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

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)

Accelerated instruction
Minimum repetition

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
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 _______________.


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