Category: Gifted Education

Take a right at the second door and enter my gifted classroom ~photo by Angie French
Take a right at the second door and enter my gifted classroom ~ photo by Angie French
It’s been awhile since I have published an entry here. During that time, I have not ignored the issues surrounding the education of our gifted learners; just taken a short break from publishing on my site. There has been some exciting things happen over the past few months. I completed the end of the school year at one campus and moved to a new campus following the principal that hired me when I first started in this district.

This is my tenth year teaching with nine of those years working with the gifted learner. My Twitter handle @teachagiftedkid does not quite capture what I do in my classroom but it was the handle I came up with when I was completing my Masters in Curriculum and Instruction in 2002. My job is actually more like coaching the gifted kid and my classroom atmosphere is more of a collaborative, invigorating, noisy place when the kids are engaged in their learning.

So, what aspects do I like about ‘teaching’ gifted kids? My list is going to be short and sweet and here goes:

I love the connections they make with the information or learning experiences they are participating in! Never, ever assume you know everything just because you are the teacher! The question that I use when a student says something that I don’t directly see the connection to what we are doing is, “What makes you say that?” Listen, listen carefully because you might learn something insightful or see things from a new and different perspective!

I want to preface this aspect of working with the gifted learner with a sorry. I apologize to all the state education agencies and the test making companies because of this next aspect that I love about teaching gifted children. Although, I do believe that testing is extremely helpful to educators and state lawmakers it just doesn’t make sense to dwell on it with my gifted learners. I know what they are capable of and I stress the need to show that in all the work they do, including standardized tests. I teach my students with an eye towards their future. A test will not guarantee their success in the job market years from today but it may play a role on their way to their future. I also address topics such as how to be successful in college, how to handle a bully who is teasing them about their differences, discussing their career aspirations and being true to who they are.

Some of these children are already owners of their learning so my job is to help them with direction, resources and communication. Yes, there are some gifted learners that need me every step of the way. In these cases, my job is to build their self-confidence in their abilities and perspective. When do I know I am successful with these students? Most of the time, it is years later when they send me a high school graduation announcement or their parent sees me in the grocery store and they tell me of their child’s successes!

Having raised two gifted learners into adulthood and watched them playing with their gifted friends has helped me to understand and relate to their social-emotional development. I’m also married to a creatively gifted man that when through his educational career without any specialized services. His insight has been invaluable for me. Much more valuable than all the professional development that I’ve attended. My current students look at me sometimes with the look that says, “How did you know I was thinking that?”

I love the challenge of educating the other adults who work with these children outside of my classroom. My charge is to build understanding and empathy for the issues that the gifted learner deals with. I feel it is important to advocate for services they need. I enjoy working with adults to help them understand the needs, intensities and joys of working with the gifted learner.

One of the most rewarding aspects of working with the gifted learner is when the parent of a gifted learner breathes a big sigh of relief when they realize that intensities they are dealing with at home aren’t a sign of psychological issues but rather are an manifestation of the child’s giftedness. I host a monthly gifted parent book club on Friday afternoons at my school for just this reason. This is a valuable forum for discussion for these parents.

That’s my short and sweet list. What’s yours?

Gifted Education

I love this! Thanks Jeffrey Shoemaker for providing me with the inspiration I needed to blog about issues that surround educating and advocating for our gifted learners. Look for a blog entry from me soon!

Gifted Education

I recently presented a session called, ” Positive and Productive Parent-Teacher Conferences to Communicate the Needs of your Gifted Child” at two TxGifted Parent Conferences. I’m publishing the handout that I created from my powerpoint for the session for those who missed the presentation.

Handout TAGT 2013 Parent pdf

Among the myriad of great articles out there that I also referenced, I used these three books in my presentation: If This is a Gift, Can I Send it Back?: Surviving in the Land of the Gifted and Twice Exceptional by Jen Merrill, Perspetives in Gifted Homeschooling Series, 2012. Living with Intensity, Susan Daniels PhD and Michael Piechowski, PhD, Great Potential Press, 2009. Raising Champions: A Parent Handbook for Nurturing Gifted Children, Michale Sayler, Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented, Fall 1997.

I concluded the session with some Q & A time because I know that I don’t have all the answers for each circumstance that parents of gifted children may encounter. It’s important for parents to share their experiences in affecting positive change through parent-teacher conferences. I encourage parents of gifted children to assemble their own personal learning network through the excellent parent blogs such as: Laughing At Chaos or Gifted Parent Support or Da Vinci Learning Center Blog. New to the blogsphere is Extraordinary Journey. If you are on twitter be sure to tune into the various chats dealing with gifted issues such as #gtchat, #gtie and #gtvoice. My readers can follow me at @teachagiftedkid.

Gifted Education

I believe that we should be doing more to inform and support the parents of our newly identified students. I came to this realization during a recent encounter at, of all places, a car repair shop. I was passing the time waiting for my car to get serviced by playing a game on my iPad when a mother and her two elementary aged daughters walked in. It didn’t take long for the oldest girl to casually take a peek at my game. I noted that she was intensely interested in her surroundings and, like most children, she was seeking out mental stimulation in a boring place. I mentioned to the mom that I was a teacher and shared one of the interactive books that I had downloaded onto my iPad. Soon, mom and I were in a discussion where she shared that her little girl had been recently identified as a gifted second grader.

What happened next formed the inspiration for this post. Within minutes of telling the mother that I was a teacher of the gifted, the questions came pouring out. “My second grader was just identified at the end of last school year, what should I be doing now?” “Should I have known she was gifted before she was identified?” “Was there something that I wrote that might have hindered or helped my child during the process because I felt like I was being tested, too.”

These questions indicated to me that this parent 1) was probably not given any information other than her child’s test scores 2) doubted her own parenting skills since she didn’t know that her child was gifted before testing 3) and she wasn’t informed of her role in the identification process. I believe that all these questions symbolize the lack of information and support that should have been provided by the school staff or private testing service to the parent before, during and after the identification process. This interaction led me to reflect on what I do to inform and support the parent of a newly identified gifted child.

In the qualification letter that I send home to the parent I include links to my district’s resources and my own online website. This assumes that the parent has time to look at these resources. I am hoping that they do because there is an incredible amount of resources online which was not available 20 years ago when my own children were identified. I also ask the parents to tap into my News Flashes to keep abreast of the next parent support group meeting or seminar offered in the area. I had four successful parent support group meetings last year and a local college hosted a parent’s seminar partnering with TxGifted. We discussed things like perfectionism, making friends, academic achievement (or lack of academic achievement) and opportunities outside of school hours. I hope to continue offer these discussions again this coming year. But is this enough?

