Mollie Grinnell, WATG Board
When we first suspected that our daughter was gifted, we immediately started working with our local public school. When this school failed to even evaluate her, we hoped that a nearby public charter school with an established gifted and talented (GT) program offering a multi-age classroom (3rd grade- 5th grade) would provide what she needed. As a temporary measure, we homeschooled her for the remainder of the school year, then enrolled her in the charter school the next fall when she was entering 3rd grade. Within the first week, the school evaluated our daughter and classified her as gifted, confirming an independent assessment (which had identified her as profoundly gifted). Within the next few weeks she was moved into 4th grade math and put into the highest language arts group in the school (5th to 6th grade). After a month of being enrolled in this school, our daughter was also whole-grade accelerated and identified for numerous GT pull-out programs. Our meetings with the principal, teachers, and GT Coordinator were very positive—everyone seemed to have our daughter’s best interest in mind. We were hopeful about school for the first time in years. However, it did not take long for our hope to dissolve.
Even with all the accommodations the school made, our daughter was not being challenged. While she was still willing to go to school (she had refused to go to her previous school), it was clear that it was not a good learning environment for her. What she was ‘learning’ in language arts was something she had known for years, and the school did not have a strategy to challenge children who exceeded the highest level of instruction. Furthermore, our daughter was avoiding doing math and not being held accountable for not completing the work. In science, she complained of too many worksheets that held no meaning, and she was not allowed to make the project work more interesting by expanding the projects into her areas of interest. Most concerning, she started exhibiting behaviors that we knew, based on her first school, to be warning signs of social isolation and eroding self-esteem.
When it became clear that the school had implemented all of their available methods for challenging gifted children and still it was not enough, we had a candid conversation with the principal about whether the school would be able to meet our daughter’s needs. Legally, he had to say ‘yes’ but underlying his answer it was clear that it would be a continual uphill battle. This was not because the school did not want to do the right thing, but because they did not know what to do, and had never done it before. It was easy to understand why the school was struggling. Statistically, a teacher may see a student like our daughter every 35-40 years (i.e., perhaps once, if ever, during their career). Even if we lived in a major metropolitan area, the likelihood of our daughter’s teachers ever having worked with another profoundly gifted child is remote, and in a rural environment, it is next to zero.
It would be easy to say that our experience is unique and generally not relevant because our daughter is an outlier even among the gifted population. It would also be easy to say that, in the case of the second school, the accommodations the school made were reasonable and would meet most gifted learners’ needs. On one level that may be true; however, our situation emphasizes that there is not a one-size-fits-all strategy for gifted learners, and even robust GT programs often fail gifted students. Most classroom teachers never receive training on the considerable differences in brain function in gifted children compared to that of a typical child, nor how to teach and support gifted children. Additionally, our experience at the first school is relevant to all gifted students because schools such as these—schools with no or limited GT programming—fail most, if not all, gifted students enrolled in their districts. It is all too common that the needs of gifted children are not fully met.
By Martha A. Lopez, WATG President-Elect
Parenting is not easy, especially if you are raising a gifted and talented child. A common characteristic of a gifted and talented child is they tend to be perfectionists. One mistake and they feel they are failures. This is one of the biggest challenges of parenting gifted and talented children. Today, I want to shed light on how having a growth mindset can help. Dr. Carol Dweck and her colleagues coined the term growth mindset to describe the underlying beliefs people have about learning and intelligence. Research shows that parents can have a powerful impact on their children’s’ mindsets. The language you use and the actions you take show your children what you expect. Giving process praise, talking about the brain, and accepting mistakes as learning opportunities are all practices you can begin using today.
Develop a Growth Mindset in Children
The way we praise our children can have a profound impact on their mindset. Research on praise and mindsets shows that when we praise children for being smart, it promotes a fixed mindset. It sends a message that their accomplishments are trait-based, and tied to something innate. In contrast, praising kids for working hard promotes a growth mindset. It sends a message that the child’s effort is what led them to success. Here are 10 What Questions to Develop a Growth Mindset in Children by Twinkl Educational Publishing.
Talk About the Brain
Our brain is far more plastic than we once thought. Teaching our kids that they actually have control over growing their brains through the actions they take is empowering! Tell your children that when they work hard, their neurons are making strong connections. The dendrites are reaching out to other dendrites, that is, they are connecting to make a stronger brain. What strengthens those connections is practice, asking questions, and actively participating in learning. When children learn that their brains physically change with effort, it leads to increased motivation and achievement.
