Teach a Gifted Kid Posts

“Most teachers waste their time by asking questions which are intended to discover what a pupil does not know whereas the true art of questioning has for its purpose to discover what the pupil knows or is capable of knowing.” ~ Albert Einstein

Uncategorized

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?

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“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

Francoys Gagne's Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent - NSWAGTC

This is a differentiated model designed by Francoyne Gagne in 1991 that I found at caught my interested this morning. Personally, I’ve always had an issue with the terms: gifted and talented or GT so I like this model. I’ve always thought that gifted and talented referred to two entirely different things that must be approached differently in the classroom (or outside the classroom). To help explain this further, I suggest that an educator think of their student just like a coach thinks of the players on their team. A coach knows exactly which of their players has the natural ability to run faster or the potential to think ‘fast on their feet’. These coaches are already thinking about how best to grow those natural abilities into talents to gain the winning edge. Once the coach has identified those ‘gifts’ in his/her players, they will start specific training. Why waste money on training a natural born runner to be a goalie? The coach does this while keeping in mind that all his/her players need to know the game.

Every teacher in every school can tell you the strengths and weaknesses of their students. They know that Johnny struggles with comprehension and Suzy can retell a story including every detail. Yet, day after day and year after year, teachers make every child complete every assignment. Sure, it makes planning and recording grades easier. It ensures that every child has been exposed to every thing they need to understand the game but it stops there. If a teacher hears the complaint from a parent about how Suzy is bored. Guess why? They haven’t provided specific training to Suzy to develop her natural ability into a talent.

The last several years the term differentiation has been discussed and researched in education. And for good reason. Differentiating instruction and providing different methods to assess learning is how every teacher/coach can take those natural abilities that a student already possesses and make them into talents. Teachers MUST take advantage of every situation available to learn how to differentiate their classroom. Schools MUST look to provide the time, training and tools so teachers can do this.

Our team (USA and the world) deserves no less.

Gifted Education

I attended a workshop today arranged by the Houston Co-op given by Dr. Amend. He talked about the social/emotional issues, and sometimes the disabilities and disorders, that gifted individuals often deal with. His quote, “Giftedness is not who you are but a part of who you are” was the key phrase that I walked away with. He explained that individuals actually pass through several stages as they learn they are ‘different’, deny or accept their giftedness and/or identify themselves with giftedness. Some individuals move through these stages, some get stuck. Ask any gifted adult you know, drill down the discussion and you’re sure to find interesting self concepts regarding their giftedness.

Later in the day, I checked my Google Reader and found a blog new to me. The short video from the blog called “High Ability” The Inner Ability of Advanced Development was the perfect follow up to the workshop.

I highly encourage parents to view one of these movies shown in the video or others noted on the movie list at Hoagies on a rainy day. Allow your child to soak in what they’ve seen. Initiate a conversation about the gifted characters and their struggles. Don’t worry if the discussion is sparse. Your child is still working through the stages noted by Dr. Amend. You might get lucky and get to hear their experiences later as gifted adults as I have with both my son and daughter.

Gifted Education

I have a purpose for my Twitter account (teachagiftedkid). I follow educators who teach or advocate for the gifted child or who are educational technologists. Having a specific purpose for a Twitter account as an educator is the ideal personal learning network (PLN) for me. Gifted educators are usually loners on a campus who deal with the specific needs of a unique but small population. With Twitter, I can share and gain useful information about educating the gifted child with the entire world. I’ve elicited responses from my followers on resilience in the gifted child to use in a blog entry that is yet to be written.

Just this morning, I followed a link provided by a fellow Twitterer to come up with a draft for a new parent observation survey borrowing from a checklist from a school in New South Wales. I’ve read articles posted in the Boston Globe, NYTimes and Gifted Examiner on topics that deal with educating the gifted child. I learned that the educational system Philippines actually celebrate their gifted during a week long event.

