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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.




This month the movie Gifted was released. I’ve been waiting for this one for a few months, ever since I saw the trailer.  It’s a sweet story that highlights the issues that families with gifted children often face.

Mary is a seven year old genius who lives with her uncle. Mary’s mom, also a mathematical genius, committed suicide when Mary was an infant, leaving her in her brother’s care.  All is good until Mary begins public school, which from the start, is a mismatch. Soon a struggle ensues between the uncle and his estranged mother which highlights the issue of what is the best learning environment for gifted learners.

She’s seven, so shouldn’t she be in a first grade class with other kids her age? That’s what her uncle wants for her. To have friends and to play and have fun. But it’s obvious she won’t be challenged here. After all, she can do differential equations; first grade math just won’t cut it.  At one point, someone says something to the effect of just wanting Mary to have a normal life.  The question is, what constitutes a normal life?  Normal by whose standards?  According to the Columbus Group (1991) giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm.  This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity.  The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally.  So when we talk about giving Mary, or any other gifted child a normal life, we have to think about the asynchrony of that child and how we can best meet both cognitive and affective needs.

What does the best learning environment look like for a gifted child?  How can we meet their cognitive and affective needs?

I’ve got my thoughts, but I’d like to hear from you.

Here are a couple of reviews on Gifted I thought you might enjoy:




Use 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.  Share this post and its comments through Twitter, Facebook, Google +, email, or LinkedIn.

After watching the Wonder trailer . . .

Don’t forget to take the poll – After watching the 3 book trailers, rank the books in the order you would like to read them.

Creating Selective Consumers


For the past few weeks I’ve been reading a lot about underachieving gifted kids, including the subset known as selective consumers.  In Jim Delisle’s book, When Gifted Kids Don’t Have All the Answers, he introduces that term.  Previously referred to as non-producers, he suggests selective consumer.  I do like that much better.  The reality is that usually these selective consumers are producing, although they’re not always producing what we need them to produce.  And they are truly being selective about what they process.  Typically, these students are producing all sorts of wonderful things . . .they just don’t align with curricular expectations.  What worries me about selective consumers is that there is a very thin line between that and a true underachiever.  I really feel that if a student continually chooses to zone out, moving in and out of assignments, projects and discussions, then gaps will begin to form.  Often, a gifted learner can not pay attention, but still do the work because it’s knowledge he already has.  But if that happens continually, then eventually he’ll be missing out on too much and not be able to perform as he once could have.  Now it’s not necessarily that he doesn’t want to participate, he can’t and the frustration grows.  It’s such a vicious cycle.  And what makes it even more of a challenge is that there are standards (a lot of them) that must be taught and there’s not really a lot of give on that.  But this is also where a teacher’s creativity comes into play.  How can we make the standards relevant to students based on their interests.  Challenging?  Yes!  Doable?  Absolutely!  And worth it in the end!  Read about how Jim Delisle did this when he first began his teaching career in this interview, Dumbing Down America.

To me, this is why differentiation is so important.  Knowing how to preassess, compact, group, and give choice is important for all kids.  But it’s absolutely critical for gifted learners.  It acknowledges what they already know, offers them choice,and allows them to explore topics and issues that are relevant to them.  But that is for another day.

Anastasia Krupnik


There are a handful of books that I’ve kept from my childhood.  Storylines that resonated with me, characters I connected with.  These books now line a shelf in my guest room and hold a special place in my heart.  But out of all those books, one is at the top of the list, Anastasia Krupnik by Lois Lowry.   If you don’t know Anastasia, allow me to introduce her.  She is a bright, quirky ten-year old girl, the only daughter oldest child of a painter and a Harvard poetry professor.  She has a pet fish, Frank, and is about to become a big sister, something she is none too happy about realizes might be a wonderful thing.  And she is a master list maker.  In fact, she has a green spiral notebook she keeps all of her lists in; a list of words, beginnings of poems, and important events.  On page fourteen, she keeps a list of things she loves and things she hates; the items are always being updated.  It is through Anastasia’s musings that we learn about the trials of being ten.  Whether she’s mourning the disappearance of her wart or grappling with her grandmother’s dementia, you can see Anastasia’s life as a ten-year old over the course of a year in fifth grade.  Do you remember when you were ten?  How things would change from day-to-day?  How you might struggle to understand what was going on in your world?  Lois Lowry does such a great an impressive job of creating a real character, someone who really does exist, to some degree, in all of us, no matter what our age.  While the experiences of Anastasia are real and sometimes serious, Lowry uses humor to connect the reader and this young, freckle-faced girl.  It is the combination of humor and reality that has allowed me to enjoy Anastasia both as a ten-year old and a forty-something year old.

