One of the challenges we may face when teaching high ability learners is that sometimes we underestimate how quickly they may complete and master a lesson.
In these situations, many teachers have an alternative bag of tricks to keep students engaged. However, these activities can require unnecessary planning, transition time, and may even reinforce a student’s perception that school lessons are “too easy” and not intended for him/her. Before moving on to other things, teachers should consider whether simply nudging the lesson up a notch might better serve students’ needs.
No illusions. Here’s a little magic I’ve seen to up-level common grade school lessons in a blink…
1). Spellbinding Spelling
- Assignment: Put each of your spelling words in a sentence.
- Challenge: Choose five of your spelling words and write each word in a sentence. Every word in your sentence must begin with the same letter as your spelling word. Your sentence must make sense.
2). Zen for the Venn Diagram
- Assignment: Use a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast two subjects in your reading.
- Challenge: Explain why this comparison is interesting or important.
3). Character Trait Transformation:
- Assignment: Identify the character traits of the main character, using evidence from the text to support your answer.
- Challenge: Your character is moving and packing a suitcase. If your character could only pack three things, what would they be? Draw/describe these items and explain why each would be chosen. Use evidence from the text.
4). Levitating Main Idea/Details
- Assignment: Identify the main idea and key supporting details.
- Challenge: Write an 8-line poem that expresses emotions or feelings about the main idea.
5). Conjuring Context Clues:
- Assignment: Guess the definition of the underlined word using the context clues in the sentence . (Context clues are words in a sentence that help readers to infer the meaning of a word by providing a definition or explanation of the underlined word, a synonym, or an antonym. )
- Challenge: Write a sentence using the underlined word that provides a context clue about its meaning. Identify your context clue and how it helps the reader to infer the word’s meaning. (Note: The teacher may assign a challenge vocabulary word from a student’s reading or a list.)
1). Computation Capers
- Assignment: Add/subtract all of the multi-digit numbers. Check your work using inverse operations.
- Challenge: Choose one or two problems. Arrange the digits to create a new problem with the largest/smallest possible sum/difference. Solve that problem. Explain how you know that you have found the largest sum/difference.
2). Word Problems Presto-Chango
- Assignment: Solve the word problem.
- Challenge: Look at the word problem that you just solved. Create a new problem that (1) requires the solver to solve two more math problems in order to find the answer; or (2) contains different numbers, but has the same answer.
3). Area/Perimeter Transformation
- Assignment: Find the Area/Perimeter of all of the shapes on the worksheet.
- Challenge: Find the total area/perimeter of all of the shapes on the worksheet. Create a drawing that has the total area/perimeter as the shapes on the page. (Your drawing does/does not have to be to scale.)
4). Fraction Flip
- Assignment: Solve the problems that use fractions.
- Challenge: Create a lesson that teaches a student how to solve one of the fraction problems in this assignment. Make sure that you explain why the student should do each step. Now “flip” roles—become the teacher and teach your lesson to a group of students.
5). Astounding Rounding
- Assignment: Round the numbers to the nearest _____.
- Challenge: Choose three of the problems you solved. When would you need to round numbers like this in your everyday life? For three of the problems, create an example from real life when rounding the numbers in the problem may make things astoundingly easier!
(They say a good magician never reveals his tricks. But sometimes differentiating for high ability learners requires just a nudge, and no magic at all.)