In what other readily available and free format would you be able to share with a gifted educator in Australia or New Zealand from a computer in Texas? Or with the major contributers to notable gifted sites such as Hoagies.net, TXGifted, NYGiftedEd, Giftedkidsie (out of Ireland), ByrdseedGifted (out of CA), or DavidsonGifted. The Davidson Academy publishes a complete list of gifted educators on Twitter and Facebook.

Twitter Example
I really like how msgregson uses Twitter to direct educators to her spreadsheet on Google docs and allows all who fill it out also view it – seamlessly! I spent about 30 minutes today trying out several educational game sites that I have added to my del.ici.ous account (afrench2) so I can pull them up later in the classroom. I would have never tried the art masterpieces portion on www.freerice.com without a link provided by one tweet.

Unfortunately, this technology is like that creatively gifted, ADHD third grader who blurts out everything he or she knows which consists of a few wild and silly ideas along with some highly observant thoughts. This explains why school districts mostly filter it out on their campuses. Just how does a school district ‘keep the lid’ on this one?

If you are an educator, you may want to consider starting a Twitter account. As with all technologies, you’ll experience some frustrations along the way. Just be patient and start small. If you do start a Twitter account make sure to dm @teachagiftedkid. I’ll introduce you to some friends of mine.

Gifted Education Uncategorized

Today marks the first full week back in the public school classroom in three years. I enjoyed my year teaching in a private school and enjoyed my year break for travel and learning. I learned much about myself and the world during my break. I saw the two extremes of children: those who live in squalid and dirty conditions and those who have more than they could ever appreciate in a life time. Every one of these children have deep, searching eyes and curious minds. They all thrive on interactions from the adults in their life. Our positive outlook and actions are vital to their daily attitudes. Make a child smile today! It is the most rewarding thing you can do.

Random 'Munchings"

If you are a student who graduated from St. Tammany gifted programs, teacher or advocate for gifted you should read and act on the following:

This as a copy of an email that I received. My note to BESE follows. I would encourage all teachers and former gifted students write to the officials in Louisiana. The email is provided in the text that follows.

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All,
I wrote most of you about a week ago, after learning that BESE — our Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, in Baton Rouge– is contemplating removing both Gifted and Talented from the category of Special Education, which would ostensibly end the program, in my opinion. (Since I wrote you, it has been confirmed that Talented is in this plan also.) Gifted and Talented students would receive their services in the regular education classroom, where their over-burdened teacher would have to use even more “differentiation” to reach all ends of the education spectrum. She would have so much more preparation to do for teaching. There would be no IEP’s. I don’t know what would happen to all our Gifted and Talented teachers; I simply haven’t seen or heard the exact plan.

This is coming from the State, not your parish school board. But whatever they decide, we would have to follow.

Please feel free to share this with other parents of both gifted and talented students, and with your gifted teachers. (I don’t have e-mail addresses for all our gifted and talented families and employees, and others who may also be concerned about this topic. Thanks.) That this is being contemplated over the summer months, when so many of us are out of touch, makes it more difficult to spread the word, and to be active about it.

This is the first I have heard of a specific plan, originating at the top, to move Gifted and Talented from the Special Ed. category, a distinction shared by only a few states. However, that distinction gives gifted students specific rights, particularly having an IEP, which guarantees that they will be served according to their needs. Gifted and Talented students are also taught by teachers with certification in gifted education, which as you know differs in approach from regular ed. instruction.

If you wish to write your BESE members, all of whom seem to use the same e-mail address, it is: sbese@la.gov

You also might want to copy both Supt. Gayle Sloan, Board President John Lamarque, and me. And any gifted teachers or supervisors you know. If it comes to a vote, to keep Gifted and Talented in Special Ed would need a majority of the votes – six votes out of 11. Right now we have ONE, maybe two.

In your e-mail, you can say you have “heard” that there is a consideration to move gifted and talented students out from under the umbrella of Special Education. Then give your reasons why gifted and talented should stay separate. Be factual and concise, give examples if you want.