Not everyone is a list maker, but we all experience the things that Anastasia experiences– love, birth, and death.  Even though this book was first published over thirty years ago, Lowry really has created a timeless story that can still be enjoyed by kids readers of all ages, even in 2013.  Lowry went on to write an Anastasia series, chronicling the challenges of growing up.  As I grew up, I moved away from Anastasia and into different genres and authors.  After rereading Anastasia Krupnik, I think it’s time to spend some more time with her.



Non-fiction Picture Book Challenge



Non-fiction isn’t really my genre, but last I year I made it a priority and began checking out more non-fiction books from my libraries.  This year, I’m going to be more intentional about it and set a firm goal.  Thankfully, my public library has a great new non-fiction shelf that can help me accomplish my goal and Kit Lit Frenzy is always a great resource for must-reads!

Goal:25 Non-fiction Picture Books in 2014!

Happy 2014!


Wow!  Where have I been?  I’ve definitely been reading, just haven’t found the time to blog about my reading.  But, as I think about my reading goals for 2014, I realized it would be a good time to return to this blog and put my goals out there for all to see.


In 2013, I met my goal of reading 300 books and then some.  For 2014, I want to keep that goal at 300 books.  While I plan on continuing to read a plethora of picture books, because let’s face it, they’re fabulous, I want to increase the number of professional and adult books that I read.  And I really want to read a wide variety of plots, characters, themes, etc.  I do have some love authors and genres, but I don’t want to pigeonhole myself and not get to experience other worlds.  I’ve never considered myself to be a sci fi or high fantasy kind of girl, but as I’ve delved into series like Divergent and Hunger Games, and authors like Kate Messner, I’ve realized I’m more interested than I knew.  As I look to the reading blogs I follow, I’m finding different challenges to give myself.


The first is the Book Gap Challenge first proposed by Donalyn Miller at Nerdy Book Club in December 2012.  I don’t know exactly which classics I’m going to read yet this year, but I would like to read five of the classics that have stood the test of time.  I’m gathering input and looking at lists, so I’ll have to get back to you on the specifics.


Over at Teach Mentor Texts, I learned about Latinos in Kid Lit and the challenge to explore books that feature latino/a characters.  I’m totally doing this one; my goal is six for this challenge. The district I work in has a majority of Hispanic students. In fact, tomorrow we welcome our first Hispanic superintendent to work.  I really look forward to not just meeting this challenge, but in sharing what I discover with my colleagues.

To many this will sound strange, but I’ve not read the Harry Potter books (see disclaimer in first paragraph).  I did read the first one back in the day when all my students read them, but for some reason, I just couldn’t get into it.  With the passing of time though, I think it’s time to give Harry and his friends another chance.  Wish me luck!


Finally, the other specific challenge I’m going to work on is graphic novels.  Last year I read a few and really enjoyed them.  I also attended a session at a conference about the power of graphic novels in the classroom which left quite an impression on me. I’d like to read one a month, as well as read Adventures in Graphica.  I’ll be recording my titles at

graphic novel challenge

Of course, I will continue to grow my to-read list by following blogs like Nerdy Book Club, Teacher Mentor Texts, Kid Lit Frenzy, and Watch.Connect.Read and relying on recommendations from my friends.

Happy 2014!

Bad Girls in the Library


When I go to my public library, I always head to the display of new books.  I don’t know if every public library is like mine, but it seems like every time I go, which is every couple of weeks, there are a ton of new releases for me to read.  It’s absolutely fabulous!   And it is in this section that I try to challenge myself by trying new genres and new authors.  Between all of the amazing literacy blogs that are out there and my Goodreads friends, I feel like I always have a really good to-read list.  More often then not, my library can provide me with most of these books.  Yea!!!  But sometimes, I’ll see a book on a blog and skip over it, probably because it’s not really my style.  But then I go to the library and there it is, just waiting for me.  So, I get out of my comfort zone and try something new; usually this means non-fiction, science fiction, high fantasy, and graphic novels.  I’m proud to say that over the past year, I’ve really grown to appreciate these genres more than I ever have before.

Bad GirlsOne book that I was really skeptical  about was Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, Thieves, and Other Female Villains by Jane Yolen & her daughter, Heidi Stemple.  I knew Yolen’s name and I had seen this book on a couple of blogs, so I thought I would try it.  Super glad I did.  Yolen and Stemple have chosen a few of history’s most notorious women and written vignettes on what made them so controversial and infamous.  Each woman has her own dedicated chapter; 2 to 5 pages.  While some have described this as a negative, I think it’s a positive.  It gives the reader just enough information to whet the appetite.  Hopefully the brevity encourages readers to look for additional books about specific characters they were especially interested in.  In between each chapter is a a comic portraying Yolen & Stemple and their writing process.  The graphics show them traveling, interviewing, and brainstorming as they research the women found in the book, giving the reader a tiny glimpse into the writing process.  But the really cool thing about this part of the book is the constant debate on what makes the subject a bad person or just a victim of circumstance.  Even the subject of role reversal is broached; if a man had been in the same situation, what would society’s opinion be of him today?  I would definitely recommend this book for middle school and high school libraries as I think the potential audience is wide and varied.  Gifted kids will be intrigued by the choices these women made and their impact on the world.  Some gifted learners will focus on particular women and want to learn more about them.  And reluctant readers will be encouraged by the graphics as well as the brevity of each vignette.  It’s a win-win for everyone.

