English language arts for the gifted and talented

Natalie Simard (PED 3177 A)

Managing Gifted and Talented Students in a Combined Classroom Setting
"A gifted program not only gives students a sound foundation in verbal, reading, and critical thinking skills but allows them to use these skills in an interdisciplinary fashion." - Scher

While some schools provide gifted programs for students to attend, not all students who are gifted or talented are formally classified as such. Furthermore, many school used a combined classroom setting where gifted students are placed in the same class as mainstream students. The following are some strategies, tips, and activities in managing gifted and talented students within this type of classroom setting.


The Ministry of Ontario defines "giftedness" in their Special Education documment as:

"..an unusually advanced degree of general intellectual ability that requires differentiated learning experiences of a depth and breadth beyond those normally provided in the regular school program to satisfy the level of educational potential indicated."

Frederick B. Tuttle, Jr. (1979), writing about English programs for gifted students, identifies four principles for developing an effective program[1] :
  1. Design a curriculum that builds upon the characteristics of the intellectually gifted. While all students need to develop "basic skills," gifted students can often acquire these as they develop their other, more advanced abilities.
  2. Provide for continuity. Teachers and administrators at all grade levels should arrive at a consensus regarding the different components of the program and the procedures for carrying it through the grades.
  3. Select teachers on the basis of their ability to work with the intellectually gifted and the talented. These teachers should be vitally interested in the gifted, highly intelligent, and emotionally secure, and possess advanced knowledge of their subject matter.
  4. Evaluate success within the program on the quality of the work produced rather than by tests of mastery of lower level skills. This will often necessitate the design of new evaluation instruments and procedures, since most of the tests currently being used measure acquisition of knowledge rather than ability to apply knowledge in creative ways.

Concept of UDL

A classroom that implements Universal Design for Learning is "specifically planned and developed to meet the special needs of a variety of students... It is flexible, supportive, and adjustable." [2] This is a key concept when dealing with a combined class. While you must develop a lesson plan for the majority of the class (who are considered mainstream), you must also attend to the gifted and talented students so that they do not get bored or feel neglected.

David Rose on Universal Design (Podcast)


Curriculum tells us what to teach while differentiation helps teachers decide how to teach it.[3]

"Gifted students require instruction and scaffolding for their learning but may not require the level of repetition and support needed by other less able students." - MacLeod

Podcast on Differentiation to Gifted Students

You can differentiate any or all of the following:
  • content (what the student is going to learn)
  • process (the activities)
  • product (accomplishments after the learning)
• be abstract, complex, varied
• involve issues of organisation,
study of people, methods of inquiry.
• involve higher order thinking processes
• promote creative and critical thinking
• involve group interaction
• have variable levels of pacing
• allow for freedom of choice.
• involve real world problems
• require real deadlines
• involve appropriate assessment and evaluation
• involve extended or accelerated outcomes
• be flexible and open
• encourage independent and intrinsic learning
• encourage complex and abstract thought

(More can be found here at the...)

Learning Approaches

Cooperative learning approach: Students with the same abilities are placed in small groups.
  • In a combined classroom, it may be advantageous to group the gifted and talented students together for most assignments as their assignments will most likely be modified from the mainstream version.

Project-based approach: Teacher facilitates learning through projects which might require them to analyse data, process, and present the information found in various ways such as posters, books, collages, etc.
  • With independent work, gifted and talents students can choose topics they are interested in as well as more intricate topics while still participating in the mainstream class project style.

Problem-based approach: Teachers present students with realistic and believable problem that needs to be solved through acquiring a new skill.
  • Once you have established each student's ability and interest, you can target those in a problem-based assignment.

Cooperative Learning
Responsibility, positive interdependence,
able to clarify and understand important concepts,
learn appropriate social behaviour
Give's student's work meaning as knowledge is acquired by student,
Work is based on real issues, experience authentic tasks in real-life
context. Ability to choose subject of own interest and level.
Use authentic and personally relevant situations/problems.



Gifted and talented students often benefit from activities that are different from activities for mainstream students. These "alternative activities should extend basic concepts and allow students to connect their personal interests to the course curriculum. Extra credit activities should be avoided as they send a message that more work is required." [4]


Within a integrated class, teachers have several options of enriching the gifted and talented students in their classroom. Here are some examples as to how:

external image sq_but_1.gifSophistication: Introduce students to the theories and concepts that underlie the content being learned by class.
  • Example: While discussing Shakespeare, gifted students are asked to consider the various theories on "who was Shakespeare" and write a response either choosing an identity from theorists or writing about the question in general.
external image sq_but_1.gifNovelty: Students explore required curriculum content from different and unique perspectives
  • Example: Students are learning about media literacy in class. Gifted students write from various age perspectives on how they would respond to an ad instead of responding from their own age perspective.
external image sq_but_1.gifAuthentic Problem Solving: Students apply their knowledge and skills to problems that are significant to their own lives.
  • Example: When studying media literacy and the effect of advertisement, gifted students are asked to create a commercial directed toward their peers that demonstrates how media is used in various ways to target them and how to activity be aware of it when exposed to the various forms.
external image sq_but_1.gifIndependent Studies: Students pursue an area of personal interest or investigate a topic from the curriculum on their own.
  • Example: Students select a character from the book covered in class and prepare a resume for that character based on the knowledge of the book.
external image sq_but_1.gifCompacting: After discerning what the student already knows of the unit, provide assignments so the student can master unfamiliar material. Then provide enrichment activities in the compacted area.
  • Example: When a students has already read Twelfth Night and understood most of the concepts and themes within the text as they appear in the curriculum, assign readings on Shakespeare's clowns, sword fighting, insults, how to sing Shakespeare, and/or other related, but unfamiliar topics.
external image sq_but_1.gifAbility Grouping: Students work with their intellectual peers on a regular, part-time basis, within the classroom or outside the classroom, providing social and emotional support, as well as intellectual stimulation.
  • Example: An advanced reading group, perhaps with peers from other classes, is formed where additional or more advanced novels/stories/poems are read and discussed.
external image sq_but_1.gifMentor Programs: Students apply their knowledge and skills in a hands-on, real-life setting under the supervision of an adult in the community.
  • Example: A student with considerable skill in writing might be partnered with a local journalist who invites him or her to the newspaper headquarters to see how writing and editing for a paper is done and for hands-on experience of journalism.
external image sq_but_1.gifOpen-ended Assignments: Students are given options for completing an assignment and decide how far to take their learning.
  • Example: In a unit on a The Great Gatsby, students are provided optional/additional assignments that require more writing or research. Students can be asked to explore key concepts in creative ways such as through drama or multimedia.
external image sq_but_1.gifTiered Assignments: You prepare a range of distinct assignments, from fairly simple to complex, all focusing on key learning outcomes from the lesson or units. Students may be assigned a particular activity or activities, you may select one activity to be completed by everyone and allow students to choose another, or students may choose the level of assignments they will complete.

(Concepts found in Hutchinson[5] )

Independent Study Contracts

Contracts: Written agreements between teachers and students that outline what students will learn, how they will learn it, in what period of time, and how they will be evaluated. Contracts allow students to engage actively in the decision-making process, directing their course of study (Parke, 1989, pp.70-71).

Unit: Shakespeare
Outcomes (same for whole class): To understand plot, characters, and themes of Romeo and Juliet. To understand the difference between monologue and soliloquy.

Project Description:
Compare Romeo and Juliet to alternate stories (literature, poetry, television, or movies) and draw parallels between the stories. Select two alternate stories from ones explored and discuss how closely they follow Shakespeare's play. Are the same elements involved? Does it end the same? Why or why not? Discuss whether time/era is a factor to the telling of Romeo and Juliet. Present one of the alternative stories in class

The student agrees to work on the selected project according to the following guidelines while the remainder of the class is involved with the teacher.

Student must complete class essay and quizzes.
Student must have alternate stories approved before investigation begins.

Teacher's signature:
Student's signature:

Lesson Plan Example

Class Task: Decoding Soliloquies
Go over, in class, one of Hamlet's soliloquies and demonstrate to the students how to decode it and draw conclusions. In groups, students are given another soliloquy from Hamlet or other character and asked to decode and draw conclusions in a similar fashion.

Gifted/Talented Task: Character Study
"You are the director of a new stage or film production of the play. It is your first meeting with the cast. In an informal discussion, explain to the cast what the audience learns about Hamlet through his soliloquies (be specific). Choose one of the five, and indicate to the actor playing Hamlet, how he should ‘bring it to life’. Again, be specific and refer to lines, words etc.

The Royal Shakespeare web sites provide video interviews with directors and actors that students may find useful in completing this task."

Another example is "How did we find Nemo?" - The unit is designed to extend gifted students within the context of a mainstream English class. It explores: the use of anthropomorphism to investigate human nature; documentaries as text; and the technology and processes employed in creating and marketing the film.


The following video is an example of how creative gifted and talented students can be. The students in the following video took it upon themselves to create a video for their gifted English class. What is interesting to note is their enthusiasm and their creativity, not necessarily the actual activities they point out. This is a video to show the potential of gifted and talented students and how teachers can enhance their learning by tapping into their enthusiasm and challenging them in non-traditional ways.

Resourceful and Enterprising Learners is a video that shows how gifted and talented students can use their skills to enrich the rest of the school's environment. By being responsible for designing and creating lesson videos for other courses in their school, the students feel responsible and motivated to do a good job. Not only are they contributing to the school as a whole, but they are also furthering their education and going beyond curriculum in order to provide a fully developed lesson for teachers and their peers.


  • Regarding seating arrangements, it is always best to scatter the gifted and talented students throughout the room instead of placing them on one side. The reason for this is that gifted/talented students tend to be more participatory in class and a teacher's attention may be drawn to one side more than the other if that is where all the gifted/talented students are. Also, the distribution also encouraged other students to participate through peer example
  • Guidelines for Evaluating Alternative Work
  • Developing Learner Outcomes for Gifted Students

Helpful Resources

Hoagies - Gifted Education Page
Prufrock Press Inc - The resource for gifted, advanced, and special needs learners
Gifted and Talented Education - professional development package for Teachers
ABC Ontario - Association for Bright Students of Ontario
Ministry of Ontario IEP Resource Guide - This guide is intended to help teachers and others working with students with special needs to develop, implement, and monitor high-quality IEPs
EDGO - Educators for the Gifted Organization
New York Times - NYT's Education "Learning Network"
Word of the Day - Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

  1. ^ Education Resources Information Center (ERIC Digestl)
  2. ^ Ontario Ministry of Education. Education For All. Toronto: Ontario Education, 2005.
  3. ^ Ontario Ministry of Education. Education For All. Toronto: Ontario Education, 2005.
  4. ^ Providing Curriculum Alternatives to Motivated Gifted Students
  5. ^ Hutchinson, Nancy L. Inclusion of Exceptional Learners in Canadian Schools. Toronto: Pearson Canada, 2010. pp. 77