I tried to assure the mom at the car repair shop that she may not have known that her daughter was gifted before she was identified. Parents know their child very well but may not know how they compare intellectually to other children. It’s likely they see some characteristics about their child that are different but ‘chalk it up’ to individual preferences, not giftedness. I look back at my own experiences with my son and daughter and I recall some characteristics that might have indicated giftedness. Maybe I will spot them in my grandchildren but I’m guessing that I won’t. Many times, it’s not until the child is placed in an environment such as a classroom where their characteristics and behaviors become evident. This is where the professional educator comes in. We have to rely on testing and observations by a professional who is trained to identify the gifted learner to confirm that we are dealing with a gifted learner.

This brings me back to the setting that inspired this piece. The guys who service my car are professionals who are trained to determine whether my car is functioning at its peak performance. I have to trust that they are qualified to do their job and that they are reliably informing me what needs to be done to meet this goal. It’s the same with the job of the professional educator. Educators are professionally trained to determine and should be meeting the needs of each child whether they be special needs, on-level or above level.

The mom at the service station was concerned that something she wrote about her child during the identification process could have hindered her child from getting “accepted into the gifted program.” She felt like she was the one being tested. I first heard a similar comment during one of the parent support group meetings that I held last school year. I remember being asked to write about my children during their identification process over 20 years ago. I was just happy to let someone else know all about the wonderful things my children were doing at home. What parent wouldn’t want to do this? I didn’t even think about how it affected his or her acceptance into a program. I know that today’s parents need and want more information so they can “do” the right thing for their child.

I decided to ask one of my parents what she needed but was not provided during those first few weeks of finding out that her child had been identified as a gifted learner. I appreciated her honesty and perspective and found her suggestions very enlightening. Her first comment was that “both her and her husband are college educated and she has a teaching degree” and yet she didn’t truly know what the test scores meant and what should she be doing now for her child. Sound familiar? I loved it when she wrote, “I didn’t know what I didn’t know.” Some of her other suggestions included an initial conference to explain the results of the testing, a book list of recommended reading and a mentor-like seasoned gifted parent for exchanging parenting stories. These are all things that I can implement easily next school year.

My encounter with the mom at the repair shop in a way parallels my experience as an educator of gifted children. I understand that those who know how cars work are better equipped to service and maintain them. They give me advice on how to make my car function at its best. Likewise, parents of gifted children would greatly benefit from understanding the identification process and how to support their gifted children throughout their school years. As ‘mechanics’ of a sort, gifted educators are a vital part of equipping the parents of identified gifted children to service and maintain their little gifted engines so they obtain peak performance in the classroom and throughout their educational careers.

Part of the International Year of the Gifted Child Blog Tour

Education Gifted Education

Notes from the EXPO and Parent Mini Conference on January 28, 2012
Lone Star College – University Park

This conference was presented by the Houston Area Cooperative on the Gifted and Talented, The Southeast Cooperative for Gifted and Talented, Lone Star College – University Park and Education in Action and the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented. Vendors, summer camps, academies and museums, and universities were on hand with loads of information and applications for their programs. According to Lynette Breedlove, PhD., current President of the Texas Association for Gifted Children, summer camps and after school programs are important for our gifted children. Some camps and after school programs serve a range of ages making it easier for the gifted student to find their academic (rather than their age) peer among campers who have the same likes and dislikes as them.

Dr. Patricia Gatto-Walden, Psychologist/Consultant for the Gifted, was the keynote speaker for the event. She addressed the multi-faceted needs of gifted children. She has worked with thousands of gifted and profoundly gifted children and adults. She began her address with the question, “What does it mean to be gifted?” and “What do the gifted children want the adults in charge to know about them?”

Most people think that giftedness is IQ or academic or getting high grades. Although having an IQ and getting high grades are part of being gifted, it doesn’t define giftedness. Giftedness can also defined by characteristics of asynchronous development, sensitivity, perceptivity, intensities and perfectionism. It is vital that a gifted individual understand that, “giftedness is your abundance – it’s not negative.” It’s no secret that gifted individuals are different thinkers. Sometimes, they feel like they are so different that no one understands them. They feel that no one can relate to how they think. Dr. Gatto-Walden wanted the listeners to know that, “Giftedness is a two-sided coin.” There is the side of accomplishment and praise and the inner side of doubt and lack of self-confidence.

She presented the analogy of a TV to illustrate the magnitude of these characteristics. Individuals with an average IQ have about three TV channels. These can be turned off and turned on at any time. Individuals with an IQ up to 130 have about 90 channels that are always on. Individuals with an IQ of around 130 to 160 have a satellite dish with 500 channels that are always on and amplified. Individuals with an IQ of 160 to 200 have about 50,000 channels, and above that, imagine a Hubble Telescope (big yet minuscule at the same time). Most teachers are trained to teach to the 3 channel student who is capable of turning on and off. Gifted students take in those three channels and have another 43+ available and ready.

Dr. Gatto-Walden cautions parents and teachers to look to the individual and not the lists of characteristics that define giftedness because “Individuality trumps everything!” She advised parents to look at their home environment, family history, daily support system, their child’s innate individual temperaments to help their child navigate through their world because “Children learn what they live.” As an additional advice, Dr. Gatto-Walden suggested that a parent should always respond to a child at their emotional age, not their chronological age. She suggested that parents should not be fooled by their child’s asynchrony development in other areas.

Dr. Breedlove’s session on “The Intensity of Giftedness” used the example of being tall to explain the innate characteristics that a gifted individual has. “One does not go around bragging that they are tall, it is just part of who they are.” It’s the same with being gifted with psychomoter, intellectual, imaginational, sensual and emotional intensities (based on the work of K. Dabrowski, Piechowski and Lind). “Individuals are born with intensities in these five areas and these intensities will remain with them throughout their life. It’s not something to brag about; it’s part of who you are.” Our job as parents and educators is to help these students manage and use their intensities to become successful students and adults.

Gifted individuals also struggle with asynchronous development in the areas of physical, cognitive, social and emotional development. As an example: an individual may have the physical development of an 8 year old but have the cognitive development of an 11 year old. Most issues that arise in working with gifted children are a result of misunderstanding the development level in an individual. The speakers that I listened to during the conference (Dr. Breedlove, Dr. Patricia Gatto-Walden and Dr. Laura Mackay) all emphasized that the best thing a parent can do to help their gifted child is to LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN.

“Understanding Perfectionism and How to Help your Gifted Child” was the topic of the session presented by Dr. Laura Mackay, TAGT Past President. Dr. Mackay presented both the positive and negative aspects of perfectionism. Gifted students are susceptible to unhealthy perfectionism because of their high expectations of themselves and others around them. Our job as parents and educators is to help gifted students learn how to manage their perfectionism characteristics to work towards excellence. Some gifted students can look completely normal at school and complain of stomach aches at home. Some students exhibit behaviors that look like laziness but are really their response to perfectionism. Some children will only put forth the effort if they feel that the project is worth doing. This can be confusing to teachers who are trying to assess where the student are academically. What they notice in the classroom is unfinished projects, assignments stuffed into desks and behavior issues. Parents and teachers also need to carefully phrase their words while working with a perfectionist. Phrases like “Do your best” can be interpreted by the perfectionist as “my best is perfect” which can lead to more stress in the child’s mind.