Learning Opportunities versus Accepting Mistakes
Finally, one of the best ways you can model a growth mindset is to speak candidly about the mistakes you’ve made, and what you’ve learned from them. Speak positively about your mistakes and struggles. This will show your children that taking risks and making mistakes are a natural part of the learning process. Explain to your children that trying hard things is what helps us grow, and you cannot be perfect when you try something hard!
Here are some great videos to learn more about growth mindset:
Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUWn_TJTrnU
Growth Mindset by Carol Dweck (animated book summary) – Growth Mindset and Fixed Mindset: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EyIF5VUOJc0
Developing a Growth Mindset! Dr. Nagler’s Laboratory: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivKLEVPI6mM
Before the holidays, a list-serv member made a post in search of lesson plans related to architecture. Specifically, she was interested if anyone could point her to activities that incorporated scale, similarity, or proportions and were appropriate for grades 7 and 8. What began as a casual search during my lunch break led to an hour or more of browsing and discovering what others have put together on the topic.
Full disclosure: I’m an engineer (not an architect), but I often work closely with architects, and there is a great deal of overlap between the types of problems we encounter and the critical thinking skills we use everyday in our jobs. In an effort to be helpful, but not strain myself too hard, I decided to first simply Google (used as a verb) “architecture grade school lessons” and see what it returned. Links to the NEA’s website and a STEM group in Idaho initially caught my eye, but I then remembered that Wisconsin is home to a few local AIA chapters. The AIA (The American Institute of Architects) is a non-profit professional organization that offers its nearly 93,000 members help with education, licensing, networking, professional development, ethics training, and so on. It didn’t take long before I discovered the AIA’s K-12 Initiatives. In addition to student scholarships and grant support for local chapters, there were two topics that captured my attention -- “The Scan” and “The Connectory.”
The Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion K–12 Architecture and Design Education Scan (a.k.a. The Scan) was a national survey the AIA conducted in 2015 to see what opportunities were available for K-12 students interested in architecture. The study tried to identify best-practices, find potential gaps in regions or programs being offered, and then create a directory for teachers, administrators, and parents to connect with the programs. The AIA assessment looked at who was offering the programs, which grade levels participated, and if programs were held during or after school. The study was completed in August 2017 and included 50 U.S. cities and 700 members (none of them in Wisconsin, unfortunately). The final paper and its results are available on the AIA’s website.
The Connectory is a free, searchable, online database of STEM programs and organizations. It began in late 2009 when Time Warner Cable announced the “Connect a Million Minds” initiative. According to their website, the site began as two separate resources -- a directory for The Coalition for Science After School and a directory aimed at parents called Time Warner Cable's Connectory. In 2015, the databases merged with a third group, the National Girls Collaborative. The Connectory is now managed by the National Girls Collaborative in collaboration with:
The site allows its members to create a listing for their group and promote their activities, workshops, and community events. There’s also the ability for volunteers to sign up and find opportunities in their surrounding area.
As part of this adventure, I also reached out to local AIA chapters in Milwaukee, Green Bay, and Madison, to inquire about any programs or events they might offer or be planning to offer in the future. I haven’t heard back yet, but I assume the holidays might have had something to do with that. If and when I hear back, I’ll be sure to share it with the group. Keep an eye on the list-serv for any updates, and thanks for reading. Additional resources and links are available below.
Business & STEM Representative, WATG
When youth are engaged in their communities, they bring radical imagination to help move their communities forward. WATG organized an interactive session for Wisconsin Youth through our annual teen conference. Students from various middle and high schools in WI had a great opportunity to participate in this conference and learn how they can ensure their voices are heard on the issues that matter to them.
Thanks to Oregon High School students for participating in this conference and sharing their action plan with WATG. We wish them best of luck with their efforts.
ACTION PLAN by Oregon High School Students:
What is the problem?
Oregon High School does not offer enough classes that include only advanced learners (students with like minds to help each other learn) who want to go more in depth and at a faster pace than their peers in a non-stressful environment.
What does research say about this problem?
Some possible solutions that we have come up with include:
Steps you are going to take to solve this problem?
“Miss Anjana, we like you, but if you are ever boring, we are outta here.”
