ERIC Identifier: ED379637
Publication Date: 1995-00-00
Author: Collins, Norma Decker - Aiex, Nola Kortner
ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading English and Communication Bloomington IN.
Gifted Readers and Reading Instruction. ERIC Digest.
Questions about gifted readers and how best to teach them have been posed
since the inception of gifted education. Do gifted readers require distinctive
In the opinion of Margaret McIntosh (1982), an educator who reviewed the
history of gifted education in the United States, the gifted reader, often
overlooked in traditional reading programs, is in need of a specific kind of
reading instruction. McIntosh reports that able readers have interests in
reading that distinguish them from other readers--their preferences include
science, history, biography, travel, poetry, and informational texts like
atlases and encyclopedias. Current research reported in "USA Today" (30 March
1995) indicates that gifted elementary school children who participate in
special programs do better academically than their gifted peers not in any
program. This is one of the reasons that gifted readers should have a
differentiated reading program. This Digest will discuss some of the aspects of
differentiated reading instruction for the gifted.
In reviewing the professional literature on
reading instruction for gifted readers, several salient points about gifted
readers emerge. They are that (1) gifted readers usually master basic reading
skills by the time they come to school and are ready for complex concepts at an
early age; (2) gifted readers tend to have an internal locus of control--they
believe that achievement is the result of their own ability and behavior; (3)
gifted readers need instruction in reading that is different from a regular
classroom program; (4) instruction for very able readers should focus on
developing higher cognitive level comprehension skills; (5) teaching reading to
gifted readers requires more than a skills-oriented approach; (6) books for
gifted readers should be selected on the basis of quality language--books that
use varied and complex language structures are a primary source of cognitive
growth; (7) reading programs for gifted readers should foster a desire to read;
and (8) a reading program for gifted readers should include a variety of reading
materials and strategies which are based on the present needs and demands of the
reader, not on the chronological age or grade level.
Jackson (1988) concluded that precocious reading ability is a complex skill,
and that levels of specific subskills vary widely among individuals. She urges
parents to encourage their gifted readers to pursue natural and enjoyable
reading activities. When the gifted reader enters school, instruction must go
beyond the traditional basal program, and the focus of reading programs for
gifted readers should be on critical and creative thinking.
CRITICAL AND CREATIVE READING
Critical reading goes beyond
the level of comprehension--it requires the reader to evaluate material and
ascertain its worthiness, reasonableness, and usefulness. Through critical
engagement with text, gifted readers are encouraged to view reading as a
thinking process, as well as a language process.
Creative reading is the epitome of higher level reading. Going beyond
critical reading, creative reading invites an imaginative interaction with
print. New ideas are originated, examined, and applied. Teachers of gifted
readers can help readers interact with texts in ways which will promote critical
and creative reading. Encouraging wide reading confirms for the gifted reader
that reading is for learning and enjoyment.
According to Levande (1993), "reading
programs for the gifted should take into account the individual characteristics
of the children, capitalize on the gifts they possess, and expand and challenge
their abilities." Shaughnessy (1994) also recommends expanded literacy
activities, such as guest speakers in the classroom, creative writing, and
tie-ins of books with television or movies.
Most schools and teachers have the leeway to choose the instructional method
and materials or gifted reading program that best fit their students' needs.
There are several diverse specially designed programs that are popular with many
school districts. Dooley (1993) cautions that "a stimulating reading program for
gifted readers has at least two major components: provisions for mastering the
basic curriculum quickly through curriculum compacting, and a differentiated
curriculum created through modifications of the content and the processes used
to explore that content." We will return to Dooley's points a little later in
Levande (1993) cites the triad enrichment model, inquiry reading, and the
Junior Great Books Reading and Discussion Program as being used most frequently
in American classrooms.
The triad enrichment model is based on giving gifted children the opportunity
for self-directed reading and independent study. The enrichment triad
incorporates three types of activities: (1) exploratory activities in which
students examine areas of interest and then decide on a problem or topic to
study in depth; (2) activities in which students are provided with the technical
skills and thinking processes needed to investigate the research topic selected
in the first step; and (3) activities in which students explore their topic
through individual or small group work. The end result should be a product which
documents the student's learning process (Levande, 1993).