I’m happy to report the answer to a question that one of my parents asked me during our recent parent group get together at my school. She asked if perfectionism a result of heredity or environment. Dr. Mackay noted that “perfectionism traits can appear as early as 2-3 years of age. It has not been determined if it is a result of genetics or environment, although there does seem to be some basis in genetics as it seems to passed down from generation to generation.” I also received an interesting tweet after posting the question to my PLN on Twitter on the topic from @kellyhines during a #gtchat “Going to go with genetic influence. I have 8 yr old twin boys. Both gifted. Only 1 has perfectionism issues like me.”

Unhealthy perfectionism can be demonstrated by a child magnifying or minimizing an accomplished goal, or working towards a quantity or awards rather than quality of awards. Sometimes, they procrastinate, have mood swings or stomach aches and find it hard or are unable to concentrate because “being board can also stress a gifted child.”

What can parents do? Learn to appreciate the trait, help the child label and manage perfectionism and how it makes them feel. Help them to self-censor or to listen to that inner voice. Help them to savor their successes and accept compliments and praises rather than rushing on to the next accomplishment. Be sure to schedule time for fun! Dr. Mackey recommended getting the book “Perfectionism: What’s Bad about Being Too Good?” by M. Adderholdt-Elliot, 1987 for you to share with your child.

There were several other sessions that parents could attend that covered the areas such steps to advocacy and creating parent groups, tuning parental skills toward family harmony and the five levels of giftedness. For the parent with the older child, letting your gifted teen grown up was one of the sessions. The Expo and Parent Mini-Conference was well organized, well attended and well presented. The accommodations provided by Lone Star College were beautiful, spacious and clean. Kuddos to the organizations involved for organizing and presenting an informative session for parents AND organizing activities for children at the same time. The activities were provided by American Robotics Academy, Camp Invention, Destination Imagination Journey Camp, Mad Science and Summer Creative Writing Workshop.

For more information on the presenters, summer camps and activities and the TAGT Scholarship (to help pay for them), be sure to visit your Gifted Specialist’s webpage or contact them directly. Be sure to visit www.txgifted.org/insights for details on available summer scholarships.

Blogroll Gifted Education

Here are a few interesting tidbits from my recent attendance at the National Association for Gifted Children in New Orleans, LA in the form of a Prezi presentation. I took 13 pages of typed notes (along with a multitude of handouts) so I thought I would save you time by highlighting those that I found most interesting or motivating. I’d love to hear if any of those sparked a discussion among your PLN.

Not only did I hear some awesome speakers, I also met up with seven Twitter friends that I’ve never seen before, two former co-workers and visited with my son’s 5th grade gifted Science Teacher (my son is now 28 years old, BTW). All in all, a wonderful experience.

Now, if you couldn’t make it to the NAGC, you still have time to make it to the TxGifted 3.0 conference. The details are found here: http://www.txgifted.org/tagt.

Here is what you have been waiting for: Recap of the 2011 NAGC Convention 2011

Education Gifted Education

Somewhere in our educational history the message came down that teaching the child with a “gifted” label was easy. It’s not. Teachers have to be fully prepared to move quickly through material, be more flexible, understand and carefully use sarcastic humor, respond to boundary pushing, answer constant questions, allow for discussion of moral injustices, manage outbursts and intensities, establish expectations that match the skills and abilities of the learner and be sensitive to physical and emotional issues such as ADHD, underachieving, Bipolar, dyslexia, learning English, and a myriad of others to numerous to mention. Yes, gifted kids are not all high achieving perfect students!

Because of the age-old message that teaching gifted children is easy, administrators and teachers assume that those labeled as “gifted” can excel when other students who are “labeled” low-students are placed in the same classroom (as the phrase goes) “to spread the wealth”. While there should diversity in a class of students, excessive spreads of skill and ability doesn’t make sense for several reasons and is not research based.

Although teachers are masters of differentiation, in the real world they struggle with meeting the needs of every student and the requirements of paperwork, meetings, email and other demands on their time. Students know who struggles with concepts and who gets it the first time. “Gifted” or high achieving students might brag or tease their classmates. They are likely to adopt behavior problems to deal with their boredom if the teacher spends his/her time addressing the needs of the other students. “Gifted” students may feel undue empathy towards their peers and stress over the injustices. Anyone who has looked into brain-based learning knows that any kind of stress on the child takes precedence over the learning functions in the brain. In other words, good, solid learning doesn’t occur when the brain is stressed.

Low students recognize that they don’t know the answer as quickly as their classmate. Their self-esteem plummets. Parents become concerned. They make more phone calls, send more emails, and ask for more conferences which is taxing on the teacher. Additionally, if the parent doesn’t find satisfaction with the way a teacher is dealing with these issues, they move on to administration. We can easily relate the affect of stress on learning with the affect of stress on teaching by asking the question: how does stress affect teaching?

As research reveals more about the best situations that children learn in, educators and administrators need to change perceptions on what creates successful learning in the actual classroom. Part of the job of Gifted researchers and teachers is to explain the results of educational research to administrators, teachers and parents. This includes different ways to look at things and new terminology.

When a message has been hammered in and repeated millions of times over the course of decades, whether or not that message is actually true becomes irrelevant — and the people invested in presenting that message, whether for monetary gain or not, are especially resistant to any evidence that might be contrary. ~K Wartman/Huffington Post

Gifted education has amassed loads of research and more research on the diversity of learners and their performance in the classroom, which we have done a fantastic job of explaining to other gifted advocates. We need to get the message out to those who make the decisions: the administrators and school boards. Our students, whether they are low or high, need to have their academic and social/emotional needs met. We won’t do this by appeasing anybody. We don’t do this to avoid griping by other teachers. We do this by using research based results, creating our action research projects to verify our results in our population and imparting that information to leaders who make decisions. Change needs to be responsive to the needs of our students, not static and age-old.

Education Gifted Education

Much is being said recently about cutbacks in gifted programs and education at large in our area. We should not have the ‘pitiful poor me’ attitude. Statements like “with the current cutbacks” needs to be replaced with “maybe we can use this or that to do the same thing.” We can call it problem-solving. Imagine that!

Engineers are masters at using what they can to solve problems. I was totally amazed by the rescue of the Chilean miners last year. Imagine if their engineers just said, “Poor pitiful men, look they are stuck a couple thousand feet below ground! We just can’t get to them.” Instead, those engineers put their combined experiences, skill and resources together to rescue those workers. It took time and numerous failures but they eventually succeeded. Lives were saved, families were reunited. I’m sure there were valuable lessons learned from the experience that are now being used in the industry.

So, I applaud the efforts of all those in the field of education who try new ways to obtain funding and who look to new places (and maybe a few old places) for resources to enhance and improve our industry. Teachers and those that have any affect on the education of our children need to adopt the same attitude of those engineers in Chile. We need to be asking questions like, “What do we have that we can use or re-purpose to accomplish our goal of educating our children.”

