10 Tips for Differentiating Instruction for Gifted Students

This post brought to you by my course on Methods and Materials for Teaching the Gifted at Northwest Georgia RESA! Hi Michelle!

Today I have a video I’ve created with ten tips for differentiating for gifted students in your world language class, whether it be in a separate section for honors students or for those highly talented students (or native speakers) sitting in your regular courses.

Side note: What app or program do you use to make videos? I used PocketVideo and it was AWFUL!

  1. Start with clear learning goals, and keep those in mind as you design alternate activities.
  2. Use pre-assessments and formative assessments to determine which students need more challenging tasks.
  3. Be flexible – having students working on several different tasks in one room is a big paradigm shift for teachers.
  4. Focus on higher levels of Blooms – more apply, analyze, evaluate, and create, less understand and remember.
  5. Four areas to differentiate: First, content – what students are learning, or how deep they go into a theme.
  6. Second: product – how students demonstrate their learning.
  7. Third: process – how material is presented, what questions are asked, what activities students complete – gifted students need practice in making informed, logical, and appropriate uses of information rather than practice in simply acquiring it.
  8. Fourth: learning environment – gifted students thrive in a  learner-centered classroom that is interactive, focused on student interests, and where the teacher is the coach, not the final authority.
  9. Vary grouping – sometimes heterogeneous, sometimes homogeneous.
  10. Promote independence – encourage self-reflection, learning from mistakes, and collaborative learning.

As I currently teach all regular classes (no honors), my focus this year is on improving instruction for my gifted students who have ended up in the regular class for whatever reason. My goal for next semester is to implement more tiered instruction based on formative assessment (assign students to groups with tasks of varying depth/difficulty), compact curriculum and provide learning contracts where needed (i.e., for a native speaker – we agree student will do xyz alternate activities in lieu of the regular practice and assessment), and to use a choice board (students pick from several different activities, all which relate to the same learning goal; gifted students can be pushed toward more challenging tasks, or complete a choice board as an alternative to regular instruction) at least once in each level I teach. What are your differentiation goals for this year?


  • Rimm, Sylvia B., et al. Education of the gifted and talented. Pearson, 2018.
  • Maker, C. June., and Shirley W. Schiever. Curriculum development and teaching strategies for gifted learners. PRO-ED, 2010.
  • Winebrenner, Susan, and Pamela Espeland. Teaching gifted kids in the regular classroom: strategies and techniques every teacher can use to meet the academic needs of the gifted and talented. Free Spirit Pub., 2008.
  • http://www.differentiationcentral.com/
  • www.daretodifferentiate.wikispaces.com 
  • www.help4teachers.com


Posted in Grad School | Leave a comment

Dear November Teacher

Dear November Teacher,

It is August, the second week of school. Do you remember how the second week of school feels? I love my job. I don’t love the getting up early, but I don’t mind it so much either, because I love seeing and teaching my kids every day. My advisement group? They’re the best. And goodness, Spanish 1….we LOVE Spanish 1! And that kid in my advisement who is taking German but has taken it upon himself to rewrite the date in Spanish every day on the board, and did five of the unit 1 stamps because he was so excited at how much Spanish he knew just by watching me type up the slides each morning before class? Or that girl in first period asking if she would be able to understand Spanish soap operas by the end of the class, because they’ve just added so many new ones to Netflix? Or all those sweet babies you taught last year in Spanish 1 who are so excited that you are their teacher for Spanish 2, and all the others who have stopped by to tell you they miss you – even that girl you thought hated your class? Or the girl doing her stamps last week  – veintiuno, veintidos, veintitres, veinticuatro, veinticinco, veintiseis, veintisiete, veintiocho, veintinueve, VERDE!!!!! Oh wait that means green…TREINTA!!! She got there, didn’t she? Or those Spanish 2 kiddos who sang the song and did the gestures and were actually smiling – even the one whose Spanish 1 teacher said she passed out of pity? I think he’s going to be all right this semester! I think he can do it!

