Thursday’s Tip: What about the kids who already know it?

Space Shuttle EndeavourThis question, “What about the kids who already know it?” might just be the MOST asked and MOST unanswered question in our schools today.  Of course, in a class of low readers, medium readers, and high readers, and all of those in between, this question is going to come up.  While we’re trying to throw a life-preserver to our struggling students help them meet grade level expectations, our high kids wait.  Whether your school has Response to Intervention (RtI), PLC (Personal Learning Communities), enrichment, or other programs designed to help meet ALL kids needs, this question is likely (hopefully!)  asked at one point or another.   So, what do the kids who ‘already know it’ need?  One thing is for sure.  They don’t need more reading, more stapling papers, or more watering plants.  But, they do need more…..

Projects: Not stapled worksheets, nor definitions to copy.  Real, authentic opportunities to solve problems, design, create, and apply their learning.  Afterall, they already know the gradelevel curriculum, so give them a chance to use what they know.  Example: Ask them to investigate a problem in the school and devise a plan to solve.  Math could get involved with measurement, analyzing data, adding up costs, or even creating graphs.

Mentors: Search in your community for people willing to come into your school and talk with kids about careers and future plans.  If you have a fifth grader who already knows the entire science curriculum why not let him or her meet with a mentor scientist and plan an experiment to carry out.

Independent Study: Let students design a project to research and carry out.  They pick the topic, design the project, create a timeline, and carry out the project.  Best of all?  They are highly motivated because it’s a project they chose to do.

Philanthropy: Let students research a world issue, choose a charity, and then design a philanthropy project to carry out.  Just planning the project will be a major learning activity, but the problem solving and creativity required to carry out a successful fund-raising activity will be the icing on the cake.

So, the next time you pre-test your students before a unit and have a small group or even one student that “already knows it,” provide them a new opportunity. Don’t hold them back while the others are trying to catch up. Let them go, challenge them, and give them a chance to experience the important struggle that leads to learning.  Then, suddenly that group known as “the kids who already know it” will be just like everybody else.  They will be learning, too.

This post was simultaneously published at TeacherFactory.com. Blogger and gifted teacher Krissy Venosdale has graciously given permission for us to share her work here on NT&L. Be sure to jump over to Teacher Factory to see what else Krissy is doing with her students.