Today’s education environment is very different from the one in the 60’s and 70’s. Educators have the constantly evolving technology and research to back up their efforts (to name only two). We have our tried and true tools of books, copiers and pencils. How can we put all our resources, experiences and skills to solve the underfunding problem in education? Our children (and our society) are relying on us to develop their gifts into talents.

Education Gifted Education

Empty playground photo by teachagiftedkid

#Giftedhubby and I were watching Independent Len’s Between the Folds together. This film had beautiful and amazing paper creations by individuals from the artistic field, movement, physics, mathematics, and science all together in one show. Afterwards, my husband and I discuss what we just saw. We ask each other questions like: Did we agree with the show’s intent, did they present their ideas well, how does affect or change the way we think about the ideas discussed, etc.

I wanted to talk about the last segment which was about a young mathematician who was home schooled. He attended college early and who received his doctorate at something 20 years old. The focus of the segment was how he solved a long stand problem about something called Cut and Fold in the paper folding world. He told the interviewer that he does things because “they are fun.” He had about four very complex hobbies one of which was paper folding.

Here’s the question that inspired me to write this blog: “Can you tell the difference between the individual who was fully encouraged to use his gifts and talents (totally educated from his/her gifts point of view) from the person who was erratically encouraged (i,e. art 45 min once a week, gifted & talented services 90 min once a week if you met them on the street? This young man was given every opportunity to build and learn based on his interests and do things that he found fun. Compare this to the gifted student who must do…the…test….strategies…just…a…certain…way or get a bad grade on a practice test assignment (which was a discussion I had with one of my past gifted parents today.)

Is there a perceived loss of talent and skill? Aside from the “Wow” we get when we learn that Mozart was 5 years old when composed his first song to play for an audience, most people (and governments) largely ignore the needs of these talented individuals. Some parents take matters in their own hands and home school their child in order to nurture them.

If there is no perceived loss of a potential talent, then no wonder our society has such as hard time funding education for those gifted with tendencies towards logical or critical thinking, creativity or leadership. What do you think?

Gifted Education giftedhubby

Last night, I watched “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” with my husband. It’s been on my list since this summer when I watched him giggling at the movie as it played on his screen on our return trip from Paris. It’s takes a lot to make him giggle, especially if it’s a kids movie. After watching the movie, I now understand why he found it so amusing. The main character in the movie was an intense, focused, and creative young man named Flint. He had an understanding mother when he was young and a completely clueless father. The people in his community usually ignored him or made fun of him, even one character bullied the young man several times in the movie. Many of his inventions failed but he was determined to find a way to make food to save his city. There were several funny situations resulting from his failures that my husband could relate to.

The main character did not have any friends, except for his monkey, until he met the young female announcer, Sam. What I found fascinating about their relationship was how many times the young announcer spouted off a string of scientific terms and then apologized and rephrased what she said in simpler terms. It wasn’t until the main character asked her why she did this that the viewer finds out that she had remodeled herself from a geek to someone considered popular.

I wonder if the writers and producers of the movie realized that they were portraying two gifted individuals? Did they do research on gifted children or did they recall experiences they either had seen happening to their peers as they grew up? Were they writing from personal experience? Are any of them related to an gifted education researcher or teacher or raising their own exceptional children? Or are they clueless about the challenges of being on the high end of different?

If they truly know about the challenges of being overly intense, creative, determined, or masquerading as someone else, here is my suggestion….let’s appeal to the writers and producers of these movies to advocate for our gifted individuals at all ages. Imagine the impact that writers and producers of movies would have on funding decisions at all levels from the local school boards to the federal government. Even if funding did not increase, there would be an increase in understanding and patience with the issues that gifted children face as they grow up in today’s world.

Education Gifted Education Random 'Munchings"

I’m sharing this poem with you from the editor of the TAGT Tempo Magazine. It reminds us to look forward to the wild and crazy ride of our future thanks to those gifted and talented individuals in our world!!

Here’s to the crazy ones.
The misfits.
The rebels.
The troublemakers.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.

They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them,
disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things.
They invent.
They imagine.
They heal.
They explore.
They create.
They inspire.

They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.
How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art?
Or sit in silence and hear a song that has never been written?
Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

We make tools for these kinds of people.
While some see them as the crazy ones,
we see genius.

Because the people who are crazy enough
to think they can change the world,
are the ones who do.

Education Gifted Education International Gifted and Talented Educational Issues

Hi, I’m giftedhubby. That is, I’m husband to teachagiftedkid and I will claim to be creatively gifted with some confirmation from teachagiftedkid. Much of her interest in gifted came from raising two gifted kids and putting up with the quirks of a gifted hubby.

I have volunteered to write a few blogs from my perspective on what being gifted has been like. For me, this will be fairly easy as teachagiftedkid brings home many stories and I often find myself “translating” what one of her students might be feeling.

Just to tell you a little about who I am. I’m a middle aged parent of two who has a BS from a great school and works as a scientist for a large multinational corporation. As a learner (and I am still a very active learner), I consider my giftedness as both an asset and a liability. I’m sure the assets are fairly well known so let me comment on the liabilities.

First, for me to learn something, it has to fit neatly into the things I already know. I test each fact against what I know and find a place for it on an interconnected web and it is ready for use. What this means is that Math, Science and sometimes History make a lot of sense to me and I’m good at them. Grammar, Spelling, foreign language – not so good.

Second, I get distracted easily. It can come from a misbehaving child or just from a poorly explained concept. My mind wanders. I concentrate deeply and if you don’t have my attention, there’s no learning going on.

Third, I’m quite independent. Grades didn’t motivate me but learning and really understanding totally motivated me. I was competitive in my learning with my peers but for respect not grades.

Finally, I’m different. I come up with unconventional ideas. Many don’t work. I like to think that the ones that do work pay for the ones that fail, many times over. Don’t give me the same job or the same homework as the “masses”, instead motivate me with a challenge and get out of the way.

Yeah, I know I sure didn’t get into much depth but I will write more. I’ll hit these points harder, maybe have a few personal stories, both good and bad. I’ll try and give you my perspective on growing up gifted.

Education Gifted Education giftedhubby

Steak. When you spend some time in Nebraska and Texas, you know what a good steak looks like and tastes like. I and two other gifted specialists, two first grade teachers and a fourth grade teacher sat down at a great steak restaurant in the famous Stockyards after a long day at the Texas Association for Gifted and Talented (TAGT) conference in Fort Worth. We were not disappointed (actually the first grade teacher was because she ordered catfish.)

I could go on about how we each are different and we each ordered different things from the menu selection and prove my point about how important differentiation is in our classrooms but most of you already know this.

Rather, I would like to delve into the message of how important it is for us to ‘stick’ with our profession of advocating and teaching our gifted learners. This message was thoroughly conveyed beginning with the opening session by Dr. Robyn Jackson with Mindsteps, Inc. keynote address to Dr. Jim Delisle’s closing address at the 2010 TAGT Conference in Fort Worth, TX.

