WATG Board Member, Conference Co-Chair
As an Instructional Coach who is also the Gifted and Talented Coordinator in my district, I often spend the weekends working on developing support systems for teachers. This weekend, I was creating a resource for assessment questions that encourage critical thinking based off of Diane Heacox and Richard Cash’s Differentiation for Gifted Learners: Going Beyond the Basics. (This invaluable book is a MUST have for all teachers!) The idea is that we need to allow students to take information they have learned and manipulate it in such a way that is beneficial to building skills, instead of allowing only simple regurgitation. Here is a sample of my resource:
These types of questions on assessments allow all students to manipulate information, but it is the gifted students who thrive on these questions. Too many times, gifted students do not feel challenged in school and are just waiting/begging for something or someone to kickstart their brain. As teachers use these types of questions on their assessments, they will see student responses blossom.
My mind is racing. Will the teachers incorporate this? Will they find it helpful? Burdensome? What if they don’t know how to incorporate it in their subject? By constructing this resource, something popped in my mind from January 19, 2020 on Edutopia.
And then I realized it’s just that simple. “What else do you know that I didn’t ask you?” This question is for the kids who excitedly ran home to Google topics learned in school, for those who crave more than we can teach within the confines of schedules, for those who love to delve deep into a topic, for those who can make connections to the topic we teach in such ways that we haven’t even realized yet. So, please...consider adding this question to the end of every test. It may not be a conversation/essay starter for many students, but what if it is for that one? It may open up doors for them you haven’t anticipated.
By Stacy Sweetalla, WATG Board
As we approach a new year, most people are setting personal goals. This is a great opportunity to teach your child how to set goals for themselves, as well as how to monitor and review the goals they set. Richard Cash states, “When working with students, what’s most important in the goal-setting process is the level of commitment the student has toward the goal.” Goals needs to be relevant to students’ lives, including their academic level (Cash 2018). By setting goals, students “…tend to be more self-energized, motivated, and directed toward being successful. With each goal attainment, students develop greater self-efficacy and confidence” (Cash 2018).
Richard Cash suggests not just setting a SMART goal, but setting a SMARTS/S goal. This additional “S” or “Strategies to Success” helps students plan HOW to achieve their goals, and would be something great to teach gifted children at a young age! In case you are not familiar with the basic SMART goal framework, we will go over what each of the letters mean:
The S/S in SMARTS/S stands for Strategies to Success. It is important that children know what strategies to use in order to help them gain success. “Typically, young gifted students learn strategies quickly, without a great deal of repetition or practice” (Cash 2018). Therefore, it is important that we teach children how to refine different strategies to work in a variety of situations, as well as how to use multiple strategies to find one that works best. This can especially help children when they encounter a more complex task as they get older.
So, remember, when you go to create a goal with your gifted child this New Years, stick with the SMARTS/S goal framework. Help the child see and understand the steps to not only making goals, but also accomplishing them.
Reference: Cash, Richard M. “SMART Goals for Gifted Students.” Free Spirit Publishing Blog, 4 Jan. 2018, https://freespiritpublishingblog.com/2018/01/04/smart-goals-for-gifted-students/.
Our board and the audience had some fun at our Fall 2019 WATG conference when we sang (a new version to) the old folk song Big Rock Candy Mountain. This was a favorite song of mine growing up, with the words and melody conjuring up a magical place… a place that any child might beg to go! It hit me that gifted children might be looking (begging) for a similar magical place where their needs are met. I asked my daughter if she would rewrite the song to reflect what the that mountain top might look like for gifted children. Please try not to think of it as a “mountain” that is difficult to climb, where reaching the summit is impossible. Rather, think of it as a place that we should all be striving to reach… a continuous movement of one foot in front of the other. Just think of the fun of doing this together with a common goal in mind! That’s almost as much fun as an impromptu folk band jamming at the fall conference!
