The Enriched and Distinguished Curriculum


Gifted and talented students have many unique cognitive and affective characteristics that should be accommodated by differentiated curriculum. For example, gifted students may have an unusual capacity to manipulate information, see unusual and diverse relationships, and use and form conceptual frameworks. They may also have advanced language development, a sophisticated thought process and advanced problem solving abilities. Gifted students may also have a keen sense of humor, a strong sense of justice, and an early development of an inner sense of control.

The major objectives to be accomplished by an enriched and distinguished curriculum delivery process at the Challenge Program are to:
  • Move the individual student through the standard curriculum and beyond at a pace suitable to his/her abilities.
  • Offer complexity commensurate with the individual’s capacity
  • Offer the opportunity for unique talent development

Strategies

Among a variety of delivery strategies that distinguish its curriculum, the Challenge Program features the following:

Integrated or Interdisciplinary Curriculum
The Challenge Program curriculum often combines concepts and skills from different curricular areas through the use of academically rigorous conceptual themes. For example, the theme of diversity can be used to teach appropriate and relevant language arts, math, social studies and science concepts and skills. Integrated curriculum delivery often provides gifted and talented students with an interesting and organizational framework by which they can find meaning and application. Research skills are often taught and implemented during integrated units.

Curriculum Compacting
Challenge Program students may well be able to learn curriculum content faster and in more depth. “Curriculum compacting” compresses the required curriculum (content standards) into a shorter period of time, which provides more learning time for in depth study and advancement in the curriculum. Pretesting students and using flexible group instruction based on the results of pretesting, and post testing for desired learning are critical components of curriculum compacting.

Higher Level Questioning of Students
Questioning students is the most common and efficacious instructional tool that teachers use. Asking students questions keeps them involved in their learning and more importantly stimulates their thinking and creative minds. Teachers enhance the Challenge Program curriculum asking three different categorical types of questions. Students are asking information questions so teachers can check their understanding of the content of their courses and their ability to share their perspectives about that information. Teachers ask processing questions which are a catalyst for having students analyze, draw conclusions, evaluate issues, and compare and contrast concepts. Teachers also ask imaginative questions, which cause students to use metaphors, formulate hypotheses, organize data and project conclusions. Questions are the hallmark of inquiring minds and the Challenge Program indeed challenges students’ thinking through this curriculum delivery strategy.

Multiple Intelligences
Dr. Howard Gardner, educational psychologist at Harvard University, has taught us that students vary in intelligence preferences or strengths. For example, a middle school student who is strong “spatially” may take in information, solve problems, and express learning differently than a student whose strength is “verbal-linguistic”. Challenge Program teachers facilitate the learning process by attending to students’ differing intelligence strength areas.

Tiered Activities and Assignments
Tiered activities in the Challenge Program curriculum are used by teachers to provide differentiated routes of learning access at varying degrees of difficulty for students to meet their varying ability levels. The essential ideas (content) and the skills (processes) are the same for all students in tiered activities. However, a variety of materials and activities are used with different groups of students to customize learning for students’ different learning levels. Tiered assignments differentiate what is taught or studied based on students interests and ability levels. For example, different content may be studied using varying reference materials at different reading levels. Products of tiered assignments are customized to allow students alternate forms of expressing what they learn. Tiered activities and assignments are unique to the Challenge Program curriculum and promote individualized learning and study for its students.

Advanced Use of Textual Materials
All textbooks for the major curricular areas have advanced application of the content and skills built into the use of the textbook. Teachers of the Challenge Program use these various enrichment applications provided by the textbook manual and guide students to higher-level application and more in-depth coverage of course content. Higher level thinking skills, application of current events, use of extended and additional resources, higher level questioning of students, and application to real life situations of textbook content are among various extended textbook strategies that are used.

Mentoring Students
An important aspect of programs that deal with intellectually gifted or artistically talented students is providing these young people with challenging experiences and stimulating personal interactions. Because of the unusual potential for gifted and talented students, working with them is at times complex. A wide variety of assistance and expertise is needed, and if possible we will draw on resources of the math, science, and language departments at Colorado Mesa University. Mentors will be sought, if the need arises.

The Socratic Seminar
This learning experience enables students to collectively explore an article, test, or piece of literature that they have read or a topic of previously presented content. The seminar experience involves both “content” and “process” learning and enables students to come together to express their opinions and gain insights from others on issues, questions, problems or topics. The teacher (facilitator) leads students through the processes of exploring topics, clarifying information, hypothesizing, comparing and contrasting, and proposing solutions.

Potential for High School Credit
Students have the option to receive high school credit if they successfully complete Math I, Math II and Earth Science that meet the high school standards. Assessment data and staff recommendations will be used to place students in these courses.

Center for Gifted Education
The Language Arts program will be using the series of language arts curriculum units for high-ability learners from the Center for Gifted Education at the College of William and Mary in addition to the regular texts. The goals of each unit are to develop students’ skills in literature interpretation and analysis, persuasive writing, linguistic competency, and oral communication, as well as to strengthen students’ reasoning skills and understanding of the concept of change. The units engage students in exploring carefully selected, challenging works of literature from various times, cultures, and genres. They encourage students to reflect on their readings through writing and discussion. The units also provide numerous opportunities for students to explore interdisciplinary connections to the language arts and to conduct research around issues relevant to their own lives. A guide to using the curriculum is also available.

Experiential Learning
The Challenge Program values the importance of making connections through real experiences. Therefore, we provide the students with opportunities to participate in learning activities that occur during field trips. We offer one extended field trip in each grade level. Each trip provides instruction based on content standards with real life applications. They help give students a global perspective and important sense of who they are in relation to the Earth and society. They also provide valuable social and emotional development opportunities and they are just plain fun!

Extra Curricular Activities
The students in the Challenge Program as well as all students at East Middle School are encouraged to participate in extra-curricular activities. These vary year to year depending on coaches/volunteers but the following will give you a sense of what we have to offer: volleyball, basketball, wrestling, track (sports are for 7th and 8th grade only), Geography Bee, Spelling Bee, MATHCOUNTS, National Junior Honor Society (NJHS), Cheetah Leadership Team (CLT), Chess Club, and Yearbook Club. In addition, we have various opportunities in choir, band, and orchestra.