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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia. He holds a Ph.D. with a specialization in elementary education from the University of South Florida. His...
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Whole-Group Enrichment: A three-step process to make it work



As of this writing, I have a student who just loves to learn. She soaks up new knowledge and skills like a sponge. Though I only work with her a short time during the enrichment reading block, she has made incredible strides on her research project. She is grade-levels above her peers in regards to her reading ability, and the basic curriculum simply won’t challenge this child.

The interesting thing is that she is not “gifted”—at least not in the eyes of the school district’s established cut-off scores.  But she is living proof that enrichment is not strictly for the gifted student.

Why not consider providing enrichment to students, gifted or otherwise, who demonstrate mastery of the lesson you are teaching?

Rather than waste their time by having them repeat content they already know, offer them opportunities to learn the content with more complexity and more rigor while exercising creativity and critical thinking skills?

Sounds wonderful, right? You may be thinking: how do I pull this off with 20-something students in my class, all of varying abilities.

Within this blog, I will reveal some simple steps, which have worked very well in my experience.  Disclaimer: this method works extremely well in a co-teaching situation since one teacher can focus on basic content while the other can work with enrichment students. Nevertheless, a teacher on a quest to differentiate his or her classroom can still use this method with powerful results.

Step One: Pre-Test

Provide a short assessment to the class that will gauge whether they have mastered the upcoming lesson. Have students volunteer to take the pre-test since some might not be comfortable with the material and don’t want to experience “failing” the test. It’s only fair they have this option since you haven’t actually taught the lesson yet.

During this step, tell the students that if they pass the pre-test (85 percent correct or more is a typical cut-off, but you can establish your own cut-off score), then they will bypass the traditional lesson and have the chance to work in the enrichment group that day. You will find that students work harder and concentrate more on the test since they will be motivated to move toward enrichment. You can even tell them what the enrichment activity will be up front to provide added incentive.


Step Two: Determine Mastery

Use a method to quickly grade the pre-test to determine which students can advance to enrichment and which should participate in basic instruction.  Technology, such as student remote controls or “clickers,” are a good idea since they electronically grade quizzes for you. Another method is to quickly grade the tests as students finish them.

Step Three: Divide and Teach

Divide students into groups based on the pre-test results; those scoring above the cut-off will take part in the enrichment group. Have an enrichment lesson ready for them at that station--make it something that students can work on independently with little guidance from the teacher.  Have some clear steps laid out for them to follow.  Think of how to use instructional videos and other technology to assist you.  Your focus and energy, as a single teacher in the classroom, will need to be mostly on the basic curriculum group.  For example, if the lesson involved students comparing and contrasting two different texts, maybe the enrichment activity could involve furthering research a third text on computers to compare to the existing texts or students could have the option of writing or creating their own passage or article, then comparing that to the other texts.   

In regards to assessment, provide a self-evaluation type assessment, such as a rubric, that the students in the enrichment group can follow to guide them as they work independently.

During this time, you provide instruction to the other group as you normally would. Here’s another tip: use the pre-test data to further target your instruction so you are focusing on the necessary skills and knowledge not yet mastered by the students, rather than “covering the entire lesson” simply because it’s on the pacing schedule or within the textbook. You will save time and energy through this approach. If the lesson extends over a few days, you could give these students the chance to “test out” of the basic curriculum lesson as you see them advance and pick up the required skills. They would then move to the enrichment activity. This provides them with motivation throughout the lesson.

(Obviously, in a co-teaching situation, you could have one teacher work with the basic instruction group while the other teaches the enrichment activity group. Though, I know this is not always the reality).

This three-step method for enrichment can be offered daily, which might be too taxing on the teacher’s time and energy, but more realistically, offered as a weekly feature in the classroom. Though simple in its design, the method ensures that advanced students have opportunities for growth and new learning while other students are receiving the proper instruction needed. 

Wishing you success,