The Opportunity to Learn Each Day: Including Students with Academic Talents

Students in a classroomI observed several types of students with academic talents during my years of classroom teaching. Sometimes students hid behind books in boredom; others were absent-minded and didn’t turn in their work on-time. Some students were highly creative and rarely turned in an assignment that followed the instructions, while others asked never-ending questions. Though these students did not look the same, they had the same need: the need to be challenged academically.

Every child deserves the opportunity to learn every day (Benbow, 2011).

This statement made me pause when I first read it a few years ago. At first glance, it seems obvious. Of course all students deserve the opportunity to learn! However, do all students learn something new every day—including those who are academically talented? What happens if they are not challenged?

The Importance of Challenging Work

Teachers play an important role in helping students learn how to work hard.

Because learning curriculum requires little effort for some advanced students, they miss the opportunity to learn important skills such as note-taking, studying, time management, or managing schoolwork—skills that impact them for the rest of their lives.

Consequently, academically talented students may drop out of advanced-level classes in high school because they are “too hard” or feel overwhelmed by the demands and pressures of college courses.  According to Dr. Carol Dweck at Sandford University, students must have the mindset that hard work—even struggle—is necessary when seeking out new challenges (Winebrenner & Brulles, 2012). Are teachers providing students who are academically talented the opportunities to struggle and to work hard, or do we insist they do work that is too easy?

Students need to be motivated to learn.

Imagine sitting in class for hours a day listening to information you are already know!

Some students learn to tune out the teacher and become “underachievers.” They find it easier to give up than to deal with boredom  (Bainbridge, 2018).  Students need to be engaged in appropriately challenging work or they will lose their motivation to work hard (Winebrenner & Brulles, 2012).

A Christian educator’s goal is to help each student develop his or her gifts to be used in God’s kingdom. As teachers, what can we do to engage, challenge, and motivate our students who have academic gifts?

Identifying Students

Student studyingIt’s important to identify which students are academically talented. Identification could be done through teacher recommendations, work samples, grades, and standardized test scores. Once identified, teachers must find ways to challenge academically talented students.

Rather than requiring a greater volume of work, advanced students need to go deeper into the curriculum.

For example, while the class essay writing assignment may be to summarize Henry Ford’s life, advanced students could go deeper by writing a paper about how automobiles changed the United States.

Teachers can also use pre-assessment to determine what to teach students with academic talents. Pre-assess students to see what curriculum content they have already mastered. Let them bypass that content and instead offer meaningful learning through compacting the curriculum, finding purposeful enrichment, offering choices, differentiating the curriculum, or using Bloom’s Taxonomy to create higher-level thinking questions and assignments (Cox, n.d.).

Although it isn’t practical to immediately change an entire curriculum, little steps can make a big difference and create a lasting impact for students!

Middle School Honors English Courses

One way that CLC Network comes alongside schools to support students with academic talents is through our online Middle School Honors English courses. For teachers who have an advanced or highly-motivated middle school student that needs to be challenged, CLC Network’s Honors 6th-, 7th-, or 8th-grade teacher-directed online courses may be a good fit. As the instructor, I work hard to differentiate the instruction and help students dive into research, descriptive, and persuasive writing. Our online courses offer opportunity for students to grow in community with kids who have academic gifts and/or similar abilities. You can learn more on our website, or by contacting me, Kristin Contant, via email at kcontant@clcnetwork.org.

Bibliography

Bainbridge, C. (2018, February 13). Very Well Family. Retrieved from Child’s Needs: Gifted youth have unique social and academic challenges.: https://www.verywellfamily.com/why-your-child-needs-an-appropriate-academic-setting-1449295

Benbow, C. (2011, October 11). Vanderbuilt University. Retrieved from Gifted children often don’t get the challenge they need: https://my.vanderbilt.edu/camillabenbow/news/gifted-children-often-dont-get-the-challenge-they-need/

Cox, J. (n.d.). Teachhub.com. Retrieved from Teaching Strategies to Aid Your Gifted Students: http://www.teachhub.com/teaching-strategies-aid-your-gifted-students

Winebrenner, S., & Brulles, D. (2012). Teaching Gifted Kids in Today’s Classroom. Minneapolis: Free Spirit.

Class photo by Megan Soule and student photo by Wadi Lissa on Unsplash


Passionate about inclusive education? Make a contribution to CLC Network to help us create inclusive communities for persons of all abilities.


Kristin ContantKristin Contant is the CLC Network online courses coordinator.

 

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