Tag: gifted

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

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

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"

Uncategorized

“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

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

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

Take the time to listen to Mike Wesch, the US Professor of the Year. I want to thank my friend, Nancy, for her discussion on his video.

The “WE” in education is critically important in any classroom from 1st graders up to university classes of 400+. The teacher who can inspire the community to go beyond learning for the test is the teacher of the future. How does a teacher know when they have succeeded in teaching the individual to truly love learning? When the student no longer comes up to ask questions like “How long does this essay need to be?” or “What I need to study for the test tomorrow?” I can truly relate to the statement Mike makes about when the student knows the ‘why’ the ‘how’ does not matter. In terms of my own life: I understand why I need to work two hours to mow my two acres of grass so I don’t mind putting in the effort to do it. The reward for me is how beautiful and healthy my yard looks not how it measures up to someone else’s standards.

Gifted teachers MUST realize that it is no longer a time of ‘let me fill your head with wonderful knowledge.’ It’s time to teach critical thinking skills, problem-solving skills, researching and communication skills then to provide a multitude of opportunities for the students to collaborate and communicate what they have learned. It’s time to get away from the cutsy themes such as rainforests and cowboys and move into the ‘how and why’ it is important for us to learn about them. We need teach our students how to ask relevant questions and come to logical and substantial conclusions about what they have learned.

Share this video with all the teachers that you know! It’s not only good for gifted students but for the 1st grader who will be functioning in the world as an adult in 2024!

Uncategorized

Number Four on the list of Top Ten Things is the topic of my next entry. It reads:

Asking regular education teachers to differentiate for the gifted sounds great, but if teachers do not know just how high those “high” kids can get, then the gifted never get needs met. In-service does not always show teachers just how much these children can really do.

Regular education teachers are very aware of the gifted child in their classroom and that’s about it. Every teacher struggles with meeting the wide range of social, emotional and academic needs of every child in their classroom. They can scale back the lesson for the lower learner and pile on more work to the high achiever but with the gifted learner, teachers can be clueless. For instance, what may look like a unproductive child on the outside may be a highly intelligent child on the inside. High achieving children may be just that – high achieving but are they gifted thinkers? I’ve learned that some behaviors in a gifted child is simply a coping mechanism or their way of handling boredom. Giving away the right to be in a gifted classroom to the best behaved child is just plain misguided. That little boy who can’t sit still but can make thoughtful connections and announces them impulsively is the same young man who drops out of school around his sophomore year.

How can a teacher better met the needs of their gifted learner without taking away from the others? When you assign a writing, allow the gifted learner to take it as far as they wish. I have approached more than one writing assignment this way. After buffeting several, “so how many pages does this need to be” type questions, students exploded. Some turned in one or two pages, others took the opportunity to write stories of great lengths! I encouraged students to come to me with a proposal for a project or topic for further study, then I made sure there was somewhere that they could present or publish their work.

Find out all you can about how different and unique gifted children are. Ask them what they would like to do. Play with their sophisticated sense of humor, appreciate their gifts then let them soar!

Gifted Education