Gifted & Talented Education (GATE)

Overview of the Trabuco Mesa GATE SDC Program

At Trabuco Mesa Elementary School the unique characteristics of the GATE child are identified and nurtured. We readily accept the challenge of providing a program of instruction to meet the needs of students whose initial levels of interest, understanding, and performance are significantly beyond those of their age peers. We strive to discover and extend academic interest and talent by differentiating the core curriculum and focusing on the development of the whole child. Enrichment and extended learning occur through music, art, creative dramatics, group discussion, debate, and class field trips. We value the uniqueness of each child and work together as a team to foster social awareness, self esteem, and leadership skills for the children we serve.

The core curriculum as outlined in the CA Common Core Standards is challenging with multiple opportunities for children to draw meaningful conclusions from their learning. It successfully departs from the linear, skills based approach in which achievement is solely dependent on the acquisition of lower order skills and knowledge. In the GATE Special Day Class program at Trabuco Mesa we depart from a model of instruction that is primarily based on practice and repetition to one that provides differentiation of the core curriculum through a variety of strategies. Teachers provide advanced learning opportunities for students in four distinct ways: (1) acceleration/pacing, as well as variation in the (2) depth, (3) complexity and (3) novelty of curricular tasks.


Acceleration occurs naturally in a GATE SDC class because children are grouped with their intellectual peers, and there is limited demand for remediation or reteaching. For example, in the area of Language Arts, GATE students have typically mastered the mechanics of reading and are therefore able to read more extensively in a variety of areas. As a result, teachers routinely supplement the grade level anthology with a greater number of core novels and Jr. Great Books. Additionally, GATE students often possess an expanded vocabulary and extensive background knowledge about topics in the areas of science or social studies. This well established foundation enables the teacher to move rapidly through the grade level textbook and provide opportunities for students to participate in challenging activities such as those required for the Science Fair or the Stock Market simulation. In the area of Math, teachers routinely supplement the math curricular strands with a focus on logic, problem solving, and critical thinking problems.


When teachers differentiate instruction by varying the depth of an assignment, they are challenging students to reach beyond isolated facts to an understanding of the “big idea” or broader concept. Depth requires students to move from the concrete to the abstract and from the familiar to the unfamiliar. Examples of this differentiation: Students in 3rd grade study/research author George Seldon and his works and present information at Open House; 4th grade research an endangered species and create a multi-media presentation; 5th grade participate in an interactive Native American Simulation; Students in 6thgrade participate in Greek Festival. Students are not only required to know about the facts related to a particular event in history but they are required to demonstrate their understanding of the significance of this event by synthesizing and sharing the information through the medium of a play, an exhibit, or an oral presentation.


In addition to acceleration and depth, a teacher may choose to change the complexity of an assignment by extending the learning to concepts or themes. Complexity involves making relationships between ideas—an interdisciplinary approach that connects and bridges to other disciplines. An example of this would be the sixth grade Career Day assignment. Students combine knowledge across a variety of disciplines to make judgments and draw conclusions about possible career choices. In this activity students are required to utilize their skills to conduct research on a chosen profession, interview someone in the career field, and collect and analyze data related to various aspects of the specialty; such as educational requirements, salary, work year, vacations, etc. Defending their career choice in light of the current job market and state economy reinforces the broader concept of supply and demand and encourages students to connect ideas and learnings across the disciplines. Presenting their findings in an oral presentation to their peers requires mastery of the facts as well as the ability to clearly articulate the rationale for their choice. Another example of complexity is shown in third-grade with Orange County City Projects and Presentations. In these projects students are researching and working collaboratively in teams to become experts on various Orange County cities. Final presentations are presented to classes. Students act as city reporters using display boards to present findings.


Novelty differs from the other strategies for differentiation in that it is always student-initiated. The teacher establishes a learning environment in the SDC classroom in which students feel comfortable expressing divergent thinking without fear of ridicule for being different. Teachers encourage risk taking, collaboration, and multiple solutions to problems. For students to create a novel approach to a task, learning must make sense and be meaningful. This often occurs in such projects as the Invention Convention in fourth grade where students create inventions to address everyday activities such as using a tube of toothpaste or catching a fly. In this setting students are encouraged to think “outside the box” and attempt novel approaches to problem solving. In fifth grade students perform a class musical at the end of the year, as well as plan and implement a variety of presentations throughout the year. Students enjoy creating and presenting multi-genre projects.