In the Big Rock Candy Mountain- (Gifted Style)
One evening as the sun went down
And the summer fire was burning
Down the path came along a dream
And it said, I’m not leaving
Until there’s a land not far away
In which giftedness is counted
So come with me, we’ll go and see,
The Big Rock Candy Mountains
In The Big Rock Candy Mountains,
there’s a land that’s fair and bright
Where parents, kids, and teachers
don’t ever have to fight
about curriculums or funding
Because everyone agrees.
About grades and tests
And which is best,
And what should count
It all works out
In The Big Rock Candy Mountains
In The Big Rock Candy Mountains,
The whole world has been trained
and the needs of gifted brains
And every student’s needs are met
Without exacting pain
You can learn at a pace
That makes sense for your place
Is rightly viewed
In The Big Rock Candy Mountains.
In the Big Rock Candy Mountain
You’re never shamed or shunned
For having quirks and tendencies
At which other kids poke fun
Learning has no boundaries
So the rules are flexible
You can wiggle and grove
When you need to move
You need to think
or have a point to prove
In The Big Rock Candy Mountains.
In The Big Rock Candy Mountains
Group projects can be fun
Everyone does all the work,
It’s not left to only one
Dropout rates all disappear
They need to see our kids
Hear them too,
Teach them all
With a challenge or two
In The Big Rock Candy Mountains
I’ll see you all, Yes, I’ll see you all!
In schools throughout Wisconsin!
Gifted text by Hannah Schmit
(Original text and tune by Harry McClintock)
Mary Budde, WATG Treasurer and Board Member
As parents, we fully throw ourselves into the most important role we will ever have--raising our children through the years, teaching social skills, nurturing emotional needs and promoting educational growth. For those of us in the GT world, the constant quest for appropriate educational challenges is something which has, at times, consumed us. We feel the struggles of our children, and celebrate their successes along the way. We advocate for them, and we ultimately teach them to advocate for themselves, so that they are prepared to embark on adulthood.
Sounds like I’ve had it under control, right?
Not entirely. As much as I thought I was prepared for dropping off our son at college five hours from home, I was less than calm in the days leading up to it. I was sure I had forgotten a whole bunch of things that at some point I had thought he had to take along. There must be some form we forgot to complete. We didn’t test the refrigerator to see if it worked before packing it. And on and on and on …
I did manage, though, to keep most of that turmoil inside by focusing on staying present. I didn’t want to add to anyone else’s stress, especially our son’s, nor did I want to miss any moments before he left. For his part, he was, at least outwardly, confident and ready to attend a college all of us thought was a perfect fit for him. So, we packed up the van and headed out on Moving Day.
And you know what? We were all fine. We didn’t forget anything critical. He has found the local stores, in addition to Amazon, for the few things he needed that he didn’t have. He enjoyed the first month of school even more than he hoped he would and is thriving on the academic work. He and his roommate (whom he first met in person on Moving Day) get along. He has the beginnings of lots of new friendships. It won’t all be idyllic, but a good start is worth a lot.
Above all else, we want our children to be happy in every aspect of their lives; sometimes that means we have to let them experience on their own and risk less-than-great situations. We have to trust that while we may not have done it perfectly, we did our best to prepare them for whatever the next stage of life brings.
I can’t wait to have him home at Thanksgiving. After all, I am still his mom.
Did you know that the plural form of octopus is octopodes? Yup, octopodes. (pron. ok-TOP-uh-deez) Who knows this stuff? Better question, why do I know this stuff?!? I’m not a marine biologist (though I do have goldfish) or some kind of grammarian. Nope, none of that. I learned this from my then-11-year-old daughter when I (incorrectly) used the term octopi.
Apparently you can’t put a Latin suffix on a Greek root. Sigh. I took a vacation to Washington DC with my daughter when she was going through an architecture phase. Specifically, an architectural columns phase. That was a long trip. I have to say, I never dreamed that there could be so many columns of so many styles in one city and I swear that every single one of them was pointed out to me and explained in detail!
I am a mom of gifted kids. And as a gifted kids’ mom I am privy to all kinds of random knowledge and facts. This is just everyday life for us.
