What would you do if a kid in your class found the curriculum content at their year level too easy?
Some teachers would tell you to give them more practice “to make perfect”.
Others may advise you to pair them up with a less able student, peer tutor-style.
Others still may suggest you extend them “sideways”; encouraging them to transfer their skills into novel, but similar, situations.
So why, you may ask, do most educators not just give a grade three student grade four work? Accelerate the child to work on the following year’s learning?
Because they’re worried about the next teacher that student will have. They’re afraid to “cover” work that they know will be encountered in a year’s time.
Or they assume that the child will not be ready, socially, academically or emotionally, for more difficult learning, without actually consulting the child, or properly investigating the opportunity.
And I think that’s poor. I think that it is the most fundamental of job priorities for a classroom teacher to find the learning gaps of their students and to fill them. And on the flip side, to find out what students already know, and then to push them further. If that’s what they’re up to.
How do you do that, you might wonder?
Pre test. Don’t aim at “the middle” while letting some students struggle and others die of boredom. Don’t make presumptions about what kids will or won’t already know. And don’t be afraid to gently nudge students outside the scope and realm of what the curriculum dictates for that grade. And if they respond well, nudge a little further.
Because we need to have high expectations for our profession and hope.. nay, demand… that other candles will consume themselves to light the way for others too.