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Meeting the Needs of Gifted Learners in the K-12 Classroom

Catherine Zink


Course Description: Knowledge and practical strategies of how to respond to the needs of gifted learners in the regular education classroom. Explore the foundations of how gifted learners think, their social-emotional needs, and strategies of differentiation including Project-Based Learning, Tiered Assignments, and Real-World Application.


  1. Differentiate content, process, product, assessment, and environment based on student readiness level, learning profile, and interest. (Ohio gifted competency (OGC) a, b)
  2. Adapt and/or create extension or replacement of the general education curricula through Flexible Instructional Grouping, Tiered Assignments, Compacting, Individual Planning, Learning Contracts, Project-Based Learning and Real-World Application as vehicles to meet the needs of gifted learners. (OGC b,c)
  3. Describe the cognitive processes of gifted learners.
  4. Identify the social and emotional needs of gifted learners and how to address their impact on student learning. (OGC d)
  5. Identify and respond to characteristics and needs of gifted learners. (OGC e)
  6. Defend the vital role of differentiation. (OGC a)
  7. Apply knowledge of gifted learner characteristics to plans, classroom lessons, and assessments. (OGC g)
  8. Describe the imperative nature of pre-assessment to support the needs of gifted learners. (OGC a, f, g)
  9. Design alternative assessments for gifted learners. (OGC g)




Instructional Methods:

Readings, class discussion, presentations, group activities, videotapes, brainstorming, analysis and evaluation, and reflection/journaling.




Azzam, A. (2016). Six Strategies for Challenging Gifted Learners. Retrieved from

Betts, G., & Neihart, M. (2017). Profiles of Gifted, Talented, Creative Learners. Retrieved from

Delisle, J. (2015). Differentiation doesn’t work. Education Week, 34(15), 28.

Delisle, J., & Galbraith, J. (2015). When Gifted Kids Don’t Have All the Answers. (2nd ed.). free spirit Publishing.

Heacox, D. (2012). Differentiating Instruction in the Regular Classroom. free spirit Publishing.

Lintner, T., & Puryear, A. (2015). Inquiry-Based Learning for Gifted Students in the Social Studies Classroom. Retrieved from

Lockhart, K. (2019). What To Expect When You’re Expected To Teach Gifted Students. Prufrock Press Inc.

Moon, T., & Tomlinson, C.A. (2013). Assessment and student success in a differentiated classroom. ASCD.


Smith, K.J. (2011) Challenging Units for Gifted Learners. Prufrock Press, Inc.


Sousa, D.A., & Tomlinson, C.A. (2018). Differentiation and the brain: How neuroscience supports the learner-friendly classroom. ASCD.

Stanley, T. (2012). Project-Based Learning for Gifted Students. Prufrock Press, Inc.

Tomlinson, C. (2015). To the contrary: Differentiation does work. Education Week, 34(19), 26.

Tomlinson, C. (2014). The Differentiated Classroom. (2nd ed.) ASCD.


Tomlinson, C. (2017). How to Differentiate Instruction. ASCD.


Tomlinson, C. & Moon, T. (2013). Assessment and Student Success in a Differentiated Classroom. ASCD.


Winebrenner, S. (2018). Teaching Gifted Kids In Today’s Classroom. free spirit Publishing.


Day One



What is Gifted Education?

Student share: What are the greatest challenges you face teaching Gifted Learners in your regular education classroom?

Discussion: “Of all the students you are teaching in a given class, which group do you think will probably learn the least this year?” (Winebrenner, Teaching Gifted Kids in Today’s Classroom)

Why do Gifted Learners need special consideration? (Winebrenner, Teaching Gifted Kids in Today’s Classroom)

  • Misconceptions
  • Bell Curve

Cognitive Processes of Gifted Learners (Smith, Challenging Units for Gifted Learners)

  • Brain Research
  • What distinguishes gifted thinking from typical thinking?


  Characteristics of Gifted Learners

  • Learning
  • Behavioral
  • Underachiever or Selective Consumer? (Delisle & Galbraith, When Gifted Kids Don’t Have All the Answers)

Needs of Gifted Learners (Lockhart, What to Expect When You’re Expected To Teach Gifted Students)                   

  • Profiles of Gifted Learners and what this means in the classroom. (Betts & Neihart, Profiles of Gifted, Talented, Creative Learners)
  • The Successful
  • The Creative
  • The Underground
  • The At-Risk
  • The Twice Exceptional
  • The Autonomous Learner

Break into groups: Read and share characteristics and needs of assigned profile

Student Share: Which of these profiles have you experienced in your classroom?