In my opinion, this is just one more move toward denying services to those students who work on a higher level. I’m guessing it might be simpler, and perhaps a little less expensive, to remove their services, remove the need for hiring gifted and talented teachers, remove the need for a separate curriculum and classrooms, basically to remove all the resources to teach those children in the manner best suited to them.

Unfortunately this would also remove the challenge so many of the Gifted and Talented students thrive on.

It might also eventually remove those higher scores on the state accountability tests. That, at least, ought to be important to BESE.

As a matter of fact, BESE is now legislatively mandated – thanks to Sen. Ben Nevers SB 316 which has become law — to review their Accountability program, and get graduation rates up. Now is not the time to think of lowering standards to any particular group of students, let alone those who help bring up those Accountability scores.

Please take some time tonight or tomorrow to write our BESE members, if you want Gifted and Talented to stay a premiere program in our school system statewide. Even if your own child has graduated, think of all the students coming along like your child, who need to be taught in the way that’s best for them.If your own student wishes to write, that would be helpful, too.

Mary K. Bellisario
District 15, St. Tammany Parish School Board

*******

My response to BESE follows:

To whom it may concern:
First an introduction: I am a former parent and gifted teacher who raised and taught gifted children in Mandeville, Louisiana for 14 years. I now live in Texas. I received an email today stating that Louisiana was exploring removing gifted from the special education umbrella. I would like to share my thoughts and experiences on the issue.

My children are now 25 and 23 years old. One is successfully employed as a Project Manager for a media related web development firm where he is encouraged to be a creative thinker and a team worker. My daughter is pursuing a Master’s degree in Paris France in International Relations and Diplomacy where her flair for speaking and critical thinking are thriving. My son attended St. Tammany Parish School’s gifted program from grade 4 to grade 12; my daughter from grade 1 to grade 12. As for myself, I attended Southeastern Louisiana University and obtained a Masters and an ‘option’ in Gifted Education. I taught in the gifted program in Covington for three years.

Now, I live in NW of Houston, Texas. I’ve explored Texas public schools for a gifted teaching position similar to what I had in Covington. It does not exist. Why? Although Texas has a clear objective for providing for their gifted students, they are not held accountable in any way for actually implementing an effective program. Gifted does not fall under the special education umbrella, IEP’s are not required. Most commonly Texas provides an enrichment program. GT teachers who are required to attend 30 hrs of gifted training vs Louisiana’s requirement of a Masters in Curr & Inst and 3 years teaching gifted students before they are certified to teach gifted students.

Texas is not alone. Many other states have adopted similar strategies to educate their gifted population.

Louisiana would be VERY UNWISE to remove gifted from the special education umbrella! Why? The IEP is the one instrument that provides the parent a means to get the type of education that their special needs child has. My children and their friends flourished from the depth and expertise of the teachers who taught their gifted classes. Without an IEP, a parent has little leverage to provide the type of classroom environment their children need. I’ve met so many frustrated parents here who have tried to get school administration to understand the needs of their gifted child. And I’ve met many teachers who are equally frustrated in the lack of resources and training to meet the academic and social emotional needs of the gifted.

The implementation of the gifted program in St. Tammany Parish is one of the best and unique ones in our nation because of the use of the IEP and special education classification among other things.

Please consider retaining the status quo of the gifted program in St. Tammany Parish. In fact, capitalize on it! Wouldn’t it be fantastic to notify the whole nation about what you are providing for the gifted child. Parents will flock to your state, test scores will raise significantly and Louisiana would become known as the one state that nurtures some of the best thinkers in the nation. Take advantage of the highly qualified teachers. St. Tammany has one of the best programs for gifted in the nation from my point of view. Don’t squander the program you already have in place – highlight it!

I hope that my viewpoint and experience is helpful in some way as you make your decisions.