Dr. Robyn Jackson’s message focused on how teachers can fall into three types of myths when it comes to working with students. She began with, “We think we know what a gifted student looks like.” She discussed the Standards Myth reminding us that standards are just that – standards. If we expect a student to clear the bar then we are expecting too little from our gifted students. As teachers, we also know that the things we most value are the things we expect from our children which is part of the Attribution Myth. I expected a tender, flavorful steak because of my experiences of living and eating beef in Texas and Nebraska. Others at the table may have had different expectations. Dr. Jackson made the point that if we are to raise our expectations, we need to first raise our values and beliefs. We may also need to realize that our values could be based on false assumptions. Hmmm, chew on that for awhile.

The last myth she expanded upon was the Pygmalion Myth. This is exemplified by the statement, “If you love something enough, they will flower; I can take anybody and make them anything.” How many teachers out there try to live this out everyday? This is very honorable but the cold hard facts are that we only work with our children 180 days of their lives (unless we get lucky and see the children more than one year.) Additionally, our expectations are focused on the object: the student. We can make a difference in the lives of the students we work with but we must face the facts that some of them come from impoverished homes or a different culture. Our effectiveness is the result of our beliefs and values. We are the object that we need to focus on. If we understand and value where are students are coming from we can be ten times more effective.

As teachers, we need to face the “brutal facts” that our students deal with every day, our less than desirable job situation, and our nation’s misplaced priorities. Period. Then we need to have “unwavering faith that no matter what we will succeed.” Those in the field of gifted research and education know that obstacles are a part of their work. All of us understand how important it is to be there for our gifted learners. In my short six years of educating and 20 some years of parenting gifted children, I get the most satisfaction when a former student says or writes to me on Facebook, “The best times I had in 4th grade was being in your class” or “you let me talk about.”

Dr. Jackson pointed out that “we must hold on to our principles but we can change our strategies and techniques.” That statement was the springboard into all the break out sessions of the conference. I attended sessions on techniques ranging from the IIM Research method, using depth & complexity icons, Texas Performance Standards projects, using technology tools and social media with my students. All very good strategies and techniques for opening up the ceiling of learning and publishing options for the work our students create.

The closing keynote by Dr. Delisle was also inspiring. He never fails to deliver thought provoking messages which always include writings from the students he has worked with over the years. He said, “gifted students cannot be identified by using simplistic tools” because the definition of a gifted student is too complex and varied. Just look to the hundreds of definitions of giftedness around the world! Settling upon one definition may be what the field of gifted education needs in order to speed up its growth but it may be akin to setting a standard. We’ve already discussed the dangers of having a standard when it comes to a gifted learner. However, Dr. Delisle did point out that the definition that has had the most longevity is the one written 65 years ago by Annemarie Roeper: “Giftedness is a greater awareness, a greater sensitivity, and a greater ability to understand and transform perceptions into intellectual and emotional experiences.”

When the steak is given to a chef who understands its flavors, textures, and processes a wonderful meal is born. When a gifted student is in the masterful hands of a well-trained teacher of the gifted, students succeed beyond all invisibly set boundaries. “Gifted students are not harmed in the on-level classroom, they simply don’t grow.” “Gifted students must be grouped together in order to learn.” Personally, I feel that our gifted students need both time with their age peers, time with their academic peers and time with an understanding adult. Striking that balance is the fine art of knowing the needs of the student (…and raising your beliefs and values which in turn raise your expectations). It’s time for many teachers to “be brave and look at the other side of the desk.” (All quotations are Jim Delisle’s.)

I know that our world appreciates the inventions and ingenuity from our gifted children who grow into gifted adults just like some people appreciate when a steak is cooked to perfection. Our call as educators is to look at each student that crosses our path and determine, “What’s best for the child?” It’s time to recognize that each student comes to us with a variety of needs and skills. We must work to provide for those needs, regardless of their intellectual ability. We must provide the best learning situations that will bring out the best in each student. It could mean putting a 9 year old with a 12 year old based on his/her intellectual skill or putting the 12 year old with the 9 year old but always putting them with a highly skilled teacher.

I hope I have encouraged you to order or cook up a good steak tonight and mull over how you can advocate for our gifted learners. If not you, then who?

Education Gifted Education

I take part in the #gtchat conversations on Twitter as often as I can. Deborah Mersino at Ingeniosus is doing a wonderful job bringing up and orchestrating topics that affect gifted children and their parents worldwide. It was here that I realized that gifted educators and parents of gifted children fight the same social, cultural and economic battles as we do here in Houston when it comes to advocating for quality gifted programs.

This week on #gtchat, we discussed 2E students (students who are identified as gifted learners & have other challenges such as ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, OCD & a myriad of others). One topic we discussed was administrators & teachers need information about 2E children and they need to hear about the personal experiences that parents have raising Twice-Exceptional (2E) children. Letters like this one shared by Denvelori can go a long way in building an understanding of the 2E child. As a teacher, I needed a letter like this the first year I had Dylan in my 4th grade gifted class.

Dylan, I and his mother worked through his issues as best we could (about 8 years ago) using the tools we had at hand (which were virtually non-existent). His mother was frustrated with the public education system’s ability to meet her child’s needs at the time. Now I understand why: teachers & administrators had little knowledge with educating a 2E child. If I was armed with the recent 2E research and a personal letter about how Dylan operates it would have boosted my ability to relate to his outbursts and his intense focus on a topic we discussed 30 minutes ago. I would have more patience with him each time he forgot his lunchbox in the cafeteria and included activities to encourage him to use his strengths to remember it next time. (Thank you Katie!) One thing we did have success with was a discreet sign between him and I for when he was talking too loudly. Dylan taught me much more than he will ever know.

I hope this entry & letter above encourages you to be upbeat and positive when you meet or communicate with your child’s teacher and administrators. Provide them with as much appropriate information as they will take in and be understanding about the demands on their time. Be insistent but friendly. Work towards building understanding that 2E children are intelligent and sensitive individuals struggling to meet your expectations.

Here are some suggested sources for more information on 2E children provided by @cybraryman1 on 2E children (scroll down towards the bottom right) and @Leslinks from Ireland in her recent entry.

Gifted Education

I was recently asked by a Twitter pal @Incipi if I had a recommended book list for gifted issues. I don’t yet but that could be another good summer professional project. Meanwhile, visit SENG’s website or Hoagie’s Gifted for for some great recommendations.

Right now, I’m reading Social-Emotional Curriculum with Gifted & Talented Students by VanTassel-Baska, Cross & Olenchak. I was sitting next to my daughter on the plane back from Washington DC when I came across some questions in the book (pg. 177) that I thought I would ask her. She was in a gifted program from 1st grade through 12th grade (now 23 yrs old and beginning her career).

1)Why am I in the gifted program?
2)What do I hope the program can do for me?
3)What do I hope to achieve in the program?
4)What would I have to do to attain my goals?
5)What are some possible problems I may face in the program?
6)What perceptions do people have of me as a student who is gifted?

