Differentiating with extracurricular content means including a variety of disciplines, ideas, systems of thought and issues not addressed in the regular core curriculum in the grade in which the student is currently placed. It is usually selected by the teacher, so it may or may not be related to student interests. Connecting extracurricular content to student interests is a wonderful idea. This can enhance their motivation and engagement. It is particularly important to ask for student input when working with those who are underachieving or under-motivated.
When a student has demonstrated mastery of core content, extracurricular content may be woven into regular curriculum areas or studied in place of regular curriculum content. This is an opportunity to expand a student’s horizons, introducing new subjects and disciplines. A majority (70%) of the high ability learners who completed a survey of learning preferences indicated they enjoyed studying REAL problems like endangered species, pollution, peace, politics, power, death and so on.
Extracurricular topics may be in either of two forms, or a combination of the two. The first is enrichment. This occurs when the content is not addressed as part of the core curriculum in any grade, from kindergarten through grade 12. The second form is acceleration, specifically subject matter acceleration. This occurs when the student engages in content before her or his classmates.
This differentiation strategy may overlap with at least two others. When a student’s interest is woven into extracurricular content by the teacher, a “Real Life Topic” is also addressed. If the student identifies the topic, “Self-selected Content” is also involved.
Imagination is your guide when determining extracurricular content. It might include animation, chaos theory, agriculture, robotics, survey techniques, celestial navigation, sustainability, jewelry design, entrepreneurship, publishing, fractals, bioethics, or a foreign language. This content works well in individual pursuits or in “replacement activities” developed for students when curriculum is compacted to differentiate the pace of learning.