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Differentiation for Gifted Learners

Going Beyond the Basics


Within a group of advanced learners, the variety of abilities, talents, interests, and learning styles can be formidable. For the first time, this book connects the unique learning differences among gifted students to the specific teaching methods used to tailor their educational experiences. Differentiated instruction for gifted and talented students must go beyond adjusting content levels, task complexity, or product choice.

Topics discussed include Common Core State Standards, real-world problem solving, abstract thinking, interdisciplinary concepts, authentic products, learning autonomy, accountability, grouping practices, affective curriculum, 21st-century skills, Advanced Placement and Honors classes, IB programs, underserved populations, and twice-exceptional learners.

Downloadable digital content includes PowerPoint presentation for professional development and customizable reproducible forms.

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ISBN: 978-1-57542-440-8
Audience: K–12 teachers, gifted education teachers, program directors, administrators, instructional coaches, curriculum developers
Trim Size: 8.5" x 11"
Page Count: 224
Digital Content: Includes PowerPoint presentation and customizable reproducible forms
Praise for Differentiation for Gifted Learners
“Considering gifted students with learning disabilities to those from diverse backgrounds, authors Diane Heacox and Richard M. Cash address the unique educational experiences of all types of gifted and talented learners . . . The practical suggestions are realistic for classroom teachers to implement and the straightforward tone of the book makes it easy to read and understand.”—Gifted Child Today

Differentiation for Gifted Learners is the right book at the right time. Finally a book with specific teaching methods that can be used to tailor lessons to meet the unique needs of gifted learners!”—Wendy A. Behrens, coauthor of Exploring Critical Issues in Gifted Education: A Case Studies Approach

“Heacox and Cash clearly understand the landscape of schools and what is needed to make programming work. The many user-friendly lists and suggestions for . . . classroom strategies make this book an excellent reference for daily use.”—Felicia A. Dixon, Ph.D., author of The Handbook of Secondary Gifted Education and Programs and Services for Gifted Secondary Students

“Heacox and Cash have each made significant contributions to the field of gifted education. Together, they more than double their impact in this thoughtful, easy-to-read book. They use current research to address timely issues like differentiating the Common Core State Standards for high ability students, co-teaching as a collaborative effort, and focusing on assessment as a critical element of the instructional process. They tackle topics not previously discussed like working with immigrant students and designing challenging honors courses for secondary students. This book is full of practical suggestions for classroom teachers, gifted education specialists, and principals. It is a must-have for those eager to go ‘Beyond the Basics.’”—Chrystyna V. Mursky, director of professional learning at Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and educational consultant at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

Differentiation for Gifted Learners takes the reader on a journey that is both conceptual and practical at the same time. It offers direction and sophisticated solutions for issues faced by advanced and progressive schools.”—Antarina S.F. Amir, founder & CEO of HighScope Indonesia Institute

“At last, a comprehensive, up-to-date book that explicitly describes how to differentiate for gifted and talented learners. The heart of the book comes from Heacox and Cash’s step-by-step description of how to differentiate the content, process, or product of a lesson in order to meet the needs of the gifted and talented learners. The authors include a variety of instructional strategies that educators can use immediately with their identified students. If educators are looking for practical information on the topic of differentiation for gifted and talented students, look no further.”—Patti Drapeau, consultant in gifted education at the Maine Department of Education and adjunct faculty at the University of Southern Maine

Differentiation for Gifted Learners is an excellent resource . . . Filled with practical definitions and explanations, the book offers a straightforward understanding of what it means to be gifted and talented and the components to a strong gifted program.”—Susie Strasser, high school English teacher

“Richard and Diane have hit a home run with this book! It provides exactly what teachers, coaches, gifted specialists, coordinators, and administrators need to help high-ability students develop a growth mindset, reverse underachievement, develop autonomy, and direct their own learning.”—Lora McHugh, Gifted and Talented Education Program Coordinator, Clark County School District

“Cash and Heacox’s insightful book has it all: broad and inclusive definitions of giftedness, differentiation, using the Common Core State Standards with gifted students, a variety of gifted programming options, underachievement, and assessment. This is a ‘must have’ book for anyone interested in a 21st century vision of the characteristics and needs of gifted students and how to work with them.”—Carolyn Coil, educational consultant

“Teachers will be fascinated with this text and take away a range of activities, strategies, assessment tools, and ideas for differentiating for their gifted students. It is also an essential text for university courses in teaching curriculum for gifted students.”—Dr. Gillian Eriksson, professor of gifted education, University of Central Florida
  • 2014 Legacy Book Award for Educators Winner
Understanding Underachievement in Gifted Learners

We’ve all had them—students who don’t produce to the level of their capabilities. It can be frustrating, annoying, and overall confusing. Underachievers, often gifted or advanced learners, are sending us a message. Our job is to figure out what that message is.

Underachievement is when students have a discrepancy between their potential (whether innate ability or talent) and their performance. As defined in the book I wrote with Diane Heacox, Differentiation for Gifted Learners: Going Beyond the Basics, underachievers can be either nonproducers or selective performers. Nonproducers refuse to do the daily work or homework but still perform well on final assessments, whereas selective performers pick and choose what they will do and where they will put their energies.

Continue reading on the Free Spirit Blog.
Motivating the Gifted but Reluctant Learner
A Free Webinar with Diane Heacox, Ed.D.

Join Free Spirit’s edWeb community, Social-Emotional Learning, Positive Behavior, and Student Achievement, to take a short quiz based on the webinar below and earn a free CE credit.

  • Common Core State Standards

    The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are aligned with expectations for success in college and the workplace; therefore, they are designed to stress rigor, depth, clarity, and coherence—all characteristic of appropriate learning experiences for gifted students. However, when working with the standards in your school and planning for the needs of gifted learners, keep the following considerations in mind. Differentiation within the standards must be rigorous in every subject area.

    • There should be multiple pathways for gifted learners to attain the CCSS on an accelerated schedule.
    • Teachers must be prepared to provide advanced content, skills, and processes for students who reach the CCSS early or who have attained them through prior learning.
    • Assessments should be performance-based, as they encourage more rigorous learning experiences than traditional paper/pencil assessments.

    We recommend adhering to the following guidelines as you consider ways to adapt both the Common Core State Standards and your state’s or province’s standards for gifted learners:

    1. Accelerate and streamline the standards to address the students’ advanced pace of learning.
    2. Combine less complex standards to create a more complex standard.
    3. Add complexity and depth, and incorporate opportunities to create and innovate.
    4. Use cross-disciplinary content and integrate standards from two or more disciplines. For example, CCSS English Language Arts (ELA) standards emphasize informational text. These standards can be incorporated into the nonfiction reading that students are doing to build knowledge or understandings in any curriculum area.

    Strategies for implementing each guideline into classroom practice are described in detail and specific examples of how CCSS guides differentiation for gifted students are provided in Differentiation for Gifted Learners.

    Diane Heacox, Ed.D., and Richard M. Cash, Ed.D.

Related Resources

Start Seeing and Serving Underserved Gifted Students
Cluster Grouping Handbook 2019
Teaching Gifted Kids 2018
Teacher's Guide to Flexible Grouping
Doing Poorly on Purpose
Visual Learning and Teaching
Making Differentiation A Habit Updated Edition
Advancing Differentiation Revised and Updated Edition
Teaching Twice Exceptional Students

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