work on specific product development.
  • Prepare a skit or play for production.
  • Provide art appreciation opportunities.
  • Provide music opportunities.
  • Provide dramatic instruction.
  • Provide opportunities for dance and movement.
  • Teach role-playing.
  • Provide “collage” experience across art, music, literature.
  • Introduce various artistic forms.
  • Introduce various musical forms.
  • Use biographies of creative people.
  • Teach creative problem-solving.
  • Use brainstorming.
  • Provide exhibition space for student products.
  • Provide opportunities to illustrate school publications.
  • Allow the child to create new endings for stories read.
  • Encourage exploration of creative arts careers through library and guidance programs and contact with community members in the creative arts.
  • Suggest the child illustrate original stories.
  • Consider providing an artist mentor.
  • Provide unstructured activities, allowing the student to choose the medium of expression.

Leadership, Social Skills

  • Encourage leadership skills through work with small groups in academic settings.
  • Encourage leadership skills through work with student government, safety patrol or other school organizations and community groups such as Scouts, book clubs or church.
  • Explore leadership training programs for precollegiate students at local colleges and universities.
  • Assist the child in selecting biographies and autobiographies about high achievers.
  • Provide monitored opportunities for involvement in volunteer or social service work in the community or at school.
  • Provide the opportunity for the student to explore people oriented careers through mentorships, on-site observations, career fairs and research.
  • Provide support for the child as he/she copes with the inevitable frustrations and challenges in working with others to accomplish a goal.
  • Encourage the exploration of service oriented summer experiences such as camp counseling, recreation program assistance or hospital volunteer work.

Adapted from VanTassel-Baska, J. (1998). Excellence in educating gifted and talented Learners. Denver: Love.

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