So where am I going with this and why do you care? Well, because over the years I have heard many parents share how much they have learned from their children about parenting, themselves, and the world around them. How blessed are we that we get to learn all of that AND the random trivia! Add to that a side of intensity and a dash of asynchronous development and now we’re really having fun! It can feel lonely here in the trenches of gifted parenting. That is why I am so excited about WATG’s upcoming conference. With parent sessions where we can connect, support, and laugh with one another, I walk away feeling refreshed and not so alone in this adventure we call parenting. Come and join us for a day or two! I truly hope to see you there! -And I promise not to point out the columns or correct your grammar.
WATG Board Member
While the official title of the SENG, 2019 conference was "Exploring New Frontiers," a more apt title could have been "Gifted: Equity, Quality, and Life." The constant themes of the presentations centered on the fact that giftedness exists and talented people need services, equity includes giftedness, and giftedness does not end at grade 12. Attending the keynotes and various workshops each day, strengthened the resolve to continue advocating for this diverse population.
The conference began with the keynote, "On A Mission to Advocate for Underserved Gifted Students." Dr. Esquierdo spoke about the importance of building the assets and challenging misconceptions since "gifted children exist in countries that don't speak English." It is crucial, to begin with, an understanding of heritage and what the student brings into the classroom. She pointed out that we, parents, educators, and advocates, must understand that children know their abilities; it is up to us to teach who they are now and push them to become their best selves.
Equity encompasses all children, including those with exceptional giftedness. More than an IQ score, the critical issue that differentiates moderate, high, and profoundly gifted centers around the discrepancy between mental and chronological age. Dr. Kane observed that while profound giftedness is a statistical rarity in the population, affecting all aspects of the individual's development, it is becoming more common. Significant challenges faced by these children include lack of peers, placing a lot of "stock" into their giftedness, and not knowing what to do when something gets hard. Strategies to help profoundly gifted children include finding mentors, acknowledge their worries, and help them develop a sense of agency, promote both/and vs. either/or thinking.
The development of an asset model approach to the identification requires building innate student abilities. I presented research on the importance of art education for underrepresented gifted and talented youth. The science of poverty is shocking; empirical research confirms that poverty adversely affects the cognitive abilities of all people, severely impacts children's brain development, and creates adverse health outcomes. Along with these sobering findings, research confirmed that art education supports students from Low-Economic Status and minority enclave communities. Providing the arts does more than offer a special treat for children; it helps build fine motor skills, perseverance, and abstract thinking.
Equity extends to the social-emotional needs of gifted populations. Mr. Hess stated that asking gifted children to "act normal' is highly insensitive; they are "acting normal." Normal, after all, is a highly subjective word. Dr. Gato-Walden explained that the higher a person's level of giftedness, the higher their worry meter. One reason for this problem? Gifted, 2e and Highly Gifted people tend to live in their heads and being smart, they have a hard time letting go of their beliefs. Co-presenters Ms. Harlow and Mr. Hunt explained that anxiety and giftedness are related characteristics. Helping children grow into their cognitive and problem-solving includes strategies such as realistic goal setting, participating in real-life problem-solving activities, and providing parameters for them to follow both in the home and at school.
Twice-exceptional (2e) children are diverse, and many mask their exceptionality because their giftedness compensates for the needs. Dr. Sanguras shared research confirming that the development of grit influences performance, self-discipline, life satisfaction, and happiness, all traits that impact life long-term. Dr. and Mrs. Postma focused on the challenges faced by 2e kids and the importance of building system capacity to serve these students. Ms. Brown shared that misidentification leads to frustrations in life-long success. As advocates, parents, and educators, it is essential for us to understand our children, to identify early, and develop safe zones for them to be themselves.
Raising and advocating for gifted children requires acceptance of who we are. Ms. Merrill, the second keynote speaker, focused on the importance of developing an adult superpower toolkit. She explained that parents of GT kids never know where this ride will take them, or what others, well-meaning and otherwise, will throw at them. Strategies that help parents include recognizing the infinite patience and constant vigilance it takes to deal with the overexcitabilities of their children. She recommended fostering radical self-forgiveness and perspective; parents (educators and advocates) do the best they can with the information they have in front of them at that time.