Advanced Learning in Grades 3-5

Students with advanced learning needs in grades 3 through 5 are engaged in challenging learning opportunities throughout the day by their classroom teachers who receive support from the Differentiation Specialists and talent development site lead, Colleen Bergh.

Advanced learning strategies we are focusing on at Whittier in grades 3-5 include:

Socratic Seminar:Socratic Seminar is a process for engaging students in discourse and inquiry. Just as Socrates taught by perplexing his students, the Socratic Seminar process demands that participants question everything from their own perspectives to the authority of the author. Students inquire into perspectives inherent in and around “texts” of all kinds: a piece of literature, essay or speech; a work of art or musical composition; a primary, historical document; a mechanical model; a mathematical concept.

Independent Study: independent study and group investigation are models that allow advanced learners to engage in authentic research in areas uniquely suited to their interests and instructional preferences. Packing a double punch by developing both cognitive (critical thinking) and affective (autonomous learning) skills, this model is ideally suited for students who require significant challenge. Likewise, the model works well as a parallel project for advanced learners during units of study that involve basic skills of research, such as informational writing units.

Tiered and compacted learning in math: Some advanced learners know much of the content in a unit of study before that unit is taught. In fact, according to a nation-wide study, most advanced learners already know an average of 50% of the content being taught at the beginning of the school year (Westberg, et. al., 1993). Curriculum compacting has teachers assess what content students have already mastered in advance of  a unit, and provide them with alternatives and new learning in its place. Curriculum compacting extracts only the parts of the core resources advanced learners need, making room for more challenging work.

Telescoped math in grades 4 and 5: While many advanced learners benefit from the increased challenge and careful management of learning goals facilitated by curriculum compacting, certain students may need a more accelerated approach to learning in math. Rather than skipping a year in math, which has the potential to create gaps in understanding, telescoping allows for vigorously paced learning, progressing through three years of curriculum in two. At Whittier, 4th and 5th grade students who need a very intense level of differentiation participate in telescoped math courses taught by Ford Campbell and Bridget Rettke Berg.  The goal is completing all of grade 6 math by the end of 5th grade. Middle school options for telescoped and other advanced math courses are available at all MPS secondary schools.