Conducting Learning

All the students in Martha Kueffner's first-grade classroom are identified gifted learners. However, there is no shortage of complex needs to be addressed, including supporting various learning styles, support for English Language Learners, and differing levels of socio-emotional development.
First graders in Martha Kueffner’s gifted class enjoy arts enrichment.





Some say teaching is like juggling plates, like pulling teeth, like walking a tightrope. And some say that because Martha Kueffner teaches gifted first graders in a self-contained classroom, her job is a piece of cake. To her, on good days, it’s more like conducting an orchestra. Simultaneously, she’s building independence in her students, beefing-up their technology skills, teaching the writing process, adhering to the prescribed curriculum, providing arts enrichment, and matching activities to various intelligences and learning styles.

Students engage in various morning activities while waiting to have their homework checked.

Leaning over the tiny tables, chairs, and students, Martha works to check homework while keeping an eye on all that is happening in her busy classroom.

As the morning progresses, she encourages her students to recall all the steps they’ve used to draft and revise a recent writing project. She’s been focusing on increasing students’ responsibility for evaluating and improving their work and helping students support one another as they move through the writing process.



Meghan readily engages in model classroom behaviors.

One student, Meghan, is clearly comfortable speaking in front of her classmates. Martha regularly reminds herself not to lean too hard on Meghan when she needs to keep a class discussion moving. After years of teaching, she knows how important it is to give everyone a chance to speak, especially those students who are new to the United States and working to master English. These students, and their peers, need just as much practice speaking and listening as reading and writing.




Whenever she can, Martha integrates the arts into the curriculum. Her focus on visual art, drama, and music makes good use of nearby Manhattan’s resources. Organizing trip logistics and guest artists is challenging, but in the end Martha always returns to this teaching hook.

See Martha’s music enrichment plans below:

Martha can’t stop grinning as she helps her students pack up for the day. She’s continually amazed by their ability to function as a cohesive group and pull together creative projects. She realizes that her students’ gifts make her job look easy. But, Martha knows better.