I have asked my 2nd grade gifted students the first question this past school year. Their answer was the same as Amber’s: “because I took a test.” This answer indicates that the educators and parents haven’t addressed the child’s learning differences in the classroom and it is also the beginning of the elitism issue that gifted programs struggle with.

Because of the answer to the first question, the next three questions in the list had no substance or value so we skipped to questions 5 & 6 (which is quite sad). Because adults have ‘picked’ a student to take a test we’ve set up this idea that that one particular student is special somehow. When one is special there are no problems with being in the gifted program, right? This was not the answer I heard from Amber nor the answer I’ve heard from my students or other adults. Issues with bullying, ostracizing, additional work, mislead expectations, identity, etc, all begin to crop up. Let’s not forget the benefits of being in a gifted program: challenging & stimulating work, interesting discussions, academic opportunities, friendships with other like minded individuals, etc. How many parents and educators have you run into who understand that being identified gifted is not ‘all a bed of roses’? Many just know that being in a gifted program is the ultimate thing to do without really researching the program to see how it meets the needs of the child. This is why I truly respect those parents who ask questions about our program!

Ask any child who has been in a gifted program or has been identified as gifted and they will tell you just what other people think of them! Phrases like ‘you’re weird’, ‘smarty pants’, ‘you’re gifted, how come you don’t know that?’, ‘that’s easy for you, your gifted’ – they have heard them all. It takes a very mature child to accept those phrases and still be able to focus on the good experiences that being in a gifted program has to offer to them.

Bear with me a moment: An article recently swirling around in the #gtchat, #gifted on twitter has drawn attention: “The Pitfalls in Identifying a Gifted Child”. I took the time to read through the 40+ comments and drew this conclusion.

If we identify gifted children then we MUST support them.

Many of the issues and problems in the comments are a result of adults missing the purpose of a gifted program! The point is not one of elitism or status, it is one of meeting the needs of a child. Say, your child is reading & understanding the newspaper at seven years of age. Teaching them the sound of letters in the classroom is pointless and will result in behavior issues and social-emotional issues, period. Do you think this has not reality? Read
Raisin’ Brains. Additionally, I watched a 6 year old debate with a college professor who was discussing Pascal’s Triangle during a workshop at a gifted conference. Asking him to use manipulatives to understand how to add would be a waste of his time and your time! Most children are not this ‘gifted’ and need less differentiation at home and at school. These are extreme cases to make my point.

Teachers and educators: support these children (and their parents) wherever they are academically, understand the purpose of a gifted program, explain the program to all your students if this is necessary. You would do no less for every student in your classroom regardless of their ability!

Gifted Education

I’ve been thinking about my summer professional development projects since I recently visited Clif’sNotes. At the end of the every school year while I’m clearing off my desk, taking down my bulletin boards (and this year preparing to move to a new classroom), I think about the projects I could do over the summer to make the next year more successful and productive. This was my first year in the position as a GT Specialist in a public school district NW of Houston and because of this, I have plenty of good ideas. I’m keeping the list to only three so here they are:

Further develop a social-emotional curriculum for 1st – 4th graders. I know these students now; I know the environment of the school and can make this curriculum very specific to their needs.

Create a presentation on differentiation in the gifted classroom for the teachers at my school based on a book I picked up at the TAGT conference back in December. Goal: to make differentiation succinct and easy to implement in the classrooms at my school.

Create a curriculum loosely based on the problems presented in the Continental Math League program and couple them with appropriate math games. Goal: to keep kids excited about problem solving and give them lots of opportunities to practice before the math meets.

There are obstacles in the way to accomplishing these three goals. 1) I am doing an inordinate amount of travel this summer. I have four trips out of the state and one trip out of the country 2) enjoy social media online (Twitter & Facebook) that can easily eat up time 3) have no organized place to lay things out and keep them out while I work on them, however, this is easily solved if I set up the backroom. 4) And I’m moving my classroom. This is good and bad. Good: get to organize materials from previous GT Specialist into a usable format for me. Bad: because it takes time and energy.

I’m usually pretty good about accomplishing my goals when I write them down. I’m also counting on my Twitter PLN can help to hold me accountable. What are your professional goals for the summer? How can I help hold you accountable?

Gifted Education Random 'Munchings"

I came across a very detailed conversation recently in one the Gifted MailLists I follow. I’ve only included a portion of the conversation here. I’ve had experiences teaching both those who strive and achieve regardless of the ‘gifted’ label and those who languish with the label. There are so many variables from cultural motivations to family situations to exposure to technology to teacher attitudes that affects the motivation of the gifted child. The importance of working hard is no small matter in the gifted world! What is your ‘take’ on the issue?

*******

“EW: If praising for intelligence can be a negative thing, what about labeling kids as “gifted”? Could that do more harm than good?

Dweck: Labeling kids as gifted can sometimes do more harm than good. The label “gifted” implies that you have received some magical quality (the gift) that makes you special and more worthy than others. Some students are in danger of getting hung up on this label. They may become so concerned with deserving the label and so worried about losing it that they may lose their love of challenge and learning. They may begin to prefer only things they can do easily and perfectly, thus limiting their intellectual growth.

Psychologists who study creative geniuses point out that the single most important factor in creative achievement is willingness to put in tremendous amounts of effort and to sustain this effort in the face of obstacles. It would be a tragedy if by labeling students as gifted, we limited their creative contributions.

However, we can prevent this by making clear to students that “gifted” simply means that if they work hard and keep on learning and stretching themselves, they will be capable of noteworthy accomplishments. Of course, that is true of many, many people.”

Gifted Education

Recently, I was asked to prepare my educational philosophy for an application. The last time I wrote down my educational philosophy was during my undergraduate degree program. Since then, I’ve focused on the education of the gifted child and taught five years. Yep, things had changed; my knowledge and experience in the classroom required me to totally ditch what I had written around 1999. What I thought would be a small project became a several hour project. Now, here’s your challenge: When was the last time you thought about your educational philosophy?

MY EDUCATIONAL PHILOSOPHY

I am thrilled to be a lifelong learner and this enthusiasm spills over into my classroom. Teachers who work with gifted students have an exciting job! My job as an elementary educator is to learn all I can, make sense of, and organize the information for all types of learners who enter my classroom. This requires me to be an independent thinker which is exactly what I want my students to become.

At the same time, I work to challenge my students to stretch those areas where they are weak and to explore new areas. In my mind, the education of the gifted student would not be complete without respecting their differences and striving to answer their questions. My classroom is ridicule-free. Each individual student is respected for who they are and how they think. I was, and still am, a different kind of learner who would have benefitted from this understanding so extending this respect to my students is second nature to me.

I believe that standards and benchmarks are only the starting point to learning for the gifted child. I believe that a student who is getting all A’s is not being challenged enough. Failure and success are important to learning: some failure is essential to developing resilience, drive and motivation to be successful, some successes are essential in building confidence and self esteem. I understand that peer pressure has a strong influence on learning, too. Students have often heard me say that they should NEVER hide or ignore who they are and what they know to get someone like them.

