Engaging high-ability students

Teachers can use a variety of strategies and activities to engage high-ability students. These should add depth and complexity to the learning. Strategies will vary according to the age and stage of the student, as well as the subject being taught.

Engaging high-ability students in English

The Primary English classroom

Strategies and activities that teachers might use include:

  • exposing students to the large variety of writing that happens in the real world. Analysing the role various forms of writing play in society
  • exposing students to a large variety of spoken texts that happen in the real world. Analysing the role various forms of spoken texts play in society
  • requiring students to synthesise information from a range of sources to form a point of view to be expressed in written or spoken form
  • analysing and creating genre mashups
  • exposing students to different types of narration. Students can analyse their effects, including the unreliable narrator
  • providing opportunities for high-ability students to write with their high-ability peers
  • providing opportunities for high-ability students to peer review each other's written or spoken texts
  • incorporating the 'study of people' into the primary English classroom. This can be done by focusing on the lives and writing methods of famous authors or orators
  • inviting a visiting author to the classroom to talk about their work.

The Secondary English classroom

The strategies and activities listed above will also be suitable for the Secondary English classroom. Teachers will need to apply these to more sophisticated texts and concepts. More activities and strategies that teachers might use include:

  • providing opportunities for students to critically analyse complex texts with other high-ability students. For example:
    • literary circles with guiding questions
    • book clubs.
  • providing opportunities for students to make generalisations about the features of particular genres. For example:
    • studying a range of extracts from the dystopian genre and requiring students to look for similarities and differences.
  • providing opportunities for students to compare, contrast and evaluate across genres. For example:
    • comparing, contrasting and evaluating extracts from two different genres that address the theme of family.
  • using provocative questions or statements related to themes or genre. This will stretch the high-ability student's thinking. For example, when studying a novel that deals with the theme of materialism, the teacher may generate discussion with the following:
    • "The things you own end up owing you. It's only after you lose everything that you're free to do anything." (Chuck Palahnuk)
  • providing opportunities for students to adapt creative forms. Students could adapt a focus text into a:
    • graphic novel
    • mural or painting
    • play
    • poem
    • website/game
    • short film
    • animation.
  • providing students with options to contribute to learning design in the English classroom. For example:
    • students may be consulted about the text or genre to be studied.
  • providing students with the opportunity to use the skills developed in English to solve real-world problems. For example:
    • writing letters to members of parliament about local issues.
  • providing students with community enrichment opportunities that connect to their classroom learning. For example:
    • writer's retreats
    • local production of a play being studied.

Engaging high-ability students in mathematics

The Primary Mathematics classroom

Strategies and activities that teachers might use include:

  • linking mathematics to other areas of the curriculum. For example:
    • explore how angle, pattern and symmetry are used in visual art
    • consider the mathematical tools used in mapping.
  • getting students moving through tasks that require physical activity. For example:
    • explore and trial how angles and trajectory could be used to help improve kicking for goal in football.
  • linking areas of mathematics to real world problems. For example:
    • explore elements of geometry used in building a new bridge
    • explore the use of statistical data in forecasting severe weather events.
  • exploring mathematics in nature. For example:
    • explore shapes such as hexagons in bees wax, snowflakes and bubbles.
  • exposing students to problems that have no single solution. For example:
    • require students to solve a question in multiple ways and justify their preferred method
    • have students compare and contrast different solutions to a problem.
  • problematising tasks by implanting obstacles into the solution. For example:
    • limit the resources students can use to solve the problem.
  • incorporating narratives into mathematics. For example:
    • students interrogate the history of mathematics
    • explore the role of mathematics within narratives of First Nations people.
  • Inviting visiting professionals who use mathematics in a variety of different ways in their jobs (this should be guided by student interests).

The Secondary Mathematics classroom

Strategies and activities that teachers might use include:

  • using mathematics in nature to help solve problems. For example:
    • explore fractals as they relate to chaos theory
    • find solutions to questions such as 'How many stars are there in the sky?'
  • applying mathematical solutions to real world problems. For example:
    • explore the role of mathematics in tackling climate change
    • explore the use of algebra in possible economic solutions to poverty.
  • exposing students to problems that have no single solution. For example:
    • require students to solve a question in multiple ways, and evaluate and justify their preferred method
    • have students compare, contrast and appraise different solutions to a problem.
  • problematising tasks by implanting obstacles into the solution. For example:
    • limit the resources students can use to solve the problem
    • provide solutions to problems that contain errors.
  • posing students the question – So what? For example:
    • students define new problems their mathematical solution could be applied to.
  • providing opportunities for peer-evaluation and feedback. For example:
    • have students evaluate and provide feedback on solutions reached by their peers. 
  • using students' interest. For example:
    • have students apply mathematical understanding to an area they are interested in and/or have students interrogate an area of interest and define the role of mathematics within it.
  • providing students with external enrichment opportunities they can link back to their learning. For example:
    • online workshops or events provided by universities, or institutions such as Scienceworks.

Engaging high-ability students in other learning areas

Engaging students across the curriculum requires the use of differentiation and extension strategies. Annotated lessons are provided here to show how this might be done.

Levels 5 and 6

Levels 7 and 8

Levels 9 and 10