Differentiated Instruction 

for Gifted Learners


 Olivia Friedman

Welcome Teachers & Parents!

Today I'm going to tell you a little bit about differentiated instruction (with a focus on gifted & talented learners). Over the course of this presentation, you'll learn what differentiated instruction is, why it's necessary, what it entails, how it's used, and discover some resources containing additional information.

Glad to have you along for the ride. 

Imagine the following scenario...

You've come up with a delicious one-dish dinner. You shopped for the freshest ingredients, prepared the meal according to recipe directions, paid attention to plating and made your food look absolutely scrumptious. 

-Example from Strategies for Differentiating Instruction: Best Practices in the Classroom by Julia L. Roberts, Ed.D. & Tracy F. Inman, Ed.D, page 1

Unfortunately, you didn't consider your dinner guests!

In attendance:

  • A vegetarian turned off by the smell of beef
  • A lactose-intolerant person considering the amount of cream in the sauce
  • An individual with food allergies trying to figure out whether you've used an item that causes them to break out in hives
  • An individual with gluten sensitivity who cannot eat the bread
  • A child who has eaten the same exact meal two days earlier and had the leftovers yesterday
  • Some other guests who love what you made

-Example from Strategies for Differentiating Instruction: Best Practices in the Classroom by Julia L. Roberts, Ed.D. & Tracy F. Inman, Ed.D, page 1

(In this scenario, the gifted or talented child is most akin to the child who has eaten the exact same meal  two days earlier and had the leftovers the day before.)

You may think you threw a successful dinner party.

But you didn't.

The problem is that you didn't understand your guests' needs.  

The same applies to kids. 

Kids too have needs.

They have ways in which they learn best. There are strategies that can be implemented to ensure that they are learning and growing each and every day. 

These strategies are called differentiation.

Differentiation is "the match of the curriculum and learning experiences to learners." (Roberts & Inman, 2013)

In other words, it's being a good dinner party host. 

Here's how to do differentiation well. 

1. Pre-Assess (ask your dinner guests whether they have any allergies, intolerances or food preferences) 

2. Based on information gathered, differentiate (there are many ways to do this, just as the dinner host might choose to make a course everyone in attendance can eat, prepare several main dishes, or offer enough variety that over the course of the meal everyone can find something to eat) 

How to Pre-Assess

There are a plethora of ways to pre-assess learners. The goal of pre-assessment is to find out what learners already know about a topic in order to determine next steps. 

Some common ways of pre-assessing learners are linked on the adjacent slide. 

How To Differentiate

There are several unique methods of differentiaton that can be used for gifted, talented or high-achieving students. Some of the most common are: 

  • Acceleration
  • Compacting/ Telescoping
  • Tiering 
  • Grouping

Teachers may choose to use one or all of these methods in the classroom as they see fit. 


Acceleration refers to students moving "through traditional curriculum at rates faster than typical" (NAGC site). Acceleration may include: 

  • Grade-skipping

  • Early entrance to kindergarten or college

  • Dual credit courses such as AP or IB

  • Subject-based acceleration (example: 5th grade student takes a Middle School math course)

Please click the adjacent slide to read the National Association for Gifted Children's position statement on acceleration.

Compacting/ Telescoping

Compacting refers to a way of adjusting curriculum for "students who have already mastered the material to be learned, replacing content students know with new content, enrichment options or other activities" (NAGC site). Telescoping is an even more condensed form of compacting. 

Compacting can be used on:

  • An entire course
  • A particular unit

Please click the adjacent slide to read information from the National Association for Gifted Children's website on curriculum compacting. 

Tiering - Part 1

Tiering refers to leveling classroom activities by content, process or product. An example of tiering by content might include using National Geographic's Ladders reading series in the classroom. All of the students receive books that look the same from the outside (and contain the same graphics even on the inside!) In this way, students do not feel singled out or disrespected. However, the books are actually written at Beginner, Grade Level and Advanced levels. An Advanced Level book will feature more complicated sentence structure and harder vocabulary although the content covered remains the same. 

To learn more about National Geographic's Ladders series, click the adjacent slide. 

Tiering- Part 2

As aforementioned, tiering involves leveling by content, process or product. One interesting way of leveling is through creating choice boards or Tic-Tac-Toe grids featuring assignments at different levels of Bloom's Taxonomy. Suppose that the topic being studied was Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences. The first choice board might ask students to list the multiple intelligences, take a test and report the results of the intelligences where they measured highest or write a detailed summary of two of the multiple intelligences. In contrast, the second (harder) choice board might ask the student to critique Gardner's theory or to compare and contrast the theory of multiple intelligences to alternate ways of understanding people's learning profiles or personalities (Myer-Briggs, Enneagram). For more on tiered activities, see pages 8-9 in the adjacent slide.


Grouping may take several forms. A teacher may choose to group students by ability, achievement, interest or readiness level. Grouping gifted students together in a cluster offers an effective way for the teacher to differentiate during that particular unit or subject area. Going back to the example of the Ladders differentiated readers by National Geographic, the teacher could choose to create cluster groupings based on student reading level. This allows advanced students to be challenged while the teacher or support staff may be able to spend additional time with struggling readers. 

Please click the adjacent slide to read information from the National Association for Gifted Children on grouping. 

Now that you know about the methods for differentiating for gifted learners, how does the grading piece work? 

Think about when you go to the doctor...

The doctor checks your blood pressure, pulse, cholesterol levels, sugar levels & so on and you receive a detailed list of your results and numbers.

Your doctor would never average together all your numbers & give you one composite score.

-Example taken from Carol Ann Tomlinson's article "Grading and Differentiation: Paradox or Good Practice?"

Similarly, in the differentiated classroom

The child will receive three separate grades to reflect how s/he is doing in three areas:

1. Grade-Level Standards

2. Personal Growth

3. Work Habits 

A gifted student who has met or surpassed grade-level standards will receive an A on her report card. But she may receive a lower grade on personal growth (i.e. whether she is meeting her own potential and the level of standards she can master) or work habits if these are areas of difficulty. 

To learn more about this form of assessment, please read the adjacent article by Tomlinson.

Additional Links & Resources

for Curious Parents/ Teachers

Additional Links & Resources Cont'd

Thanks to Randee Blair

who taught me everything in this presentation!  

If you have further questions about the material, please find me on Twitter @OllyFriedman or email me at ofriedman@icja.org. I'll be happy to chat with you! 

Create a presentation like this one
Share it on social medias
Share it on your own
Share it on social medias
Share it on your own

How to export your presentation

Please use Google Chrome to obtain the best export results.

How to export your presentation

Differentiated Instruction for Gifted Learners

by ofriedman


Public - 7/18/16, 1:59 AM