Fast thinkers often leave educators in awe and on the chase for more activities and curriculum to keep them moving forward, but fast thinkers also need their teachers to develop an awareness of when it would be good to slow them down. This may seem like an argument against differentiation for gifted students, but it is an underrepresented form of gifted advocacy.
Sometimes our students' greatest strengths can also be their greatest weaknesses. Fast thinkers can process vast quantities of information in a short amount of time, but they can also be obedient to absolutes because they need less repetition to understand an idea, and therefore spend less time incubating about concepts.
A few ideas:
- create question stem cards
- use depth and complexity (View Ian Byrdseed's depth & complexity resources)
- foster ambiguity
- require multiple answers
- ask students to think through a variety of discrete lenses (e.g. the naysayer, the optimist, the judge, the critic, the questioner, the dreamer, the journalist, the detective, the lobbyist, the scientist, the storyteller; or use something like deBono's Six Thinking Hats)
- make thinking visible at a mid-point in the lesson instead of the end demonstration of mastery (e.g. partner pair-shares, I spy, gallery walk, and other simple and quick activities that get students talking about new understandings)
Slowing down a fast thinker should be very intentional. Too often, these students face arbitrary obstacles to their natural processing speed because it is perceived to be easier to keep them at the same academic level as age peers. This type of slowing down is a punishment that can cause damage to a fast thinker's outlook on school and learning in general.
Striking a balance that honors learning style and processing speed while creating authentic challenge will take some practice. As you attempt to mix up the rate and level of learning in your classroom, ask your students for feedback about what they are learning and how they feel about themselves as learners. This will help you refine your craft and help your students develop essential reflection and advocacy skills.
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