I encourage the use of differentiation methods such as compacting, layering, menus, simulations and various assessments to move my students past the society-prescribed learning into critical thinking, questioning, community-service, and leadership opportunities where their gifts can benefit the world around them. I remind my students of the quote, “For of those to whom much is given, much is required.” Holy Bible (Luke 12:48) and spoken by JF Kennedy in 1967. I guide my students to know when to listen, when to accept and when to act.

I love to provide learning experiences that engage all the learner’s senses. I love to bring the outside world into my classroom with speakers, demonstrations and links to other cultures. I’ve hosted students from France and Germany and personally learned how important it is to share and value our differences and our similarities. Additionally, providing competitive outlets such as chess, academic, and problem-solving competitions are essential to learning.

As a lifelong learner, I encourage other adults to keep learning and questioning too. We need to continue learning in this ever-changing world. Recent discoveries, technology and the wide availability of information give us the tools we need to find our answers. In doing so, we are providing an excellent model for our children.

My desire is to value, encourage and advocate for those who have been given much academically. It is important for me to attend local seminars as well as webinars available online to expand my knowledge and skills in teaching the gifted child. I also utilize Twitter as a means to follow & share my experiences with other educators worldwide. Meetups such as the one I started in 2009 (which has met twice and I plan to extend over the summer and next school year) are ways that I’m working to bring parents & teachers together to build understanding for these unique learners. With our collective efforts, the gifted learner in every pocket of the world can be encouraged to reach their full potential. There is much work to do!

Gifted Education Random 'Munchings" Uncategorized

Shareski

The question came up during a twitter conversation I had with @shareski lately. Which started me thinking about this entry because it is also a question I get frequently in casual conversations with other educators, family and friends. What motivates someone to ask that question?

One theory I have is that my friends, family and co-workers are all looking for validation for their innovative or successful thinking from an ‘expert’ on giftedness. Perhaps they are also looking for some explanation of what it means for an individual to be gifted. We’ve all seen the prodigy children who can function many years ahead of their peers. These gifted individuals are very easy to pick out in a crowd: the nine year old who plays in the local symphony, the 5 year old who understands Pascal’s Triangle, etc. Prodigy children make up only 1% of the population, highly and moderately gifted children make up about 10% of the population. How do we know they are ‘gifted?

Identifying young gifted children (which is part of my job as an elementary gifted specialist) is difficult and there is no perfect or fool proof way to do this. This explains why every school district, every private school, every state has its own definition and requirements to be identified as gifted. This comes as a surprise to many parents and educators.

Let me diverge for a second: Word of caution: if you are a parent of an already identified gifted child who considering a move, be sure to research how this will affect your child’s educational services. If you are a new parent, please please, do your research first before announcing to your child that he/she is gifted. Know that gifted child requires different learning situations. Many parents are under the assumption that gifted means special treatment or elite position. It doesn’t. Many old-timers (parents and educators) in the field of gifted education will tell you it is not an easy road to choose for your child.

Back to the question, “Does this make me gifted.” I can’t make a snap judgment on that so don’t ask me. I would need to apply some of the same testing materials, collect a portfolio of your work, chat with those around you for examples of leadership, empathy, creative thinking, logical problem solving, critical thinking (the list goes on). Then, compile and discuss the results with others in the field. You and I both don’t have time to do that.

Did you do something you were quite proud of? Do you feel you are unique in some way in some field? Do others look to you for ideas? Did this come from original thinking (nature) or from years of training and understanding in the field (nurturing)? Further, can you be gifted at a specific moment or about a specific thing and not in another? (The answer is “yes” and if you need some real life examples of this let me know.) You just demonstrated some characteristics of giftedness.

It really doesn’t matter if you are identified as gifted by someone else or not. It doesn’t matter if you are an inventor that creates something that changes the world or you just did something quite clever. What does matter is that you get the education that fits your need. Why put a 4th grader who is fully capable doing 7th grade math in the same classroom as those learning 4th grade math? A program that builds itself around age-level peers and academic-level peers equally is ideal for our gifted learners.

To wrap this entry up, when you are grown, make it a point to use your skills and abilities to better the world around you. Thanks @shareski for the diversion and distraction and the spark to write this.

Gifted Education

I’m posting my TxGifted Conference Notes from this past weekend (December 3& 4, 2009). Of course I bought some new books. Six books I received either as a freebie or for working in a friend’s booth while she did a presentation. Thanks Laurie!

New books in the GT Library at my school:
The Best Ever Writing Models, Nancy Polette, Pieces of Learning, 2009
Word Play, R.E. Myers, Pieces of Learning, 2002
Strategies for Differentiating Instruction: Best Practices for the Classroom (Legacy Winner), Julia L Roberts and Tracy F. Inman, 2009
Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses of Gifted Children and Adults, James T. Webb, Edward Amend, et al, (Legacy Book Winner, 2005
Grandparents’ Guide to Gifted Children, James T Webb, Janet L Gore, et all, 2004
Understanding Creativity, Jane Piirto, PhD, 2004
Differentiating Instruction with Menus (Science, Language Arts, Social Studies & Math), Laurie Westphal, 2007
Texas State Plan for the Education of Gifted/Talented Students, TEA, Revised Sept 2009

I also thoroughly enjoyed getting to know a co-worker from the intermediate school. What a gracious host! One of the best things about attending the conference was meeting up with old teacher friends and finding out how they are doing. The special surprise was snow in Houston on Friday morning. I was impressed with the number of attendees who stuck it out to the very end. Thanks to all the presenters and the TAGT organizers. You all did a bang-up job, once again!

Here is a short synopsis of the sessions I attended:

Demystifying Differentiation in the Elementary and Middle School Math Classroom. Presented by Bob Iseminger, Pieces of Learning. Handouts are available on the Conference link at website (www.piecesoflearning.com)

Discussed the steep decline in oral skills and loss of vocabulary skills as a result of early media exposure on the develop of the brain. We need to build in more activities that make children use their working memory and develop their long term, more permanent memories. We also need more activities that stimulate discussion and movement.

“The brain does not grow if it is not asked to work slightly above its skill level.”

Promoting Depth and Complexity. Presented by Dr. Drapeau, University of Southern Maine.
Notes from presentation: Use topics, themes and philosophical and ethical questions along with Bloom’s Taxonomy to create “Tag Ons” to existing questions. Tag Ons bump up the complexity by adding on to the questions already used. Sometimes it causes the student to focus in on a particular aspect of the question. Utilize cognitive graphic organizers, activity grids and cubing to elicit more complex thinking. She recommend Differentiation with Graphic Organizers to Foster Critical and Creative Thinking, Corwin Press, 2009

“If you want a deep response, ask a deeper question.”

