Going Beyond the Usual

Note: Any independent study activity should be conducted with appropriate guidance and supervision by the classroom teacher. This is particularly important when students are using online tools and resources.

If you have an idea or activity that has been particularly successful with gifted learners, please feel free to add it to this page in the appropriate section. Just give a brief description of the project---detailed lesson plans aren't necessary.


Author Study
Read several books by one author and look for common ideas, themes, and patterns. Does the author’s writing style change from book to book? Or read a biography of an author and one of his or her books. Do you see any connections or parallels?
Topic Study
Read several fiction books about one topic or historical period. Compare with factual books about the topic and see how the authors incorporated fact into fiction.
Award study
Read many books that won a particular award (such as the Newbery or Caldecott Awards) and see if you notice features that they have in common. What did the reviewers look for in choosing a book to receive the award?
Genre study
Read several books in a genre and figure out what makes a book fit that category. Are there books that could fit in more than one genre? Are there books that don’t seem to fit any genre?
Create an Anthology
An anthology is a collection of writing by many different authors. Usually there is a theme that connects all the pieces. Read a large number of pieces about a particular theme or idea and select ones to put into an anthology you are creating. List each title and explain why it belongs in your book.


The Internet has many sources of information and opinion, including blogs. Read some blogs on a topic you are interested in, and submit some comments to an article. Follow the discussion in the comments and see how people respond to the article and to your ideas.
Many articles in Wikipedia have good information. Since anyone can add to or change any article, though, it is always wise to check your facts with other sources. If you find mistakes or missing information, why not correct the article yourself? Write a new section to go in a Wikipedia article about a topic you have studied.
Movies and TV
Write a script for a new episode of your favorite TV show, or for a sequel to a movie you enjoy. Or why not create your own new show? If you had your own TV channel or movie studio, what would you create?
Graphic Novels
Comic books have become a well-respected form of art and literature. Create your own ideas for a graphic novel, develop the story, then draw the book.


Puzzles and Games
Many popular puzzles and games have mathematical foundations. Explore the kinds of math that can help you play certain games or solve certain kinds of puzzles. Invent a new game that incorporates math into it.
Enormous Numbers
Large numbers are very difficult for most people to imagine and understand. Numbers in the millions, billions, trillions, and beyond are especially hard. Think of ways to communicate these large numbers to people with visuals, models, or examples.
Other Bases
We use the base 10 system for most of our math. There are other ways of expressing numbers in other bases. Computer programmers, for example, often use base 8 and base 16. Read about different bases and learn how to read, write, and compute numbers using one of them.
Surveys and Polls
Conduct a survey about an issue that is important to you. Plan the information you want to gather, write the questions, collect the data, and analyze it. Graph the results and present them to someone who can use the information.
Money Around the World
Learn about different kinds of money around the world. Create a poster or picture book to illustrate and explain the way they each work. Learn how to convert one currency into another (for example, how to exchange American dollars for Euros).


Learn about the invention process, think of something that could be made easier with the right invention, and invent it!
Metric Mania
Learn about how the metric system was invented and why. Share what you learned by creating a project.
Accidents That Worked
Many important scientific discoveries were made by accident. Learn about some of them. What is the difference between an accident that’s just an accident and one that a scientist used to learn something new?
Famous Scientists
Choose any two famous scientists. Learn about their lives and accomplishments, then create a poster that compares them. Focus on the similarities.
Chain of Events
Study a scientific discovery or invention. Learn about the other discoveries and inventions that came before it which were important to making it happen. Find out if it led to any later discoveries. Create a timeline showing the chain of events that led from one thing to the next.

Social Studies

Community Service
Think about something that is needed in the community, and organize a service project to take care of it.
Imaginary Maps
Invent a fictional place, and draw a map of it. Show all the important geographical features, and make sure they make sense! As an extra challenge, write its history.
The Past and the Future
Take a place you are learning about in social studies and find out what it was like very long ago. How has it changed? What is still the same? Now imagine what it might be like 100 years from now, or 1000.
Campaign Promises
Imagine that you are running for President 40 years from now. What do you think will be the three most important issues the President will have to deal with? Write a speech telling how you will handle them if you’re elected.
Kid's Eye View
Study any part of the world that interests you, and try to understand what it is like from the point of view of a child living there. Find a way to share what you learned through writing (such as a story or report) or speaking (such as a presentation or film).

Art and Music

Study a famous work of art (painting, sculpture, collage, photograph). Recreate the work in a different medium. Be as detailed as you can, but put your own artistic ideas in as well.
Theme Song
Compose a theme song for a book you have read. Write the words and music. Perform it, if you dare!
Learning By Art
Choose any topic, theme, idea, or concept that you have learned this year in school. It can be in any subject area. Examples could be “Jamestown colony,” or “dividing fractions,” or “teamwork.” Create a work of art in any medium that expresses that idea.
Assembly Review
After a school assembly—whether it’s a concert, play, or other performance—write a review for the school newspaper. What was great? What could have been better? Why do you think the school presented that program for the students? Did it accomplish its goal?
The Play's the Thing
Imagine the school is going to perform a play or musical based on something you’ve learned in class. Design the set for the play. Create drawings or build a model to show your design.
Invent a Video Game
Video game programmers today are very much like filmmakers. The games are carefully planned and often begin with a detailed script. Planning a video game also requires a unique blend of storytelling, artwork, and logic in order to work well. Create the next great video game. Develop a detailed plan for the story, the graphics, and the rules of the game.