Inquiry reading is a 4-week program which enables the gifted reader to
research a topic in which he/she is actively interested. The program is geared
for third grade and above. The student selects the topic, researches it, and
presents his/her findings to the other students. Levande (1993) points out that
this approach can be used in a classroom that uses basal readers, during the
time that the basals are being used by most of the students.
The Junior Great Books Program offers a series of literature readings for
grades 2 through 12 (Halsted, 1990). It is a well-known and venerable program,
complex and highly structured, and challenging for the student.
Levande also advocates investigating the following recommended instructional
models for gifted readers: AIME, reading-strategy lessons, DRTA (Directed
Reading Teaching Activity), and vocabulary development through literature.
WHOLE LANGUAGE CLASSROOMS
With the current emphasis on
whole language instruction comes the elimination of ability grouping and thus, a
special challenge for educating the gifted reader. Ganopole (1988) advocates a
certain degree of flexibility in reading instruction in whole language
classrooms, and emphasizes the use of authentic materials in meaningful
contexts, a modified use of basals, acceptance of divergent student responses,
Dooley (1993) mentions the extra effort needed to provide appropriate reading
instruction for the gifted reader in whole language classrooms. She argues for
curriculum compacting and a differentiated curriculum--points mentioned earlier
in this Digest.
Curriculum compacting is a "systematic process through which proficiency in
the basic curriculum is assured and time is made available for enrichment and
acceleration" (Dooley, 1993). Students are first assessed on their mastery of
the skills to be taught in the next reading unit--if they have already mastered
those skills, they do not participate in the unit. To facilitate the learning of
concepts and skills that have not yet been mastered, students might be asked to
join the group when those particular skills are being taught, or the skills
could be explained individually or in small groups of students. Another method
might be the use of structured materials that deal with the concept (Dooley,
"When curriculum compacting is implemented, many highly able readers have
time available for participating in a differentiated reading program. This
program should not be more of the regular program. Instead it should focus on
content and process modifications that reflect gifted students' instructional
needs" (Dooley, 1993). Such modifications can give students the chance to read
in depth on a theme or topic, even if it is not part of the regular curriculum.
Eppele (1989) and Shaughnessy (1993) offer two bibliographies which provide
many sources of information on the gifted reader in the classroom.
Dooley, Cindy (1993). "The Challenge: Meeting
the Needs of Gifted Readers." Reading Teacher, 46(7), 546-51. [EJ 460 923]
Eppele, Ruth (1989). "Gifted Students and Reading." Focused Access to
Selected Topics (FAST) Bibliography. Bloomington, IN:ERIC Clearinghouse on
Reading and Communication Skills. [ED 307 572]
Ganopole, Selina J. (1988). "Reading and Writing for the Gifted: A Whole
Language Perspective." Roeper Review, 11(2), 88-92. [EJ 387 275]
Halsted, Judith Wynn (1990). "Guiding the Gifted Reader." ERIC Digest.
Reston, VA: ERIC Clearinghouse on Handicapped and Gifted Children. [ED 321 486]
Hellmich, Nanci (1995). "Special Programs Help Gifted Kids Excel." USA Today,
(30 March 1995, Section D-1).
Jackson, Nancy Ewald (1988). "Precocious Reading Ability: What Does It Mean?"
Gifted Child Quarterly, 32(1), 200-04. [EJ 382 037]
Levande, David (1993). "Identifying and Serving the Gifted Reader." Reading
Improvement, 30(3), 147-50. [EJ 470 356]
McIntosh, Margaret E. (1982). An Historical Look at Gifted Education As It
Relates to Reading Programs for the Gifted. [ED 244 472]
Shaughnessy, Michael, et al (1994). "Gifted and Reading." [ED 368 145]
Shaughnessy, Michael, et al (1993). "Gifted and Reading: A Bibliography."
Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Reading Association
(San Antonio). [ED 352 600]