Thank you for your time and consideration,
Angie French

Gifted Education

If you are like me and most young parents, you really had no clue what being gifted meant. I knew that my son acted and talked differently than most of his preschool friends. I knew his (and my daughter’s) academic needs were above the norm. After they were identified, I had a million questions such as: How will I provide the right kind of learning environment? Why are they gifted? What am I supposed to do next? What was it like when you learned your child was gifted? That is the topic of our first Meet Up for Parents and Educators of the Gifted Child.

Our Meet Up won’t be large this time around. I expect it to grow slowly as the word gets out. But the hope is to provide the emotional support we all need when we are raising and educating a unique child. Come join us at the Tomball Library Room L212 on Tuesday, June 30 for a lively discussion with real-life parents of gifted children.

If you contact me in advance, we can set up a web cam presence for you through Skype or Mac to Mac. If you aren’t able to come, this time visit our page at Meet Up for information on our next Meet Up. Or share your story here as a comment.

Gifted Education

Cartooning has been my curriculum focus the past few weeks. I thank Mrs. Edwards at Nichols Sawmill Elementary for letting me work with one of her 5th grade classes. We had a few drawing lessons, discussed some very creative story lines and started our own small comic books. Unfortunately, the end of the school year is next week so the students won’t be able to finish and share their books but we did set them all up so they could work on their books at home.

Today, I found a wonderful surprise as I scanned my Goodle Reader Feeds that has to deal with cartooning. Langwitches entry spurred such a great memory that I had to post about it. I copied my comment that I left at the blog site below.

“This brought back such a great memory!!! Both of my kids (now 23 & 25) attended Woodlake Elementary in Mandeville, LA. This was probably around 1994. Mike Artell came to share his enthusiasm with the students in the school’s gym. He was all set up at one end of the gym, the students sitting ‘criss-cross applesauce’ on the gym floor armed with a pencil and paper. Each time Mike Artell drew something, every child bowed down to mimic him. It was nearly a religious experience – not one child misbehaved – not one peep came from their mouths. Every child was drawing!

At the end of his presentation, he happily autographed a book for my daughter which she still treasures today and my son developed his own snake cartoon series that he worked on for most of the year.” Here is a link to a short presentation of his approach to doing a school presentation.

Fun Stuff

Below are the details of a study that I participated in. If you have a gifted adult daughter, you need to take the time to help out Lea by sharing your experiences with others. (Who doesn’t enjoy talking about their wonderful daughters!) I’m sure there are just a few mothers of gifted daughters out there who would love to tap into your wisdom.

*****

If you are the mother of a gifted adult daughter, who is a college graduate
and pursuing her passion (either in graduate school or the work place),
researchers would love to learn about the insights and wisdom you gained from
nurturing your daughter’s genius. After an extensive review of the
gifted/talented literature, it appears that the voice of women like ourselves is not
clearly documented….and this is our goal.

You’ll participate in 2 phone interviews, scheduled at your convenience,
and your confidentiality will be ensured. The team has interviewed 30 women
to date with a sample goal of over 40. The goal of the study is to
disseminate what mothers have learned who have “been there and done that” to moms
currently dealing with the challenges (and joys!) of parenting gifted girls.

For your efforts, you will receive a small gift (organic bubble bath!) and
the good feeling that comes from knowing you will be helping young mothers
in need of your wise counsel and support. If you are interested in
participating (or know of someone who might be), please contact Lea Stublarec, MSW,
CPC, at _hilwhit@aol.com_ (mailto:hilwhit@aol.com) . More information about
the study (which is self-funded) can also be found at
_www.nurturinggenius.com_ (http://www.nurturinggenius.com) .

Gifted Education

Is using the word ‘gifted’ the right word for labeling those few individuals that rise to the top? I have been struggling with this question the past few weeks since my visit to the UNESCO headquarters in Paris where they refer to the gifted individual as ‘high potential’ individuals and while doing my own research on homeschooling the gifted. I have also had several discussions with all types of educators and non-educators who have already have an idea of what the term ‘gifted’ means the second you say it.

