Category Archives: Gifted

Reflecting on Today’s PD


Today I offered the first of many GT Updates for 2018-19 in my district.  I love this part of my job – providing what I hope are meaningful & engaging learning opportunities for teachers to understand and support gifted learners.  When I plan professional learning, my goal is is to model good instructional practices that teachers can then take to the classroom.

The first session I offered this morning was our 2nd annual GT EdCamp.  I really like this one!  Teachers have the morning to meet in small groups to discuss topics in gifted education that are important to them.  I ask for ideas beforehand.  I use these ideas to build a schedule so we’re ready to go the day of.  It’s not the purest form of an EdCamp, but it does give teachers choice and the opportunity to talk and share ideas/resources and I think that’s the critical element.  Today, teachers covered a lot of topics, including differentiation, parent support, identification, Genius Hour, social/emotional needs, and motivation, just to name a few.  I always want to make the next time better; here are a few things I want to adjust for 2019:

  1.  Build a schedule and share it with teachers ahead of time.  This gives them the chance to process what the day will look like as we.  It also gives them the chance to gather resources/ideas they want to share.
  2. Be firm about each topic having a facilitator.  It is super important to keep everyone on track and it helps keep the conversation productive.

The second session offered today was Genius Hour with a Twist.  This was new and definitely out of my comfort zone, but overall, I feel pretty good about it.  Thanks to the honest and constructive feedback from teachers, I already have adjustments for next year.

  1. I don’t need to give as much structure to teachers.  Sometimes we might need to do that with kids just to establish the protocols, but teachers have their act together, so we can loosen the parameters.  Next year, instead of having them look at topics in gifted education, they can have free rein.
  2. I really wanted to go through the entire process myself to provide examples.  Thanks to Caitlin, we had parts to share, but not the complete out of class experience.  I simply ran out of time.  That being said, I have an entire year to get it right for 2019.
  3. I might consider offering this as a morning session with an optional afternoon session to go through the final P’s – project, product, and present.

All in all, a great day for professional learning in Northwest ISD.  I hope the teachers who attended feel the same way.


Challenges from Within


Each person will summarize the last 2 components (Social & Emotional Issues and Profiles of the Gifted) of today’s training in three sentences or less. Each person will need to share their summary with the rest of the group. It’s okay to refine your summary after getting input from others. Now that everyone at the table has shared, synthesize everyone’s thinking to come up with one 3-sentence summary. Add a fourth sentence, “This is important because . . .” Blog Splash the group summary in the comment section of this post.

The 8 Great Gripes


This Quick Write is all about the 8 great gripes.  You can write about one particular gripe, or a combination of gripes.  You may have a personal connection, whether it’s with yourself, a family member, or a student.  Remember, the goal of a Quick Write is not to worry about spelling and grammar (although it should be readable).  Rather the goal is to write your initial honest reactions to the prompt.  When the timer goes off, you will have one minute to wrap up your thoughts.

Now that you’ve watched the four movies (Great Gripes Movie #1Great Gripes Movie #2Great Gripes Movie #3Great Gripes Movie #4) that highlight the 8 greatest gripes of gifted kids, it’s time to reflect on those challenges and respond.  Here are the 8 great gripes:

  1. No one explains what being gifted is all about – it’s kept a big secret
  2. School is too easy and too boring.
  3. Parents, teachers, and friends expect us to be perfect all the time.
  4. Friends who really understand us are few and far between.
  5. Kids often tease us about being smart.
  6. We feel overwhelmed by the number of things we can do in life.
  7. We feel different and alienated.
  8. We worry about world problems and feel helpless to do anything about them.



WonderUse this prompt as the beginning of your response after watching the Wonder book trailer on YouTube.  Click here to view the trailer again.  Respond by posting a comment to this post.  Share this post and its comments through Twitter, Facebook, Google +, email, or LinkedIn.

After watching the Wonder trailer . . .

Once you’ve posted your comments below, take this poll.

Oh, Sweet Clementine!


ClementineIf you haven’t yet met Clementine, you really should. She’s a fabulous 3rd grader full of vim & vigor. I think a lot of people would read Clementine and think, “Oh, that kids needs some meds.” She can’t focus, she’s always in trouble, and she doesn’t always think things through. But, I don’t think it’s ADHD, I think it’s a part of her giftedness. And it’s an element of giftedness that a lot of kids (and adults) struggle with, especially because so few people understand them.

I appreciated what the author, Sara Pennypacker, did with the ever popular command, “Pay attention!” As Clementine explains, she is paying attention. She’s just paying attention to totally different things, things which interest her and are relevant to her. That is so common with gifted learners. As educators, we expect students to hang on to our every word, to want to learn what we are teaching. But the reality is, for gifted kids, that’s not always the case. So many times a gifted learner already knows what we are “teaching” them. And in the case of Clementine, she has so many other thoughts and ideas running through her brain, she doesn’t see the relevance of what someone else thinks is important.

