A teacher of the year finalist finds that teaching gifted students with personalized learning techniques is highly effective.
Anthony Ritter teaches English language arts to third through fifth graders and was a finalist for Lake County’s Teacher of the Year. He says that personalized learning and collaborative learning is improving student achievement. In personalized learning, students learn at their own pace, following their interests. In collaborative learning, they learn from their peers.
“It works with gifted students. You have to provide personalized learning because (the students) are on a range of different levels,” he said. He plans lessons for 20 students who are all on different levels. He calls it “student based learning.”
Recently his fifth graders considered if Zheng He, a 14th century Chinese explorer, should be celebrated. They had to write an essay but they also had choices as to other activities. They could pretend to be one of the crew members and write a diary entry, or they could build a ship modeled after the one used by He. Meantime they gathered in small groups, brainstorming the answer to the question.
Ritter says there are misconceptions concerning gifted students. “Even though they are smart, they still have their highs and lows,” he said. “They still have their pitfalls you have to identify and work on. They still have the things that need to be taught to them.”