reading instruction to match the individual differences
and readiness levels of all children is a demanding task
facing teachers. Advanced and gifted readers have the
ability to read beyond grade level, and thus, they risk
receiving less instructional attention when concerned
teachers struggle to meet the needs of students
performing below grade level. While it is critical that
all children receive the support necessary to read at
least at grade level, students who have achieved this
goal must be challenged to continue developing advanced
proficiencies. We would be remiss if we failed to make
appropriate provisions to accommodate the needs of
at-risk readers. We are equally remiss if we do not offer
appropriate instructional differences that respond to the
needs of gifted learners.
Teachers require support
and strategies to challenge advanced readers at their
highest readiness level and most appropriate pace within
the diversity of a classroom that includes a wide range
of abilities. The Advanced Academic Division of the Texas
Education Agency created a task force to investigate the
reading needs of gifted students and produced a
publication, Reading Strategies for Advanced Primary
Readers, designed to provide teachers with alternatives
and replacement tasks to use in differentiating lessons
for advanced readers. This book of interactive, practical
strategies includes compacting, tiered assignments,
flexible grouping, graphic organizers, thinking prompts,
and vocabulary techniques assembled from teaching
experiences based upon research and responses to the
nature and needs of gifted learners. (Contact Evelyn
Hiatt or Ann Wink at <email@example.com> for
more information about the process or materials from this
reading initiative.) This article incorporates some of
the recommendations of that task force.
For decades, educators
assumed that children who read early or at advanced
levels had been pushed by a well-intending adult.The
accompanying conventional wisdom has been that these
students plateau and read at grade level by third or
fourth grade. Indeed, advanced readers who are limited to
a grade-level reading program can regress in their pace
of progress. However, when advanced readers are taught
with resources and instruction commensurate with their
needs and abilities, regression need not take place. By
eliminating work on skills already mastered and
progressing through the language arts curriculum at an
accelerated pace, students generally continued to extend
their reading proficiency (Gentry, 1999; Kulik &
The lack of challenging
materials is one factor that discourages the continued
reading development of advanced readers. However bright
students may be, they are less likely to demonstrate
advanced or gifted performance if learning experiences
are limited to the regular, grade-level reading
curriculum. Duke (2000) found informational texts almost
nonexistent in first grade classrooms, yet gifted readers
demonstrate a voracious appetite for nonfiction. Chall
and Conard (1991) continue to research the match of text
difficulty to reader readiness. They found that the
reading texts for advanced readers "...provided little or
no challenge, since they were matched to students' grade
placements, not their reading levels." Chall, who also
researched text difficulty in 1967 and 1983, noted that
"This practice of using grade-level reading textbooks for
those who read two or more grades above the norm has
changed little through the years, although it has been
repeatedly questioned" (111).
Another factor that
discourages the continued reading development of advanced
readers is educators' attitudes regarding gifted students
right and need to learn differently. Adjusting
instruction to match the needs of gifted readers involves
more than flexibility in methods and materials; it
requires a belief that each child has the right to
progress as rapidly as he or she is capable. Teachers
must be committed to responding to the reading interests
and needs of learners that extend beyond grade level.
Indeed, Jackson and Roller (1993) commented that the most
sophisticated, enthusiastic, and precocious readers are
those children who have driven their parents and teachers
to keep up with them. Consider the Staff Discussion
Questions posed here. The insuing information may prove
enlightening and productive toward change.
Discussion Questions: Advanced Readers
determined to meet the needs of their brightest
readers may find these questions a useful focus
when assessing attitudes and most appropriate
1. What does the
term "advanced reader" or "gifted reader" mean
2. How do we
identify advanced readers or advanced potential
instructional needs do you think are unique to
4. How do we
challenge advanced children academically in this
5. Which social
and emotional factors are crucial to consider
when challenging advanced readers?
6. What are the
classroom management implications?
7. What grouping
considerations do we need to address?
8. What human
and material resources can we draw upon?
additional resources are needed to ease
10. How might we
appropriately inform and involve parents of
advanced readers in this learning
Assessment is a key
component when instructing advanced readers. Assessment
guides advanced instructional objectives and documents
that an appropratie pace and level of learning has
occurred. Reading instruction that matches the individual
differences and readiness levels of all children involves
preassessment, authentic analysis of reading
comprehension, students' self-assessments of learning,
and the development of portfolio products that
substantiate advanced performance.
Preassessment is vital when addressing advanced reading
needs. Results from preassessments must be employed to
guide teachers' use of curriculum compacting, tiered
assignments, and flexible groups. Preassessment is needed
to accomplish the following:
Determine students' instructional reading levels
and skill needs.
Group students flexibly by readiness and the
skills that need to be learned.
Analyze students' application of reading
Provide information for selecting and pacing
appropriate instructional materials.
of assessment that can be used as
Records of independent reading,
Comprehension of the gifted primary reader should largely
be assessed authentically. A test in which students list
the name of the main character and bubble-in the main
idea limits the gifted student's opportunities to
demonstrate more advanced interpretations. Comprehension
tasks are more likely to engage high-level thinking when
they require students to generate responses rather than
choose among descriptors, as in a forced-choice response.
Oral summaries via tape recorders, creation of a
hyper-studio stack for use by other students,
reading/writing logs, and other creative, open-ended
options provide broader opportunities to demonstrate
comprehension depth and complexity.