If you take the time to look up all the different terms to describe the gifted individual you will turn up a whole range of terms: exceptional or high potential, high academic ability, intellectual ability, accelerated learner, high abilities, able learners. I recently read through the different country reports in the WorldGifted newsletter (World Council for Gifted and Talented Children) and found that different countries have different ways of referring to their extra-special students, too. The question has existed for years because I remember active discussions in my graduate classes about labeling a children.

We can’t change the perception that one has when they hear the word ‘gifted’ until we are able to thoroughly and confidently explain how these learners are different. Why Not Gifted has explained their position on the matter (which was the inspiration for this entry). I know that Ohio gifted educators are now struggling with their state government are working out how to describe these students and their needs for funding purposes. Labeling a child is quite a slippery but a necessary thing to do so I offer the following metaphor to help the uninformed relate.

Take a moment to watch the following video from Mythbusters: Mythbusters. Here’s how my metaphor works: You know there are banana peels (different perceptions and emotional responses of what gifted means), you know there should be the objective to educate the students to their full potential (Adam navigating his way through the peels). Gifted educators, some parents and others know the cold hard facts (the floor) that these students have different academic, creative and social/emotional needs which, if not addressed, can negatively impact the child’s perception and confidence in themselves in their future. We’ve slipped several times during the history of defining and educating our cream of the crop but let’s hope that we have increased our understanding along the way.

We, as a responsible, thoughtful and cautious society, might have to hold hands to get across those bananas (come together), we might have to come up with a hover board to get across those bananas (create something new), we might compromise (continue our current path), go around the bananas (ignore the gifted learner all together) or wait for the bananas to decompose (the child grows up and out of the educational world). Whatever we choose, let’s apply the sound scientific principles, logical testing procedures and solid record keeping, just like Jamie and Adam, before we answer this question. We are sure to blow up a few myths along the way. In any case, let’s not forget to have fun!

Gifted Education

I write when I’m inspired. This morning as I was going through my twitter feeds I found something inspirational. The English Teacher just posted a blog about Susan Boyle. Susan’s story is all over the news and uTube. I think that the fascination with Susan has exploded because we all love when the underdog comes out on top. What is different about the English Teacher’s entry is how she relates Susan’s life experience to the student in the classroom. I’ve written before about underestimating what a child is capable of (see my entry on 3/19/09) and Susan’s story is a classic example.

I want to use Susan’s life story (as it has been put forth) to demonstrate some characteristics of a gifted individual. I can’t say if Susan is truly gifted in the technical sense but I can say that she is gifted with a beautiful and strong voice.

First, she demonstrates the characteristic of resilience. It’s well known that gifted individuals throughout time struggled with difficult family and economic situations. Some had the extra struggle of a learning disability. You don’t have too look far to find examples of this. Tom Cruise is a gifted actor who struggled with dyslexia, Einstein was told he was an awful student, Maya Angelou was sexually abused as a child, etc all have made fantastic contributions to our world.

Today, more and more research is being done on the twice-exceptional (2E) learner, those who are gifted and dealing with a learning disability. These studies are revealing the need for greater understanding and differentiated practices in the classroom. Susan’s story is a good example of a child who is ‘different’ from the norm. Susan experienced bullying when she was young which was likely associated with her ‘different-ness’. Bullying happened to my oldest when he was in 4th grade not because of a learning disability but from his ‘different’ thinking. After hundreds of dollars of testing and detailed paper work, he started in the gifted program at the beginning of his 5th grade year. He found other children who thought and acted like him, who accepted him with all his uniqueness. Susan and my son and many, many others are success stories despite their trying circumstances.

The second gifted characteristic portrayed in Susan’s story is how one can be gifted in one area and not in another. It appears that Susan was gifted with a beautiful voice but lacked skill in other areas. Many teachers without solid training in gifted characteristics believe the myth that being gifted means that a student is able to perform at the ‘gifted’ level in all things. Some of the most brilliant students I’ve taught had absolutely no social skills but could make surprising connections in the material I presented, some were very good with numbers and logical thinking but had difficulty reading or writing, others had creative abilities but could not stay organized. I just refreshed my memory about multiple intelligences in Edutopia and encouraged others to take the quiz. I want everyone to share their results. We are all different learners with weaknesses and strengths.