Anyway, November teacher – I wanted to tell you that back here in August, exciting things are happening – relationships are being built, enthusiasm kindled, and sweet, sweet learning. I know it gets hard when it’s dark and cold and tempers are short and the beginning of the year enthusiasm has worn off and you start thinking how nice it would be to just work on a computer in an office with adults, and how much would that paralegal program cost? But please know that it’s a phase – this too shall pass – and in a few more weeks the valley will pass and it will get better. You love this job, you love teaching teenagers, and you are very, very good at it – I promise you’ll remember soon.


An August Teacher

Posted in Teaching Reflections | Leave a comment

Teaching Mira Canion’s Tumba

This year is my third round teaching the novel Tumba in my Spanish 1 classes. You can see my previous post about Tumba here.


Adobe Spark (6)

A few thoughts, now that I’ve taught the novel a few times:

  • We read two chapters a day most days of this unit (a few days we don’t read at all). Students are interested in the story and seem motivated to keep reading after one chapter. I also teach on block schedule, so one chapter a day is too slow a pace for us.
  • Some of my favorite activities with the book:
    • Quizlet live 
    • Kahoot
    • Using the chapter art from the teacher’s guide as a listening activity  – I read a sentence, they match it to a picture
    • Using the chapter art as a writing prompt – summarize the chapter, write a sentence for each picture, etc.
    • Listening to several versions of Cielito Lindo with this activity from Martina Bex. I also love this version with Pavarotti and Enrique Iglesias
    • Listening to Calaverita by Santa Cecilia
    • The Mexican Revolution readings in the teacher’s guide – I thought they would be too hard for my students, but they exceeded my expectations and did quite well!
    • Fill in the blank vocab and verb activities – I use these as chapter reviews more often than giving comprehension questions, usually on Schoology so I don’t have to grade them. Here is an example: tumba cloze

This year we also did chapter skits as an assessment. It was my second time doing them, and to be honest, I’m not sure if the result is worth the class time it takes to prepare. One of my colleagues made a comment in passing last year that really challenged me: You can’t say you do differentiated instruction if you don’t have a single differentiated assessment. Ouch! I am guilty of hating projects and preferring to assess with paper and pencil tests. I decided this would be a good unit to assess differently. I don’t think this skit project is excellent differentiated instruction, but it’s what I was able to come up with this year. Next year, I need to clarify my goals before the unit begins and plan for an assessment that better aligns with that goal.

Disclaimers aside, if you want to try doing chapter skits, here are my instructions and here is my rubric. On performance day, I assigned each student a classmate to give positive feedback to. I asked them to write specific compliments about their performance – good pronunciation, good job remembering your lines, nice acting, etc. They wrote some really nice comments, and I think they enjoyed receiving them from their classmates. We also did “Tumba Oscars,” which was super fun. I wrote several categories on the board and students voted on slips of paper – best actor, best actress, best Spanish, most creative, funniest, best Sergio, best Alex…etc. I made certificates using a google slides template to surprise my winners with the next day.

Posted in Culture | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Mi día en la escuela: Comparing Class Schedules

Adobe Spark (5)

My students are currently learning school vocabulary, and my authentic resource activities were in desperate need of an update. I decided I wanted my students to do an activity comparing schedules of schools in Spanish speaking countries and their own (find my activity at the bottom of this post!). I asked one of my teacher groups on facebook if anyone had such an activity to share, and someone from my grad program shared this gem of a website with me: http://auforlanguageeduca.wixsite.com/school-schedules

school schedules in Spanish

If you click on the gallery link in the right hand corner, you will find 15 school schedules from various Spanish speaking countries, compiled by one of the Auburn foreign language education graduate assistants. ¡Muchas gracias, amiga!

I decided that rather than trying to print out the schedules, I would have students view them on their computer. For pre-reading, I had students discuss their ideal school schedule in  small groups, with a list of questions in Spanish to guide them:

discussion questions

After group discussions, we briefly shared out to the whole class. Next, I had students draw a number from 1-15. They were not allowed to have the same number as someone else in  their group. The number corresponded to one of the schedules on the Wix site. For their “during reading” activity, students answered questions about their assigned schedule. For post-reading, they discussed what they learned with their group and answered some reflection questions: How were the schedules similar or different from their own school schedule? What schedule would they like best? I also had students write questions down on sticky notes. I took these up and answered them at the end of class as a closing activity:









If you would like to use my activity, you can find it here. If you improve on it, please share it back with me!