Clementine definitely has creative problem solving skills. Whether she’s trying to fix a hairy situation with her best friend or getting the pigeons on her apartment building to roost elsewhere, Clementine takes the initiative and discovers unconventional solutions for her problems.

This third grader also has a unique sense of perspective. She’s a little upset with her parents. After all, she is named after a fruit, while her little brother has a normal, non-food name. I don’t think we ever learn the brother’s name because every time she references him, she calls him by a vegetable. (I think my favorite name was rutabaga.)  Another interesting example of her sense of perspective is how she views herself in comparison to her baby brother. He’s the “easy one” and she’s the “hard one.” And when she overhears her parents having a conversation about how one is enough, she just knows they’ve decided to get rid of the “hard one.” What an great reminder for us that perspective is powerful.

I’m so glad to see that there is more than one Clementine book. I listened to the audio version and it made for a fabulous commute to work for a couple of days. I’ll definitely be picking up the others from my public library on my next visit. I hope you’ll give Clementine a chance, too. She will definitely bring a smile to your day.

Click here to see a book trailer.

Great Books for Girls


Over the past few months, I’ve read some absolutely wonderful novels.  Books that have great characters with real issues that I can absolutely see kids today identifying with.  Here are my thoughts on just a few of them.

RulesI actually listed to the audiobook of Rules by Cynthia Lord.  Absolutely loved it!  Catherine is a twelve-year old girl, who like other girls her age, just wants to fit in and be a normal kid.  Catherine’s brother, David, makes that quite challenging though.  David, who is younger, has autism.  His not-so-normal behaviors make it challenging for Catherine to have what she considers a normal life.  She spends much of her time looking after him, teaching him the rules of life, such as “no toys in the fish tank” or “keep your pants on in public.”  Things begin to look up when a girl Catherine’s age moves in next door.  It’s a dream come true, if only Kristi can accept David and his differences.  Just as Kristi moves in next door, Catherine befriends Jason, a boy her age, who is a paraplegic.   Catherine has trouble acknowledging Jason and bringing her group of friend together, nervous about their reaction to a paraplegic.

I thought this was a fantastic book that dealt with some real life struggles of  kids who just want to be normal.  Autism is sometimes a hard topic to talk about, but I felt Cynthia Lord did it with passion and grace.  In addition to the content, it’s also very well written and hard to put it down.  As someone who grew up on Judy Blume, I would absolutely add this book to that group of novels all girls should read.

Center of Everything

Last week, I read The Center of Everything by Linda Urban.  Like Rules, it’s an easy read dealing with real life struggles and the impact of  those challenges on young girls.  Ruby recently lost her grandmother and feels guilt for her last interaction with Gigi the day she died.  She thinks that she has the chance to redeem herself and change that last day by relying on an old town legend.  Through misunderstandings and a fight with her best friend, she comes to terms with her grandmother’s death and begins to see the open doors in her life.  I would also recommend A Crooked Kind of Perfect also by Linda Urban if you’re fan of this genre.

Three Times LuckyThree Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage is another wonderful read I found on someone’s Goodreads list.  Loved it from beginning to end!  Eleven-year old Miss Moses LoBeau lives with the Colonel and Miss Lana in Tupelo Landing, North Caroline.  Discovered as a baby by the Colonel after a hurricane washed her ashore, Miss Moses has searched for her mother via the message in a bottle for years.  There’s a murder in her small town and all of a sudden, the law from the big city arrives.  None other than the Colonel appears to be a suspect, and Miss Moses and her best buddy, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III,  set out to discover the truth.  Through all sorts of adventures and mishaps, not only is the criminal revealed, but so are some mysteries from the past. In the end, Miss Moses (and the reader) come to appreciate the meaning of family.

Penny Dreadful

In Penny Dreadful by Laurel Snyder, again the story centers around a young girl who is experiencing real life challenges in her tween years.  The twist to this book is the touch of magic and adventure.  Penelope Grey has wanted for nothing in her young life.  That is, until the day her dad decides he’s had enough of corporate America and simply walks away from his job.  Without an income, Penelope and her parents move down south to inherit what they believe to be an old family estate.  It is, just with a few tenants who don’t pay rent.  It is here that Penelope and her parents discover the meaning of family, friendship and happiness.

I can’t recommend any of these books enough. And I think if you like one, you’ll like them all.  And if you grew up with Judy Blume like I did, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.  The issues all of these girls deal with are very real, yet all four of these authors approach the issues and the girls differently.

Right now I’m listening to Heist Society by Ally Carter.  Not realizing it was a series, I had already listened to Uncommon Criminals.  I’m still undecided on these, but when I’m done with Heist Society, I’ll give you the verdict.

I can’t wait to share Bad Girls with you.  Was very hesitant at first, but ended up loving it!

These are some of the picture books I’ve been reading.  I’ll review some of them this weekend.

