Gifted education guides

8th April 2011 at 01:00

Gifted Programming Made Practical: A common sense guide to developing your gifted programme

3 out of 5

Differentiation Made Practical: Lessons to satisfy gifted learners, their classmates and teachers

4 out of 5

Both By Rosemary Cathcart

Essential Resources, RRP for each: pound;16.95

Meeting the diverse needs of gifted learners within an increasingly crowded curriculum is an ongoing challenge, but two new books aim to make it a little easier.

Gifted Programming Made Practical: A common sense guide to developing your gifted programme does what it says on the cover. It breaks down the daunting task of developing a school gifted programme into step by step chunks, from defining the co-ordinator's role to deciding how to assess pupils' work.

This book is primarily aimed at teachers who find themselves taking on this role in primary schools with little previous experience and knowledge of gifted learners. It is an easy read, with little jargon, and a manageable size (just 60 pages), so even the busiest teacher can digest it.

The first half provides the necessary background information, answering questions such as "How can we identify gifted children effectively?"; "How does giftedness affect the child's learning?"; and "What do I teach children like these?" The second half outlines the more practical aspects of preparing for the first day and beyond. There are suggestions for introductory activities for groups and for a whole-day programme. Learning environment, resources and work products are all discussed, as well as assessing and reporting on children's progress.

The text is scattered with helpful examples and surveys are included for evaluating the programme and assessing teachers' perceptions of gifted provision. This is a straightforward, no-nonsense guide and would help any teacher who is responsible for gifted learners.

Differentiation Made Practical: Lessons to satisfy gifted learners, their classmates and teachers is a similar length and style, but more widely applicable, so it should interest any teacher who has a range of ability in his or her class.

The first section examines the planning of differentiated units and challenges teachers to plan in new ways. It proposes a conceptual approach that incorporates differentiation seamlessly into the process, rather than as an add-on. A multi-dimensional model is then introduced, which gives some shape to planning the specific learning experiences pupils will engage in and can be used with all pupils in the class.

The book is largely taken up with in-depth examples of the model in action, with topics ranging from the Olympics to Ancient Egypt, and more abstract themes such as "Thought" and "Walls". For teachers with little experience or time, these can be used as they are or modified to suit the context. As they gain confidence, they can use the step-by-step process to develop their own plans. Most of the examples would suit social studies, with some overlap in science. It would have been helpful to see the model applied to maths and literacy, as these are areas where teachers may feel less confident in differentiating.


Rosemary Cathcart provides professional development in gifted education for teachers in New Zealand and internationally. She developed the pioneering One Day School, and her work led her to the REACH model outlined in her book, They're Not Bringing My Brain Out.

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