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Variety: The Spice of Differentiation

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Variety, it is said, is the spice of life. It seems it is also is the spice of differentiation. Whenever, teachers are instructed to differentiate their curriculum for gifted students, the word vary is used quite often. Here are some examples:

  • Use varied print materials. Gifted students need a rich, diverse source of information from which they can analyze new thoughts, generate new questions, and find adequate content to support their broad levels of thinking.
  • Use varied management strategies. Gifted students thrive in a learning environment that allows for and encourages independence of study and thought, allows them to work alone or collegially, and allows them to pursue topics of interest to them at their pace.
  • Allow variety in products. Gifted students should be encouraged to produce transformative thought in ways that are meaningful to them, that reflect what a professional in the chosen field of study would do, and that are able to be improved upon after testing or critiquing.
  • Use varied strategies that respond to the learning needs of gifted students. Examples include problem-based learning, independent and small group learning, compacting, interest groups, and tiered assignments.

These are just a few of the ways that variety enters into a differentiated classroom, but all types of variety make learning interesting, fun and meaningful to all students, and the teacher. When routine strategies and schedules are in place over time, one can become lazy, bored, or disengaged as there is nothing new to anticipate or different to stimulate the mind. Variety can help the brain wake up to respond to a new idea, to engage deeply to produce a creative response, and to enjoy the feeling of rejuvenation in thinking and in behavior. I often encourage teachers who work for us in the summer to try something new that they have never tried before.

SIG, NSGT’s summer program, is a place where creativity is encouraged, risk taking is valued, and students are looking for something different. We provide variety in our wide range of courses, in our diverse domestic and international student body, and in our encouragement of thinking beyond the box for all students and staff. Variety is indeed the spice of life, and of differentiation. Find some new ways to add some spice to your life, and to your classrooms and enjoy the difference!

All the best,

Dr. Barbara Swicord, Ed.D.
Executive Director, National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT)
President, Summer Institute for the Gifted (SIG)

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