Day Two

If learning is defined as “forward progress from a student’s entry level at the beginning of each school year to her/his achievement level at the end of the school year,” what do Gifted Learners need?

Differentiation is imperative in the classroom!

Differentiating Content, Process, Product, Environment, and Assessment based on Student interest, Readiness level, and Learning profile. (Tomlinson, The Differentiated Classroom and How to Differentiate Instruction)

SCAMPER – Creative thinking checklist

Strategies (Heacox, Differentiating Instruction in the Regular Classroom)

  • Flexible Instructional Grouping
  • Tiered Assignments
  • Learning Contracts
  • Project – Based Learning
  • Extension Activities
    • Checklist
    • Rules

Compacting – Essential Seven Steps

Individual Planning


Differentiating for Gifted Learners in specific subjects:


  • Menus
  • Contract
  • Compared to Whole Group Instruction


  • Web
  • Model
  • Etymology activities
  • Super Sentences
  • Self-Selected Independent Study


  • Acceleration
  • Enrichment in the regular education classroom
    • Divergent thinking
    • Individual projects
    • Group activities that connect previously mastered concepts with real world events and/or scenarios

Science and Social Studies

  • Inquiry Based Learning
  • Real world situations

Break into groups according to the subject(s) teachers are currently teaching.

Read and discuss subject specific article.

Share ideas, anticipated problems and solutions.


Taxonomy of Thinking (Winebrenner, Teaching Gifted Kids in Today’s Classroom)

  • Role in Differentiation
  • Tiered Learning Experiences
  • Curriculum Differentiation Chart
  • Tiered Lesson Planning Chart Example
  • Building Blocks to Think

How do I meet my state’s standards if I am not teaching every standard to Gifted Learners?


Day Three

Grouping Gifted Students for Learning (Heacox, Differentiating Instruction in the Regular Classroom and Winebrenner, Teaching Gifted Kids in Today’s Classroom)

Cooperative Learning

  • Negatives
  • Solutions
  • Benefits
  • Which tasks are conducive to Cooperative Learning Groups for Gifted learners?
  • Gifted Student Groups vs. Heterogenous Groups

Cluster Grouping

***Separating Gifted Learners into several classrooms forces teachers to choose between meeting the needs of one group while sacrificing the needs of the other.

  • How does it work?
  • The Schoolwide Cluster Grouping Model (SCGM)
    1. Visual Model
    2. Benefits for ALL students, teachers, and districts
    3. Commonly asked questions

Break into teams of two or three.

Create a model Cooperative Learning Experience.

Prepare to present to class (poster, power point, presentation mode of choice)


Assessment (Tomlinson & Moon, Assessment and Student Success in a Differentiated Classroom)

  • To guide and enhance learning
  • Must drive instruction

Preassessments:Provide diagnostic information used to adjust instruction.             

Formative Assessments :  These emphasize learning, not grading.

How do these differ for Gifted Learners?

Pre-assessment and Formative Assessment Strategies

  • One-Pagers
  • Show Me
  • Student Observations
  • Ticket Out the Door
  • Journaling


Summative Assessments: used to evaluate growth and reflect student success with mastering the required standards

  • End of chapter or unit
  • End of quarter, semester, or year
  • Report cards and transcripts
  • AYP


  • Roll the Die
  • Rubrics



Day Four

Article Analysis:

Delisle, J. (2015). Differentiation doesn’t work. Education Week, 34(15), 28.

Tomlinson, C. (2015). To the contrary: Differentiation does work. Education Week, 34(19), 26.



Students present developed lesson specific to the subject area he/she currently teaches demonstrating understanding of a Tiered Assignment for three different levels, one being Gifted Learners.


Students present modified lesson plan demonstrating the strategy of curriculum compacting.




Course Assignments


  1. Group Presentation – 20%

Groups present findings from subject-specific articles addressing Differentiating for Gifted Learners in Math, Reading, Science, and Social Studies, sharing ideas and anticipated problems and solutions. (Time allotted during class time for group work)


  1. Lesson – 20%

Students prepare a lesson to be shared the last day of class. Expected content includes a lesson specific to the subject area he/she currently teaches demonstrating understanding of a Tiered Assignment for three different levels, one being Gifted Learners.


  1. Lesson – 20%

Students modify and present a previously taught lesson plan demonstrating the strategy of curriculum compacting.



  1. Differentiated Lesson – 20%

Students choose a previously taught lesson, differentiate either content, process, product, or assessment, based on either student readiness, interest, or learning profile.


  1. Gifted Learner Strategies – 20%

Choose and research one of the presented strategies. Describe the strategy and explain how you will use it to meet the needs of Gifted Learners in your classroom.

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