Our job as a teacher is not to overlook the seemingly unassuming child, the difficult child, or the socially isolated child. We must look for ways to help them with their difficulties and provide them with ways that they can excel. Yes, some can do it on their own but many give up or change to fit in. What a loss to our society. I’d love to hear your success stories!

Gifted Education

I was digging in my hope chest the other day and came across one of my favorite college projects. I remembered the professor saying “create something that showed your journey as a reader”. I choose to imitate a cardboard grandfather clock with 12 little golden hour books that I received one Christmas. For whatever reasons, I always connect this gift to my grandfather but I really don’t know who gave it to me. I have a few of the original books left: “Littlest Raccoon,” Tommy’s Camping Adventure,” “Colors are Nice,” “Four Little Kittens,” “Little Conttontail” but they are not in the greatest of shape. They are starting to smell like old books now but the smell of the books on Christmas morning is ever present in my memories.

I used these little 5 x 3 books to find a box that was just the right size, covered it in brown wrapping paper, added the title “Reading Through Time: A Reading Autobiography” and pasted on a classic clock face. Then the real project began. I made 12 little books outlining my growth as a reader from my earliest memories on. Chapter 1 talks about when I received the books and clock, Chapter 2 recalls all my favorite books from my childhood. Since I hadn’t really seen some of these books in a while I couldn’t remember their names so I described their contents and pictures. Chapter 3 describes my feelings while checking out books in our one room public library in Holly, Colorado. Chapter 4 covered my teen years and how I used books to escape my peers, teachers & family. Chapter 5 lists my favorite novels and why I liked them. Chapter 6 talks about moving into college and what a shock it was to walk into a huge, huge libraries. Chapter 7 begins my rewarding career as a parent teaching my children to read, Chapter 8 goes into my adulthood purposes for reading. The last two books deal with my reading goals and sharing my passion with children.

As a teacher now, I see the value of a project like this and appreciate the foresight of the professor in assigning it in such a vague way. It to reflected my unique history, my growth and it is now a keepsake to share with my students and grandchildren.

Here’s your challenge: put forth an assignment for your students that causes them to delve into their uniqueness and then ALLOW them to show you what they know. Encourage them to create without limits. Set expectations of uniqueness, thinking and reflection not quantity. There is always a place for rote memorization, worksheets and tests but you won’t find those in their hope chest!

Golden Hours Book/Clock

Random 'Munchings"

My first entry was March 14, 2006! I had no clue when I started my blog, just got curious about that today. Funny, that I looked two days before my first entry. At that time, I was looking for a job and getting used to my new home in Texas. Not much has changed since then although much has happened in between. I like to think that it’s all about the journey and not the destination. I’ll check again in another three years.

Uncategorized

Here is a picture of our Rock Circle Garden all finished. We reset the rocks last fall and filled it with hardy, full sun plants such as: bottlebrush, pentas, bluebonnets & Indian paintbrush, and plumbagos today (March 8, 2009). There is also two crepe myrtle trees that are just twigs right now. Now, our job is to keep it beautiful!

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We’ve also hidden our water tank with lattice work and put in a bi-level planter in front of it. I’ve filled the planter with Pink Simplicity Hedge Roses and Blossom Blank Groundcover Roses. Best of all, we have a soaker hose all set up on a timer that automatically waters these babies every three days for 30 minutes. Yea!

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Fun Stuff

Most of our trip to Rio was an endurance exercise. The temperatures are hotter than Houston and New Orleans (really!), the elusive wind resulted in a fair amount of motoring instead of sailing. There was too much fabulous and food and, of course, Carnaval (which is much like Mardi Gras on steriods). Top of the list, though, was enduring the four nights in the Marina de Gloria in Rio. We arrived in port around 8 pm after a 12 hour open ocean tour. Around 10 pm, we noticed colorful lights flickering in the venue across the marina from us.

