Sunday , 18 February 2018
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Using DEPs as the First Step to Meeting the Needs of our Gifted Learners

children-happyEnrichment, extension, and acceleration are the core of the Newton-Conover City Schools’ AIG curriculum.  The AIG Specialist, classroom teachers, and parents complete annual Differentiated Education Plans (DEP’s) which address the best strategies for meeting the academic and social/emotional needs of each gifted learner.  Through implementation of diverse and effective instructional practices, content modifications, and learning environments, teachers strive to provide rigorous, meaningful, and interesting challenge in their classrooms.  Curricula for these advanced learners should be organized around higher-order processes, conceptual reasoning, problem-based/real world issues, critical and creative thinking, and inquiry/discovery.  AIG students are expected to gain a deep understanding of high level content and its interconnectedness with 21st century themes.

The DEP is updated and reviewed with the parent annually or when program changes are needed for the student. Teachers should employ diverse and effective instructional practices to address a range of learning needs.  The curriculum is accelerated, faster paced, and more rigorous.

Classroom teachers interested in receiving additional support to implement DEP practices or curriculum modifications should click on one or more of the following areas of instruction to request consultation with Mrs. Freeman:

As you begin to complete your DEPs, review this checklist of some strategies/practices that are appropriate for AIG students:

  •  Anchor Activities
  • Critical Thinking Skills
  • Curriculum Compacting
  • Higher Order Thinking Activities
  • Menus/Choice Boards
  • Problem-Based Learning
  • Tiered Assignments

learning_pyramid_ENData on curriculum and instructional practices with gifted learners clearly favors accelerated, research-based curriculum in the core subject areas. Research in gifted education strongly supports the use of advanced, accelerated curricula and pull-out enrichment sessions with high-ability learners. Studies confirm the greater effects of enrichment, in tandem with grouping gifted learners in classrooms, as a best practice in providing rigorous, meaningful, and interesting challenge to these unique learners.

Within the continuum of gifted learners (cluster AIG and AP classrooms), there remains a need to differentiate curriculum as a means of addressing student interests, career pursuits, strengths and weaknesses.

Any advanced curriculum that is developed should:

  • Provide instruction reflective of the highest levels of selected educational taxonomies (i.e. Revised Bloom’s, Marzano’s, etc.).
  • Incorporate critical thinking skills, problem-solving and flexible thinking activities into the instruction.
  • Utilize research-based educational models and strategies in the development of curriculum, projects, and products.
  • Incorporate an organized lesson, active engagement, meaningful learning, academic rigor, continuous feedback) into instructional practices, with particular emphasis on academic rigor.
  • Incorporate appropriate content modifications into the curriculum as described on the DEP.

To learn more about how you can meet the needs of AIG students, contact Heather Mullins ( or Jan Freeman (

About Heather Mullins

Heather Mullins is the Chief Academic Officer in Newton-Conover City Schools. She is a North Carolina Teaching Fellow who spent 12 years as a high school English Teacher. She received her B.S.Ed. in Secondary English Education from Western Carolina University. Heather completed her National Board Certification in Adolescent Young Adult English Language Arts in 2002. She holds an M.Ed. in Academically and Intellectually Gifted from UNC-Charlotte. Heather has served as a Curriculum Specialist in Hickory City Schools, an adjunct professor at Lenoir-Rhyne University, and a Professional Development Consultant for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. She completed her Ed.D. in Educational Leadership through Western Carolina University. Heather is one of the co-founders of #NCed Chat, North Carolina’s first Twitter chat for teachers. She is passionate about innovative practices, instructional technology, student ownership of learning, and supporting teachers. Heather serves on the advisory board for the North Carolina Digital Learning Plan, North Carolina School for the Deaf and Catawba Science Center. She is a recipient of the 2015 NCMLE Central Office Administrator to Watch Award. She also received the 2016 Don Chalker Award for Excellence in Educational Leadership. Heather is the proud mother of one son, Jackson.

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