As children read in school, they need to be guided in
their development of metacognitive or self-monitoring
strategies so that these important skills become an
internalized part of their regular reading behavior
(Cecil, 1995). Metacognition is referred to as thinking
about thinking. It invites children to bring their
thinking to a conscious level and provides a window that
increases adults' understanding of students' behaviors. A
parent reported that her gifted second-grade daughter did
not want to participate in a discussion about a book she
had immensely enjoyed, because "I have already discussed
it with myself." Since gifted readers are so consciously
involved in introspection, teachers should continually
analyze students' behaviors and talk with them to make
sense of what is occurring in learning situations.
metacognitive responses through reflective questions,
such as the following. Children respond orally to these
metacognitive questions or write brief responses to
explain their thinking. The last four questions approach
a more complex interpretation particularly appropriate
for advanced and gifted students.
you tell me about your reading?
you think was easy to do and hard to
changes would you want to make?
the most important thing you learned from
you do when you are reading and you find a word
you do not know?
might it be a good idea to reread
you think that is so?
the author cause you to infer/conclude
evidence can you use to support that?
did not know, what would you do to get the most
Rubrics increases students' responsibility for their own
learning when they assess their work before it is graded
or shared with others. Rubrics are guidelines to quality.
They provide a clearer view of the merits and demerits of
students' work than grades alone can communicate. Rubrics
show students how they are responsible for the grades
they earn rather than to continue to view grades as
something someone gives them.
The criteria on a rubric
should inform students what attributes to include in a
product to demonstrate their understanding of the
information they acquire. Each level should communicate
to students what to do to achieve at a higher level.
Criteria must accent content rather than just focus on
appearance and how to complete the product. With advanced
and gifted learners, the emphasis should include depth
and complexity, as exemplified by the following chart.
Teachers fill in their preferred grade scale or an
evaluation scale, such as less than expected, appropriate
work, very well done, and outstanding work as the level
of proficiency develops from low to higher.
Too simple or
information; limited critical
showscritical thinking; compares and
expectations; analyzes from multiple points of
information or more accurate
Needs to add
depth or elaboration
well; develops information beyond facts and
in-depth; supports content
Teachers continue to be
pleasantly surprised at the accuracy of students'
self-assessments. When clear targets are provided through
rubrics, most students understand what to do to achieve.
After modeling and successful experiences with multiple
rubrics, some gifted learners may be able to develop
their own rubrics and other methods to assess their
independent reading and study projects.
Portfolios offer a concrete record of the development of
students' talents and achievements during a year or more.
In classrooms where all students develop portfolios, the
portfolio process enables each student to be noticed for
the pace of learning growth and the level of products he
or she produces. In this manner, portfolios increase
inclusion instead of exclusion by providing multiple
opportunities for children from every population to
demonstrate talents and gifted potential. Portfolio
assessment allows schools to honor the diversity of
students and discover the strengths of each
Primary-aged children can
learn to be responsible for organizing and managing a
portfolio of their work that documents agreed-upon
criteria. Children learn to file their selected work in
the back of their portfolio so it approximates a
chronological order and clarifies growth over time.
Increasing emphasis on students' self-reflections and
making judgments about their products is one of the
values of portfolios for all children.
of Portfolios for Advanced and Gifted
can be assessed for a level of depth and
complexity appropriate for advanced-level
Products can demonstrate all areas of
The portfolio can be shared with parents
or other professionals to document the growth
and achievements of gifted students.
Portfolios provide examples of superior
work for gifted students to share among
themselves as models to challenge
ever-increasing levels of excellence.
However, portfolios will
not document achievements of advanced and gifted children
if they are limited to grade-level tasks. Only to the
degree that portfolios include children's highest levels
of performance on a wide array of challenging, beyond
grade-level tasks can the portfolio process substantiate
gifted-level work. Negotiate together a short list of
response products advanced students can select among to
demonstrate their interpretation and understanding when
they finish reading fiction or nonfiction
A classic study by Dole
and Adams (1983), surveyed gifted students to elicit
their perceptions of the most important attributes of
good reading materials. A summary of those findings is
Sophisticated beginning-to-read books
Visually inventive picture books
Unusual connections; finding patterns and
parallels within and among books
Abstractions and analogies
A blend of fantasy and non-fiction
Extraordinary quantities of information about a
Books about gifted children
Use this information as a
guide to prepare questions for surveying gifted students
in your class or even all of the gifted students in your
school. What do they most like or dislike about reading?
What do they most want in books and stories? What makes
them pick up a book and want to read it? We can better
customize reading instruction to challenge advanced
readiness levels and motivate gifted learners when we
understand how to more closely match their preferences
The result of ignoring
gifted readers is educationally and emotionally unjust to
these children. The Gifted Reader's Bill of Rights is
posed here to prompt your thinking about the reading
rights and needs of gifted students.
Bill of Rights
The right to
read at a pace and level appropriate to
readiness without regard to grade
The right to
discuss interpretations, issues, and insights
with intellectual peers.
The right to
reread many books and not finish every
The right to use
reading to explore new and challenging
information and grow intellectually.
The right for
time to pursue a self-selected topic in depth
through reading and writing.
The right to
encounter and apply increasingly advanced
vocabulary, word study, and concepts.
The right to
guidance rather than dictation of what is good
literature and how to find the best.
The right to
read several books at the same time.
The right to
discuss but not have to defend reading choice
The right to be
excused from material already
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Strategies for Advanced Primary
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