Trixie Ten The Beatles Were Fab Tea Rex Take Me Out to the Yaku Something to Prove Bluebird Mary Wrightly, So Politely It Jes' Happened Henry & the Cannons Henri Rousseau Fold Me a Poem

Gifted Education as a Civil Right


Really, when you stop to think about it, gifted education is a civil right  for those who need it.  Just as special education and bilingual/ESL education are a civil right for those learners.  Unfortunately, gifted learners are often the last group of students to receive either positive attention or funding.  And when there are cuts, often gifted education is a victim to the decreasing budget before the any other special population services.  And right now we are in the perfect storm where the educational rights of gifted learners are at an even greater risk, thanks to NCLB ($1.1 billion indsutry since 2001), current economics, competing priorities, and thirty years of myths concerning gifted learners.

Thanks to Deborah Mersino who led this session and made the audience think about what our role as gifted educators really is.  Our responsibility is far more than the students sitting in our classrooms right now.  Our responsibility is to advocate for the the gifted so that our sparse funding is not cut anymore.  While we might not be able to make the progress we want to during a lean times, we certainly don’t want to lose the ground we have already gained.  Since competing priorities and NCLB will not be going away, as advocates, we have some pretty amazing tools at our disposal that we must embrace.  Though the digital age can be overwhelming for those of us who are not digital natives, it also has the potential to be a great ally.  With tools like Skype, Twitter, various blogs and wikis, Facebook, and YouTube, there isn’t a valid reason for us not to get our message out.  All of these tools can be used to network with other advocates, as well as share resources and strategies.  Even better, the internet can be used to educate those who don’t understand what gifted is all about and debunk all of those myths that have been out there for an entire generation.

A couple of YouTube videos that illustrate this point are Telenor The Essay Commercial  and NB3 21C Education in New Brunswick.  They are both so powerful that I don’t even need to comment on them.  I’ll leave that to you, the reader.

Whether you are a parent or an educator, I encourage you to embrace the digital age and find a way that you can support gifted learners through online collaboration.

The Rights of Gifted Learners When Life-Long Learning is the Goal


Last Thursday, Dr. Bertie Kingore was the keynote speaker at TAGT.  As always, Dr. Kingore was a very motivating and inspirational speaker.  Her topic?  The Rights of Gifted Learners When Life-Long Learning is the Goal.  A topic, that as educators and advocates of the gifted, we can never hear or spread too much.  Because it’s such a vital issue, I thought it was  important that I share Dr. Kingore’s words.

Right #1: Continuous learning

Gifted learners have the right to experience continuous learning.  Preassessment is a strategy that allows us to eliminate redundancy in learning, just one of many ways we can continue to motivate gifted learners to achieve their potential.  Other strategies that allow for continuous learning?  Acceleration, curriculum compacting, and cluster grouping are all cornerstones of gifted education.  Dr. Kingore says that when making instructional decisions, there are some key questions that must be asked:

  1. Is this an appropriate learning experiences?
  2. Can all kids do this?
  3. Should all kids do this?
  4. Does it promote critical thinking, as well as depth and complexity, beyond grade level?
  5. Is the pace of instruction appropriate?

Right #2: Uniqueness

Gifted learners have a right to their uniqueness.  And the culture in a gifted classroom should respect that uniqueness and the ideas that come from gifted learners.  Dr. Kingore posed the following question the group:  What is the worst thing you can do for gifted learners?  The answer?  Nothing.  Think about that for a minute.  Feel free to reply to this blog with your thoughts.

Right #3: Unconditional Encouragement

Gifted learners need to be reminded that it’s struggle that pays off in the end, so instead of recognizing the finished product all the time, let’s take the time to discuss a student’s effort, including any mistakes made in the process.  Take note when a student selects a difficult task or utilizes various strategies and discuss the value in learning and inquiry.  Model how to reflect and assess, and expect students to do the same.  Encourage GB, XL, and 4Me.  That’s going beyond, extending the learning challenge, and what will help me learn more.

The key to success is a teacher who likes gifted kids and is quite accomplished at differentiating instruction.  Definitely a tall order, but one that can be obtained with committment. 

Right #4: In-depth Study and Long-Term Learning

Gifted learners deserve the right to be experts before their time (or before the timeline dictated by state-mandated standards).  In fact, Dr. Kingore shared a quote from Nodding (2009), which I think warrants further conversation:  “Over-promoting teaching to standards and tests reduces content to Cliffs Notes for everything and forecloses learning to think.”  Anyone care to comment? 

 With the focus on state standards and testing, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find time for students to particpate in in-depth study.  But there are a host of strategies that allow for continuous learning that support in-depth study as well.  In addition to the strategies mentioned above, Expert Quest (student-developed learning stations) permits students to read, write, research and create about topics that interest them.  Consider using replacement tasks in your classroom.  If a student is already proficient at something, why torture him or her by making him/her do the activity anyway?  Replace the activity with something more appropriate, rewarding, and challenging.  A possible resource that would further a student’s learning?  Any one of the thousands of instructional videos found at the Khan Academy.

While I’m not nearly as eloquent as Bertie Kingore, I hope I have gotten her point across.  Our goal, as gifted educators, is three-fold: 1) be an advocate, 2) make a difference, and 3) maximize potential.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve got some work to do. Read the rest of this entry