How Can Teachers Use Curriculum Compacting To Improve Teaching And Learning For Gifted Students?

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Curriculum Compacting can dramatically reduce redundancy, and challenge gifted students…

All gifted learners are entitled to learning that respects their differences and meets their needs. But how can a classroom teacher find time and energy to provide this environment? The answer – Through the integration of effective strategies into everyday instruction.

Why meet their needs?
Before the gifted learner can embrace the challenge of a differentiated curriculum with higher level reasoning and advanced problem solving, it is essential for educators and parents to understand the importance of meeting the student’s affective needs. Most gifted children intensely feel their emotions, and some have trouble managing those emotions. Adjustment difficulties can be internal (personal), external (social), or both. Gifted education encompasses so many unique traits and attributes that it can make teaching and learning a rewarding experience for everyone involved in the process. One of the most important strategies a teacher can use is Curriculum Compacting.

What is Curriculum Compacting?
The process of identifying learning objectives, pre-testing students for prior mastery of these objectives and eliminating needless teaching practice if previous mastery can be documented is called Curriculum Compacting. This strategy is about pace. It streamlines content in order to match the learner’s readiness.

The procedure is relatively simple. Prior to instruction, determine what students already know and can do using pre-assessment.  Once the goals and outcomes of a lesson are determined, the classroom teacher can be instrumental in making decisions about individual programming for specific students.

An Example…
The following is an example of using curriculum compacting in certain subjects of strength for one individual student:

Maria was a special learner and had a need for increased academic challenge. Her teacher realized that he needed to be accountable for her proficiencies and that he needed to keep track of the activities she did in place of the standard curriculum.

The teacher administered all of the appropriate unit tests for the grade level in the Basal Language Arts program, and excused Maria from completing the activities and worksheets in the units where she showed proficiency (90% and above). When Maria missed one or two questions, the teacher checked for trends in those items and provided instruction and practice materials to ensure concept mastery.

Maria usually took part in language arts lessons one or two days a week. The balance of the time she spent with alternative projects, some of which she selected. This strategy spared her up to six or eight hours a week with language arts skills that were simply beneath her level. She joined the class instruction only when her pre-tests indicated she had not fully acquired the skills or to take part in a discussion that her teacher thought she would enjoy.

Maria also visited a regional science center with other students who had expressed a high interest and aptitude for science. Science was a second strength area for her, and based on the results of an interest inventory, famous women was a special interest. Working closely with her teacher, Maria chose seven biographies of noted women, most of whom had made contributions in scientific areas. All of the books were extremely challenging and locally available. Three were on an adult level, but she had no trouble reading them.

The documentation of her progress using the curriculum compacting was used as a vehicle for explaining to Maria’s parents how specific modifications were being made to accommodate her advanced language arts achievement level and her interest in science. A copy of the compact curriculum plan was also passed on to Maria’s sixth grade teacher, and a conference between the fifth and sixth grade teachers and the resource teacher helped to ensure continuity in dealing with Maria’s special needs.

In addition to curriculum that is adapted to the learning needs, rates, and interests of the gifted learner, the following can also be achieved by using curriculum compacting:

  • Increased time for enrichment and acceleration
  • Reduced boredom
  • Highly motivated learning environment
  • Increased likelihood to pursue interests

Compacting can also help the teacher discover and practice many advantages associated with pre-assessment and curriculum adaptation for all students.

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