Differentiated Instruction at Elementary and Middle School Level
In January 2001, Assembly Bill 2313 revised the educational code in California relating to gifted and talented students in that the core instruction must occur within the classroom rather than a pullout format. This means that your child will be receiving “differentiated”, or modified lessons on a regular basis as opposed to once a week “GATE” lesson. This transition was made in 2002 and is supported by current research and law.
The definition of differentiation in gifted education has been debated and refined over the years. It is the response to the unique characteristics of gifted students and an extension of the regular or core curriculum for the purpose of creating challenge in the learning opportunities for the gifted. It is a means by which curiosity is recognized and stimulated, and the vehicle in which students may study areas of the core curriculum in depth and venture into new and varied topics that go beyond the expectations of the core curriculum.
Differentiated instruction does:
* Provide a means by which curiosity is recognized and stimulated
* Provide alternative learning opportunities
* Recognize that gifted students have unique patterns of characteristics and interests
* Adjust learning goals based on their needs
Differentiated instruction is NOT:
* Additional class work or homework piled on the GATE student's plate
* Strictly entertaining or "fluff" projects that have no educational values
* Doing activities that are irrelevant to the California Content Standards
Differentiated instruction includes four strategies that are recognized and promoted by the California Department of Education and the California Association for the Gifted:
Acceleration/Pacing: The student moves faster through the pieces of the curriculum through self-pacing or material geared for a higher grade. This component is most frequently utilized in the mathematics discipline.
Depth: Students become true experts in a given area by delving into certain subjects with greater detail or elaboration. The student examines a topic by analyzing the patterns, trends, rules or ethics of an idea.
Complexity: The student explores the connections and relationships between ideas by relating concepts and ideas at a more sophisticated level. The student may analyze multiple solutions to problems and evaluate solutions from several points of view.
Novelty: By allowing students to exhibit creativity by initiating original projects, teachers challenge the students’ thinking in new and unusual ways. The student approaches areas of study in a personalized and non-traditional way.
This chart illustrates how these components of depth and complexity can play out in the classroom.
Teachers who have GATE clusters in their classrooms have attended a 5 day training concerning the different needs of gifted learners and are incorporating the above components into their lesson plans. Many of these teachers attend conferences and workshops of their own volition to reinforce these concepts.
GATE students are clustered together in the elementary classroom beginning in third grade. In middle school, GATE students are clustered in their core classes UNLESS AN HONORS OR PRE-AP CLASS EXISTS FOR THAT SUBJECT/GRADE. The current honors/Pre-AP classes on both middle school campuses are:
- Math 6A
- Math 7A
- Pre-AP Spanish (8th grade)
- Pre-AP English (8th grade)
- Pre-AP US History (8th grade)
At the High School Level:
At the high school level, GATE students have over 30 honors and Advanced Placement courses to choose from throughout their four years. It is important that GATE students in 8th grade take the placements exams necessary to enroll in freshmen honors courses. Contact your child's guidance counselor for the exact dates of these placement exams.