Posted in Sp 1 Unit 4: En la escuela | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Tech Tip: ClassroomScreen.com

My school’s technology specialist recently introduced me to a neat little tool: ClassroomScreen.com. It is designed to be projected on your whiteboard and offers a number of useful widgets: a timer, a clock, a random name picker, a QR code generator, as well as  a text box for posting announcements or instructions. Check out my video demo below:

Pardon the quality – I’m learning!

Posted in EdTech | Tagged , , | 5 Comments


Hello, and welcome back to school! Today I want to share an activity I made today for my Spanish 1 students based on a video from one of my favorite sites for authentic Spanish audio, http://www.laits.utexas.edu/spe/index.html.

This is José M. Isn’t he precious?

I like this video because the content fits with my first unit of Spanish 1 and José M. speaks clearly and relatively slowly. But what to do with it? Here’s what I came up with:

José M

Follow along as you listen, and correct the errors. After printing, I numbered the lines and students have this follow up task:

jose m 2

Simple, quick, comprehensible. Here is the link to José’s video and here is the activity, if you would like to use it.


Previous #Authres Posts:

Posted in Class Activities, Sp 1 Unit 1: Greetings/goodbyes/ numbers/calendar | Tagged , | Leave a comment

5 Ways to Stay Productive during Post Planning


One more year done!

It is 8:30 on day one of four of post planning, and I am DONE with grades. What do with my time for the next four days? It has always been hard for me to get any actual lesson planning done without an imminent class to inspire me, and it is terribly hard to concentrate on serious tasks after the marathon of finishing those last six weeks after spring break! While it may be tempting to wile away the hours with social media and gossip over long lunches, I have a few ideas for how I can stay productive this week even with diminished capacity to concentrate:

  1. Organize my digital files. I got a new laptop from my school last fall, which meant moving all my files off my old one. Then we got a notice in December that our old desktop computers were being retired, and to back up all our files. After these two transitions, I have copies of my files on Google Drive, One Drive, my laptop, an external hard drive, and a flash drive or two. I need to go through my files and save them all in one place (particularly the files I’ve created on my laptop but not saved on the cloud). I also need to do a culling – it makes it very difficult to find things when my unit folders are cluttered with activities I haven’t used in five years.
  2. Clean out my file cabinet. I have tried, at various points, to make organized binders for each unit I teach. It is so, so hard to maintain these! Goal number two is at least organize the file folders in my filing cabinet and to toss resources I’ve stopped using. If I get really ambitious perhaps I can get one or two more units transitioned over to a binder, rather than the hodgepodge file folder.
  3. Make bulletin board resources at the TRC. My district has a wonderful wonderful resource called the teacher resource center: a downtown building with a die cut machine, construction paper in every color imaginable, unlimited laminating (with volunteers to run the machines!) and both color and black and white printers (with daily limits on copies, but still – free color printing!). I want to spend one afternoon next week at the TRC letting the creative juices flow. I want to print and laminate this music fast-finisher station from TPT to use as a bulletin board next year, and perhaps print some other games and resources best seen in color.
  4. Read professional learning books and blogs.

    IMG_20161225_101920 (1)

    Christmas morning with my brand new copy of “The Language Teacher Toolkit”

    I actually read quite a bit of The Language Teacher Toolkit while proctoring standardized tests in  April, but I still haven’t finished it. I also would like to spend some time going through my backlog of unread blog posts, my saved posts on Twitter and Facebook, and combing through Pinterest to find some ideas for next year, and get those sorted and organized so I remember to use them next year.

    5. Collaborate My district has set aside one day for professional learning, and my department is using our time to meet with the language teachers from the other two schools in our district. We did this last year as well and it was such a positive atmosphere of sharing and collaborating. I’m looking forward to sharing my presentation from FLAG as well as my student notebooks, and to learning some new tricks from my colleagues.

How do you stay productive during post-planning?

Posted in Classroom Management & Organization | 1 Comment