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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Engaging the Gifted Learner

In advance of the August 29 Opening Day of the Quest Academy school year, our faculty met the preceding week. During a meeting led by our new Director of Teaching and Learning Beth Blaetz, our faculty was asked to produce visual representations of our curriculum that is so heavily influenced by the idea of linking all student learning to conceptual ideas – to lead our gifted students to grapple with our school-wide “Enduring Understandings.” An example of a Quest Academy “Enduring Understanding” for the subject of science is: “Classification is a thought process used to provide order.”

One such visual representation transmitted the idea of ignition. Igniting young gifted minds is indeed what our curriculum is intended to do. One of our school’s 15 Belief Statements reads as follows: Curriculum that first emphasizes conceptual understandings and applications facilitates the subsequent successful retention of discrete knowledge and specific skills.” For a complete list of the Belief Statements:

This belief statement is closely tied to the work of “Understanding by Design” curriculum experts Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. Designing the curriculum with big-picture conceptual understandings in mind is a necessary recipe to engage the gifted learner. It affords the gifted learner opportunities to grapple with abstract ideas, simultaneously providing the gifted student “hooks” (i.e. pathways in the brain) onto which they may attach more concrete and specific skills and knowledge. This curriculum design makes learning authentic, connected and relevant. It provides a reason for learning specific skills and knowledge.  

Imagine you are teaching a unit on comma placement. It is a valuable and necessary skill on one’s quest to become a great writer. Through a process of inquiry that will yield essential questions, we would first steer students to the understanding that spoken language uses techniques such as pauses, hand gestures, and voice fluctuations to provide greater meaning to the spoken language. From there, we guide students to the idea of written language. “How do we provide greater meaning in written language?” You can clearly begin to recognize that students will reach a meaning-laden framework as to why punctuation such as commas matters. The Enduring Understandings established at our school for the area of Writing are that “writing relies on conventions” or “the effectiveness of written language depends on organization.”

Gifted students are intrigued by conceptual ideas and passionate about enlarging their conceptual understandings with detailed and specific skills and knowledge. Here, too, we design our curriculum with the determinations of “important to know” and “worth being familiar with.”


  1. Hi Mr. Hebebrand,

    This is Li. Just want you to know that we had a class based on understanding by design in graduate school. Had to do a unit. Really helpful


  2. ان الرائد تقدم افضل الخدمات النزلية في المدينة المنورة بارخص الاسعار يمكنك زيارة التالي للمزيد من المعلومات :

    افضل شركة تنظيف منازل بالمدينة المنورة افضل شركة تنظيف منازل بالمدينة المنورة
    شركة مكافحة حشرات بالمدينة المنورة شركة مكافحة حشرات بالمدينة المنورة
    شركة تنظيف مجالس بالمدينة المنورة شركة تنظيف مجالس بالمدينة المنورة
    شركة تنظيف بالمدينة المنورة شركة تنظيف بالمدينة المنورة


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