An educator’s primary focus is to provide the very best educational learning experiences for the students. However, each student has various needs that must be addressed. This poses a challenge to the educator and requires careful planning to provide an engaging educational experience for multi-leveled students. Often times, educators may focus on the needs of learning disabled (LD) students who may have a behavioural or medical diagnosis that impede a their learning. Indeed, these student’s needs are priority, however, we must ask, what becomes of the twice-exceptional English Language Learners that are gifted and talented?
When teaching in an ELL context, the targeted focus is usually on improving students’ English and ensuring their language acquisition is on a proficient level to be able to access the content and function in the mainstream classroom. However, the focus on their talents, gifts, and uniqueness may not be planned for, nurtured or even developed.
The twice-exceptional group of gifted ELL’s needs can be met by utilizing five key strategies in the classroom that will ensure they are taught in ways that challenge, enrich, motivates and provides them with an equitable education.
Compacting the curriculum to allow flexibility
By compacting the curriculum, teachers can provide Gifted and Talented Students the opportunity to quickly complete the required curriculum content and provide access for them to engage in more academically rigorous content through enrichment activities that addresses their specific cognitive needs. For example, when a student has completed a set of calculations they can then find ways to apply this knowledge to real world situations that require higher order thinking problem- solving skills.
Create opportunities to assume ownership of learning
Allow gifted learners to assume ownership of their learning by having a student-centered decision-making process. Provide “Free Choice” Boards that are based on the students’ interest and educational needs, that are structured to include accelerated skills. Students will make the decision on which activities to complete based on their interest. The teacher is still guiding the process, but the student is choosing the learning expression.
Allow expression of opinions and exploration of points of view
The Gifted and Talented Learner tends to be quite expressive and opinionated in various genres. Allow this trait to shine by having open forums and debates on pertinent issues. Giving your gifted and talented students opportunities to compete with each other and engage in collaborative projects, can be both fun and challenging, it also meets their social needs, their desires to be heard and recognized, and to understand others viewpoints will be met.
Differentiate instruction that leads to research
Differentiation through curriculum acceleration allows G&T students to work toward problems they do not understand, creates stimulation for attaining knowledge, problem-solving flexibility in approach, and fosters creative thinking, while researching the unknown.
Have high expectations and encourage leadership
Teacher expectation should be high of the gifted and talented students but not unrealistic. The educator can maximize the students’ potential by encouraging them to advance and assist them in achieving success. One example is encouraging students to participate in extracurricular activities that will advance them in their area of giftedness, such as running for student office, publishing a newspaper to distribute, or starting a club. This will help to develop their natural leadership skills.
By Zoe R Green
Mrs Green is a highly qualified education professional. She has taught and held various leadership roles at the primary and secondary levels for over 17 years. She is the CEO of Exploration Plant, LLC, a for-profit business that provides science exploration summer camps and develops leadership skills in students.