catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 48, Num 1 :: 2008.10.01 — 2008.12.15


Making an impact on gifted students

What impact can we have on our gifted and talented students? How do we want them to impact this world? Do we need a gifted program at our elementary school for this to happen? Our basic curriculum is already rigorous. The Independent Study program, established 18 years ago, enriches the education of all of our students. The differentiated units of instruction at each grade level challenge students at every level of ability. These were the reflections of the staff and board at Timothy Christian School in Elmhurst, Illinois, when we considered whether or not to begin a program for gifted students.

We looked at our school’s mission statement: “Serving God and his people, Timothy Christian School develops academically prepared Christian disciples who embrace Christ’s call to transform the world.”

We considered the first point in our vision statement: “We reflect God’s kingdom by serving Christian families from diverse economic and cultural backgrounds and students who possess a wide range of abilities.”

We realized that these two statements require us to teach to the needs of all of our students. We decided that we can best meet the special needs of our gifted and talented students by creating a pull-out program for students in grades K-6 for math and reading.


Identifying gifted students

The first step in creating the Impact program was determining criteria for student identification. Since pulling students out of classroom instruction for participation in the Impact program is a significant intervention, careful identification is critical. Participation in Impact Math pull-out classes or in Reading pull-out classes is based on the following:


  • Iowa Test of Basic Skills scores
  • SAGES-2 scores (Screening Assessment for Gifted Elementary and Middle School Students)
  • Teacher Recommendation (Based on a classroom checklist)
  • Parent Permission
  • Student Interest


Kindergarten and first-grade students do not take standardized tests so identification is based on the SAGES-2 scores and Teacher Recommendation. We sometimes use the SIGS (Scales for Identifying Gifted Students). 

Occasionally, there are students who don’t meet the first two criteria (ITBS scores, and SAGES-2 scores), yet the teacher or the parents believe that the student should qualify to participate in the Impact program. When that occurs, parents complete an Appeals form. An Appeals Committee, comprised of three teachers, reviews the appeal and makes a determination. 


Pull-out math and reading classes

The Impact program provides pull-out classes in Reading for students in grades K-6 and in Math for students in grades K-5. The classes meet once each week in Kindergarten and twice each week in grades 1-6. After the second year it became apparent that it is not ideal to pull students out of class for math instruction in sixth grade. So we developed a section of Accelerated Math for sixth-grade students. 

Writing curriculum for these groups was the second step in developing the Impact program. Often the Impact curriculum reflects and extends the classroom curriculum. For example, the second-grade unit on Ancient China is studied during and after the second-grade China unit. Third-grade students study Ancient Egypt, which extends their knowledge about the setting of many of the Old Testament Bible stories that they study. The fourth-grade Impact students participate in a simulation game that introduces problem-solving strategies that go beyond the strategies introduced in the fourth-grade math curriculum.  

It isn’t always possible or desirable to match the classroom curriculum. In sixth-grade Impact Reading, students select the novels and topics of study. Some of the topics selected by these students include racism and immigration, and some of the novels include Oliver Twist and Montmorency. 


Materials used 

Finding materials and developing units for Impact pullout groups is one of the most rewarding tasks for me. Materials that I have found particularly useful are the following:


  • Units of  study published by the Center for Gifted Education at the College of William and Mary
  • Blueprints for Biography units from the Center for Gifted Education at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock
  • Simulations published by Interact
  • Units from the Mentoring Mathematical Minds Series  published by Kendall/Hunt
  • Critical Thinking Company Books and Software
  • Math Rules! Books published by Pieces of Learning
  • Enrichment Units in Math published by Dandy Lion Publications
  • Challenge Math published by Hickory Grove Press
  • Materials from Prufrock Press



Math and Reading Enrichment

After the first year of the program, we implemented a second tier to address the needs of  students who need to be challenged, yet aren’t identified to be pulled out for Impact Math or Impact Reading. This second tier begins in third grade with a Math and Reading Enrichment Program. Students may choose to take a pretest before beginning a new math unit. Students who exceed the cutoff score on the pretest are eligible to participate in math enrichment. Math enrichment allows students to work independently or in a small group to complete a set of math activities which extend the classroom curriculum. These students meet with the Impact Coordinator twice each week for instruction, support and grading. The math enrichment program will continue to develop by grade each year (fourth grade next year, fifth grade the following year). 

The Reading Enrichment program is being fine-tuned to match the curriculum and the needs of the students at each grade level. First-grade Reading Enrichment students study vocabulary, and second- and third-grade students read books from a variety of genres. Fourth-grade students read books from each of the regions that they study, and fifth-grade students will read books from a variety of time periods in American History.


Challenges encountered

There are huge challenges and hurdles to creating a gifted program in a Christian school. Money is one of the biggest challenges. It is expensive to hire a teacher and develop a program. Yet, we’ve learned that many Christian families are looking for a school for their gifted and talented children. While it is not the main reason for implementing a gifted program, the Impact program has attracted several families to our school. 

Another challenge is determining which areas and subjects we will address. Students are gifted in so many areas and the reality is that we can’t meet every need of every student. We chose to focus on Math and Reading. In order to address the needs of some of our other students, we began an after school science club so that we can participate in the Illinois Science Olympiad. 

A third challenge came with the realization that a small number of students are so advanced that their current grade level can’t meet their needs. The Iowa Acceleration Scale, 2nd Edition is a good tool to determine eligibility for full grade acceleration. 

Finally, the most exciting challenge is the realization that a program for gifted and talented students should never remain static. The Impact program is still developing. Long-term goals include plans for an effective curriculum to support gifted and talented students, a parent discussion and support group, and continued differentiation in the classrooms. So, the Impact program at Timothy Christian School today will look very different a year from now and into the future as we continue to change and modify in an attempt to best meet the needs of our students.


Suggested Resources:

Assouline, Susan, Nicholas Colangelo, Ann Lupkowski-Shoplik, Jonathan Lipscomb, and Leslie Forstadt. Iowa Acceleration Scale, 2nd Edition, A Guide for Whole-Grade Acceleration K-8. Great Potential Press, Scottsdale, 2003.

Smutney, Joan Franklin, Sally Yahnke Walker, and Elizabeth A. Meckstroth. Teaching Young Gifted Children in the Regular Classroom  Identifying, Nurturing, and Challenging Ages 4-9. Free Spirit Publishing, Minneapolis, 1997.

Johnsen, Susan K and Anne L. Corn. Sages-2 Screening Assessment for Gifted Elementary and Middle School Students, Second Edition. PRO-ED, Austin, 2001.

Critical Thinking Books and Software.

Blueprints for Biography.

Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company: Mentoring Mathematical Minds Series; Literature Units from the Center for Gifted Education School of Education – The College of William and Mary.

DandyLionPublications.  www.dandy

Prufrock Press.

Great Potential Press.  www.lgiftedbooks .com

a.w. peller & associates. www.awpeller. com


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