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For the next three nights, the routine was the same. Test the lights around 9, fire up the sound system at 10 pm, then crank it up at 12 pm. And the real “cool” thing was that the concert lasted until the sun came up (around 5:30 am) with everyone under the vibrating tent structure actually cheering! No joke! I recalled Amber telling me about these concerts in Europe. Her boyfriend, Germain has taken her to several in Paris during the past two years. Once I realized what we were in for, I knew my job was to educate our crew that we were in for a great deal: three more all night concerts with the driving beat of techno – a retail value of $500 per person!

Surprisingly, all of us joked about our new bedtime/wake up music throughout our time in Rio. I proudly told Amber that we’ve attended four all-night techno concerts when we got home. She quickly dashed my/our achievement when she asked me if we stood the whole time. “That’s what everyone does at these concerts”, she proudly tells me on the phone. No, we tried to sleep in our fiberglass cabins with the sound and vibrations traveling through the water.

It’s amazing how much creativity in differences in style one can hear in a constant 130 beats per minute. Every morning at breakfast, we all discussed what we liked or disliked the DJ like we were veterans in the genre. We all seemed to liked the same DJ that the popular poll at the website shows.

Na sua opini⭠qual foi a melhor noite?
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Germain told Amber that this DJ is one of his favorites, too.

We should have known something was up when we docked. There was no activity in any of the boats already there. Even the marina personnel disappeared, except for the unlucky (or lucky) security.

Fun Stuff

I’m am fascinated with what children know and do in other countries. One incident left a lasting impression on me regarding two girls about 10-12 years old. Several of us jumped into the dingy to go ashore after anchoring for the evening in a beautiful little harbor south of Angra des Reis in Brazil. We went in to check out the bar and restaurant. My husband, Dave, and Diane decided to stay on the Empty Nest.

It is fairly common that the locals come out to each boat to drop off menus or offer to help. As our small group made our way back to the boat, we saw there was a small, wooden colorful canoe tied in front of the Empty Nest. Turns out there were two girls on board talking with Diane, who had the most linguistic skills with Portuguese out of all of us. It appeared to be an animated discussion. We arrived just as the girls were climbing into their canoe, which almost turned over, the bigger girl righting it quickly and expertly. They’ve done this before. Both started paddling on with no preamble or discussion to the next boat in their harbor.

Dave and Diane recounted their time on our boat with us. The girls (or their mothers) had made single strands of beads with a small handmade stuffed dolphin or star about every 3 inches and they were selling them to the visitors in their harbor. Diane said she tried to negotiate the price of their work but the girls wouldn’t budge. Dave told us that the girls were actually quite animated and fun to deal with. By the time they left, they had sold six of their creations at their set price.

Two strong messages came out of this exchange for me as a teacher: children are capable of much more than we think. These girls functioned in their environment with ease, no one telling them what to do, no testing to standards, no adult looking over their shoulder. The second message that I got from this exchange is how the girls stuck to their original objective. Even though both girls were probably illiterate, they knew what their work was worth. They were not willing to take any less for it but at the same time, they made the exchange friendly. Everyone was happy as the girls left for their next business deal.

Several times during our trip, we saw children selling things on the side of the road. Two memorable times were at a construction site on the road and in the historical neighborhood of Rio. One child was selling a local popcorn like snack, the other was selling beer to our open jeep tour stuck on the road because of a local parade. These children are doing what they have to do to survive. Many, many more around the world are doing the same. Our children sit in classrooms feasting on whatever the state says they must learn to be successful. Then they go home to feast on the internet, tv and music. We, as a culture, need to insure that our children can function expertly in whatever situation they find themselves in. Real-life situations and real-life problems are much more effective teachers than any worksheet or test.

Random 'Munchings"