High Quality Curriculum for Gifted Learners

What are the components of exemplary curriculum for gifted learners and how does it get implemented in a classroom? Annually, the Curriculum Studies Network solicits PreK-12 curriculum units that are employed with gifted learners in a variety of education settings to go through a competitive blind process and meet exemplary criteria. The following units spanning multiple grade levels and content areas were recognized for receiving NAGC Curriculum Studies awards for 2017. These were reviewed and selected for including appropriate differentiation adjusted to the needs of gifted learners, opportunities for talent development, authentic assessments, applied real-world problem solving, and evidence of effectiveness. We congratulate the authors of the winning curriculum units. See the NAGC Curriculum Studies link more information about the review process and guidelines.

The Great Debates

Authors: Dana Plowden and Sara Townsend

The Great Debates is a unit that explores the impact of media messaging through the lens of the 1960 presidential election. As media consultants to Vice President Nixon, students will learn that Nixon’s poll numbers have dropped, in part, because of his performance against John F. Kennedy during the first ever televised debates. Students will investigate the emerging impact of television on the political landscape of the time, they will consider the importance of experience vs media image, and they will devise a strategy to reshape Nixon’s image in the media to regain voter support. (Will be available through Royal Fireworks Press)

The Penguin Predicament

Authors: Laura Shantz and Shelagh Gallagher

The Penguin Predicament draws on the real story of an emperor penguin who swam astray from its Antarctic homeland landed on the shores of New Zealand.  In the unit, students are in the role of zoologists working for the Wellington Zoo in New Zealand.  They receive a letter from a young girl named Fatima who found the penguin and would love to keep it as a pet!  Students investigate the options through hands-on experiments, critical thinking activities, and specially designed videos.  Along the way, they learn about ecosystems, habitats, penguin species, and the difference between surviving and thriving.  (Available through Royal Fireworks Press)

Space, Story, and Structure: An Integrated ELA and Science unit for Gifted and Advanced Learners in Grades 4-6

Authors: Tamra Stambaugh, Emily Mofield, Vanderbilt Programs for Talented Youth

Space, Structure, and Story integrates Earth and space science with science fiction, nonfiction texts, poetry, and art. Students explore advanced science and ELA content through the lens of structure—its parts, purpose, and function. Students explore engaging topics such as mobius strips and engage in science simulations about black holes, gravity, orbital patterns, and Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Students also examine the hero's journey in A Wrinkle in Time, analyze primary source texts about the moon landing, and explore possibilities for missions to Mars.  Accelerated content, engaging activities, social emotional connections and differentiated choice-based tasks that promote talent development are also included. Aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), this unit encourages students to apply conceptual understanding of structure through various interdisciplinary concepts. (Available through Prufrock Press)

Greening Up With Graphing: Recycle, Reduce, & Reuse

Authors: Rubenstein, L. D., Cole, S., Heilbronner, N., Gubbins, E. J., Savino, J., McAnallen, R., Corbishley, J., O’Brien, A. Case, T., & McMillen, K. S.  (3rd ed.). Storrs: University of Connecticut, The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented

Content differentiation, enrichment, and acceleration are the foci of the Greening Up With Graphing: Recycle, Reduce, & Reuse unit (Rubenstein et al., 2010) developed by The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented research team. These strategies occur within and across lessons with specific modifications and differentiation for high ability or gifted learners and scaffolding or tiering for all students in academically diverse classrooms. This curriculum unit tailors content, process, and products to these students by emphasizing conceptual thinking, real-world disciplinary inquiry, and problem solving; assessing learning needs of students; helping students develop increasing levels of expertise; and encouraging student involvement with problem solving and product development and real-world utility.

Pictured, left to right: Rachel McAnallen, Kum Chee Tham, Katie Isch, Monica Plantan, Emily Mofield, Jason McIntosh, Shelagh Gallagher, Dana Plowden, Jean Gubbins

Perspectives: Turning Mirrors into Windows

Author:  Katie Isch

Perspectives: Turning Mirrors into Windows focuses on how perspectives affected the characters in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, as well as how perspectives influence our own decisions and outlook.  The unit leads to a deeper understanding of perspective by analyzing it from different angles and engaging in poetry analysis, fiction and nonfiction texts, media literacy, class discussions, written responses, and other learning activities.  Students apply what they have learned in a culminating real-world project that supports other teens in their school.  The unit offers flexibility so that each teacher can modify the content in order to meet all student learning needs. This unit is available to teachers at no cost through the Indiana Department of Education: http://moodle.doe.in.gov/

Feats and Flops: Innovating Solutions to Real World Problems

Author: Jason McIntosh

The overarching goals of the unit are to enable students to solve real-world problems and to transform themselves from passive consumers into active innovators, makers, producers, and shapers of their world. Students use the engineering design process, SCAMPER, and a new tool called My Maker’s Map to innovate solutions to both hypothetical problems and personal situations in their own lives. By the conclusion of the unit, students will have created a prototype for an invention of their own, applied for a patent, started a mock company, produced a marketing campaign, and participated in a simulated Shark Tank  television show episode to raise funds. (Available through Royal Fireworks Press)

Honor through the Ages 

Author: Monica Plantan

Honor Through the Ages is a sixth-grade unit that integrates social studies and language arts. In the anchor novel, King Arthur, students examine codes of honor and chivalry during the medieval era. Research focuses on The Middle Ages, and a problem-based lesson offers the opportunity to examine and write academic codes of honor. Lessons in oral presentations, persuasive, narrative, and expository writing, poetry responses, and music and art connections meet the unit goals and further explore the concept of honor. This unit is available to teachers at no cost through the Indiana Department of Education: http://moodle.doe.in.gov/

The Raffles Program: Year 2 English Biographical Writing

Author: Kum Chee Tham

This unit features high-quality instruction and reflection about biographical writing.