RTI and Gifted Underachiever. Presented by Carolyn Coil, Pieces of Learning
Underachievement can be defined as:
Discrepancy between the child’s school performance and some index of his or her actual ability. (Rimm)
When a child with a high IQ has low grades in school (Ziv)
A student not working up to his/her potential. You can do better. (Coil)

She showed a graph of a typical underachiever. Basic description was that some students start out very high at Kindergarten and slowly descend in achievement until around 8th grade. About 20% of underachievers may ascend in achievement but about 80% will never make anything of their lives.

How can we use the RTI approach with the gifted underachiever?

RTI began as a special education initiative that emphasizes the need for prevention strategies in the general education classroom.

Originally conceived as a way to help struggling students regular classroom before they were referred for special education services.

Has now been adapted to other types of students because it provides a framework for responding to the needs of all students, including gifted students in the general education classroom.

RTI Approach, which includes:
Problem solving (here’s the kids – what’s the problem)
Quality assessments
Targeted individualized strategies
Differentiated curriculum
Pre-assessment (much of the time it is behavioral not academic)
Formative assessment (assessment during the instruction or intervention)
Progress monitoring (as you go)

This is an approach that can benefit gifted underachievers.

“Other students develop study strategies to learn the new material, while the gifted child has had no need to learn study strategies because they aren’t learning any new material.”

The material is not new to them so they do not need to develop study strategies to learn the material. When the time comes that the gifted child needs to utilize study strategies (such as in college) they either learn quickly or fail.

A Tree Octopus, Microwave Deflector Beanies, and Teaching kids to Think Critically about the Internet. Presented by Joel McIntosh and Laurie Westphal. (So cool to meet Twitter buddies Joel and Laurie!!)

Links provided for good websites and lesson plans for evaluating sources on the internet. Some Wikipedia pages are locked so no further editing can be done on them and are more reliable than ever before. Look for the symbol on the upper right side of the page.

“When you limit the number of internet sites a student can use as a reference, it causes them to use the best ones in their research.”

What does the Research Say? Current Views on Best Practices. Presented by Dona Matthews, University of Toronto

Since gifted students come from a variety of backgrounds, with various areas of interests, temperaments, motivations, family and cultural environments, we should build flexible programs to provide for their needs. Additionally, use of the gifted label should be only associated with getting the services they need.

“All teachers should have gifted expertise.”

High Level Differentiation for Long-Term Learning, Grades K-8, Bertie Kingore. (My apologies for the scattered notes. Bertie makes her points clear and fast. Anytime you have the chance to sit in on one of her presentations, do it!)

Learning Characteristics that promote long-term memory

Mental engagement
Process engagement (metacognitive strategies)
Emotional connections and social interactions

When talking about learning long-term, you are talking about validation, connection, value, affirmation, affiliation and communication

Specific to gifted learner, they need someone who understands them. Need intellectual peer not just an age peer. Keeping gifted kids together is not elitist it is necessary.
Gifted: Move beyond peer interactions based only upon age – emphasize intellectual peers.

Research says that concept-based learning is long term learning. Fact base learning is short term. Recommended reading: “Concept Based Curriculum and Instruction for the Thinking Classroom” by H Lynn Erickson. (Not a beach book ). Blooms Taxonomy is a key but it is only one dimension. Second dimension moves to deep understanding. Facts to Concepts to Principles/Generalizations. (Complexity)

Example: Many children in TX do not think conceptually. She explained how a three-way Venn Diagram with the concept in the very middle could help a child think conceptually.

Brainwriting: Purpose to make sure everyone is mentally engaged. It is a written variation of brainstorming that increases mental engagement for all students. The written products that result invite students to compare and contrast concepts related to the topic. Best done with about 5 students in a circle.

She suggested paper folded in quarters and focused on an aspect. Like a lens. Use “issues” with gifted kids. See form. Pass back and forth, fill in. Find your own paper. They will read it. A teacher can do this with a student who doesn’t know the topic.
Can do with novels, science concepts, etc. Symbols are more abstract, some are concrete.

Instructional needs of advanced and gifted learners – much works with all students but Gifted students need these (which are not effective with all learners)

Pace
Accelerated instruction
Minimum repetition

Level
Advanced content
A high degree of complexity and abstraction
In-depth study

Referred to book: Differentiation: 12 ways to change the grade-level curriculum, Figure 7.1. Ethics and issues brings out the discussion. Use higher level words to bring out the higher level thinking.

Set up for brainwriting using the words from the Figure on 7.1 The assignment becomes much more specific.

Then referred to 7.4 Some students will lift themselves to a higher level once we provide structure and use models.

Integrating standards and high-level thinking: weave them in rather than isolate the concepts

Start with Bloom’s (clarified: not low level thinking rather, they are beginning level thinking, then high level thinking) We need all levels. High level comes when the student has an understanding.

Then tier assignments or questions for more complexity. Referred to book: Integrating Thinking: Strategies that Work. She has generalizable prompts in the books. We can tier some boring topics and make them more interesting by using generalizable prompts.

Implement strategies that promote high achievement gains without adding any additional work on the teacher.

Affects on achievement gains: Comparative thinking (example: pose a problem, then list facts and opinions). Have them do this before a class discussion, your class discussion will become richer.

Documentation Chart: from “Reaching All Learners” (asks for inference and supporting evidence)

Then she used the Topic Frame from the book “Just What I Need”. Can be used for researching as well. To bump it up, change the questions asked. Sometimes you think you know what the child will put in the box – this allows the child to use what he knows – key: leave it open!!

Summary device – helps to concrete the concept. These can be used as a replacement task while others are doing regular stuff. You can change the descriptors and prompts such as Event, Person, etc.

Then she went into the figure of the person. One can use math terms to describe the position of the man in the slide. Or use similes and metaphors to describe the position of the man in the slide.

Summarization: Use Summarization from “Reaching All Learners”

Summarization is all of the below:
Comprehension of written material
Classification of the data
Evaluation for the relative importance of the information
Synthesis results in a form considerably shorter than the original.

Developing Summarization Skills:
1. Beginning + Middle + End (Uses the ant form provided on handout)
You can use a flip page but turn in vertically top flap would be topic
beginning
middle
end
Then write two sentences that are significant in the beginning, etc.
Leaving the topic blank – let them draw but make it work: give them specifics to their drawing such as what was the climax of the story,

2: Topic sentence + beginning, middle, end (more students were successful in making a topic sentence when they had done the other parts of the template first.

Topic sentence + transitions

Notes and Symbols from Figure 4.14 from “Reaching all Learners”

Analogies Example

An item in your purse or picket
A kind of machine
A favorite food
A busy Place
An animal

Now select one of the items from your list and complete an analogy

Instructing gifted students in a mixed ability class is like ____________ because ____________ .

Living with a gifted student is like _______________ when _______________.

Share

Menu Masters. Ok, so now what?? Presented by Laurie Westphal
This session was a round table discussion dealing with the next step after using menus in the classroom for some time. Two points covered included: 5discuss and post criteria for products for menu choices and be sure to provide a variety of product choices: visual, tactile, written and verbal for the students to choose from.

Gifted Education