Getting Back into the Groove!


How is it that it’s so much easier to create a bad habit than it is a good habit?  Just as I was getting into my weekly groove of writing about my reading, I hit a little roadblock.  After weeks of blurry vision in my right way, I decided it was time to visit the eye doctor.  Good thing I did since apparently my retina was in the process of detaching.  My to-do-list and Spring Break plans were soon pushed to the side for eye surgery and a six week recovery.  Ugh!  Needless to say, my reading slowed down for a bit.  Even when it picked back up (a lot of picture books at first), I still didn’t feel like blogging.  Looking at a computer more than I had to was fairly exhausting on my eyes.  And you know how it goes, once you get out of the habit of doing something, it’s a bit difficult to get back into the groove.  But tonight that ends and it ‘s back to the blog I go.  I found that I really have missed it.  It’s fun to have an outlet for whatever you happen to be reading or thinking.  Plus, there are just so many great books out there that I want to share with others.  There’s no way I can totally catch you all up on what I have been reading these last three months.  I’ll try to hit some of the highlights over the next few days.  In the meantime, here’s the link to my goodreads if you want to peruse my bookshelves.  Happy reading!

What I Read the Week of February 18, 2013


Perfectly PercyPerfectly Percy by Paul Schmid

Perfectly Percy is a sweet little book about Percy the Porcupine.  There is only one thing that makes Percy truly happy . . . balloons!  Obviously this creates quite the dilemma for Percy and he works really hard at looking for a solution.  Just when he thinks he has thought all of his thoughts, he comes up with the perfect solution.  The simple, light-hearted drawings are the perfect compliment to this story and are sure to put a smile on any reader’s face.  It would make a great read aloud and a wonderful mentor text for modeling problem- solution with young readers.

Grandpa GreenGrandpa Green by Lane Smith

In Grandpa Green, a young boy remembers his great grandfather walking through a garden.  What makes the garden special are the topiary creations that the great grandfather was so adept at designing.  This book pays homage to the generations who came before and help us to remember that our grandparents and great grandparents are people too and that they experienced a world we can only know through their memories.

the frank showThe Frank Show by David MacIntosh

Right after reading Grandpa Green, I picked up The Frank Show by David MacIntosh.  Like Grandpa Green, this book is a great catalyst for a discussion on grandparents.  We know our grandparents only as the older, more wrinkled versions of our parents.  As children, we often don’t realize that our grandparents were ever young and have experienced things that we read about in history books.  It wasn’t until the deaths of my grandparents when I inherited hundreds of pictures that I realized they had once been young.

Both of these books are wonderful stories to share with kids, especially in September when we celebrate Grandparents’ Day.

The Wednesday WarsThe Wednesday Wars by Gray D. Schmidt

The Wednesday Wars takes place on long Island during the 1967-1968 school year.  Holling Hoodhood is a middle school student who finds himself stuck with his English teacher every Wednesday afternoon reading Shakespeare while half of his class goes to catechism and the other half goes to temple for Bar Mitzvah classes.  Schmidt very artfully brings in the conflicts that were a part of American society at that time – the Vietnam War and flower power, as well as the traditional roles of husband and wife.  It’s a great story that addresses the issues of the time and gives the reader a look into that era of American history.  And despite the sometimes heavy and intense topics, Schmidt infuses that wonderful middle school humor and take on life throughout the book.  I listened to the audio book and there is just something about listening to a story told from the perspective of a middle school student that is incredibly enjoyable.  Gary D. Schmidt is a new author for me, but I will definitely be looking for more of his work at my local library.

DivergentDivergent by Veronica Roth

Wow!!! What can I say?  This book was phenomenal!  I never thought I was much of a dystopia reader, but after discovering The Hunger Games a couple of years ago and now Divergent, it might be time for me to reconsider the genre.  I love that the story was set in Chicago.  Having visited the Windy City twice, it was easy for me to picture the different events taking place.  Even thought some of the relationships and events were quite predictable, it’s definitely an action-packed book.  I had been avoiding starting it because I had a feeling I wouldn’t want to put down the almost 500-page book and I was absolutely right.  There weren’t ever really any dull moments.  Whether we were waiting for Beatrice to make her choice or anxiously waiting to see what the training component will be, Roth has definitely created a page turner and I can’t wait to read Insurgent.

Other Books I Read this Week:

Mustache   Peace

I’m Currently Listening to The Secret of the Fortune Wookie (Origami Yoda #3) by Tom Angleberger.

The Secret of the Fortune Wookie