One sentence I heard 3 months before my college graduation brought more truth and humility into my life than 4 years of higher education. As a GT student in Wisconsin I was challenged to think outside of the box starting in elementary school. That mindset served me well as a college student as I learned about human behavior and the current state of our education system from new anthropological and psychological perspectives. But my skills were truly put to the test by a group of 9-year-olds who lived in one of the most impoverished neighborhoods of Pittsburgh during my final semester of college.
Six years ago I started teaching chess to girls in my hometown of Milwaukee, WI to address the gender disparity in the sport, and now, having mentored over 500 girls through six different camps, the number of female chess players in Wisconsin has doubled! When I started college at the University of Pittsburgh, I found that the city lacked a vibrant chess culture, so I decided to share my passion for the game by starting something new—explaining chess to people through the life lessons, such as teamwork and critical reasoning, I learned from the chessboard.
This past spring semester I volunteered for 10 weeks (once a week for 2 hours) at the Homewood-Brushton YMCA and implemented lessons plans for a chess-to-life learning curriculum that I created. On my very first day, I had an impromptu meeting with the 22 kids in the after-school program (9-13 year olds) and they very frankly told me, “Miss Anjana, we like you, but if you are ever boring, we are outta here.” Taking their words very seriously, I knew I had to be innovative with my chess curriculum. These kids had never played chess before and were hesitant to even learn the game because they thought it was “nerdy.” They would rather pursue their passions in singing and dancing than be bored with a complicated game. So I struck a deal with the kids—we would create a music video (one of their biggest dreams) AND have loads of fun every Friday all while learning chess.
Through 10-weeks of programming the kids not only learned how to play chess, but also participated in a chess Winter Olympics (to learn teamwork), painted Resilience Murals about their personal stories of perseverance (while learning about the pawn to queen promotion in chess), 3D-printed their own chess pieces, created (and ate) an edible chessboard, and produced a “Chess Do It” music video to teach the world how to play chess and show everyone that even a “nerdy” game like chess can be as “cool” as rap (the instrumental background of the song is to Kendrick Lamar’s “HUMBLE”).
I initially played chess just to beat the boys who didn’t think girls were smart enough to play, but I now teach chess to boys and girls alike to instill in them values of perseverance and critical engagement while discussing life experiences in discrimination and resilience. Who knew you could learn so much in 64 squares?
While I was technically the “adult” in the room, the kids of Homewood taught me to be a better student. A student learns from the lessons taught in a classroom, but a better student learns lessons from her teacher and her peers (even if they are half her age). A student learns to paint within the lines, but a better student dares to channel her inner Jackson Pollock and express herself outside of conventional norms. A student learns to challenge her brain to do the impossible, but a better student challenges her teacher to teach the impossible. And most importantly, a student learns to make good grades, but a better student learns for the love of learning.
Please watch “Chess Do It”—you may learn that there is more to chess than meets the eye!
I created Kids Tales five years ago when I was thirteen; I am its Founder and Executive Director. Kids Tales is a nonprofit venture that brings summer creative writing workshops to 8 to 12 year old kids around the globe who do not have access to writing experiences outside of school. During a Kids Tales workshop, kids spend one week brainstorming, writing, and editing their own short story. At the end of the week, the stories are assembled in a collection and published as an anthology, a real book. All of Kids Tales’ instructors are teenagers.
Kids Tales gives kids from underserved communities the opportunity to tell their story and become a published author. I didn’t start Kids Tales knowing it would become a nonprofit. I started it because I love to write and wanted to share my passion for writing with other kids. But at the end of our first workshop, a girl named Alana told me, “Thank you for letting me have a voice. No one has ever done that for me before.” Alana’s parents were divorced and she never had the opportunity to write and share her thoughts. Kids Tales gave her that chance. I knew Kids Tales had to grow to give more kids, like Alana, the opportunity to find their voices.
Kids Tales has grown more than I could ever have imagined! More than 1200 kids across twelve U.S. cities and nine countries including Brazil, Canada, Columbia, Guatemala, Honduras, Taiwan, and a refugee camp in Hungary have participated in Kids Tales, and we have engaged over 300 teen teachers. Since Kids Tales was founded in 2013, we have published 65 anthologies, real books, written by Kids Tales Student Writers.
During Kids Tales first summer, I taught our workshops. As we grew, I trained teens that love to write and are passionate about sharing writing with younger kids to teach Kids Tales. Our teen instructors tell us teaching Kids Tales transforms them; they are empowered to continue giving back to their communities. All teen instructors are trained to teach Kids Tales workshops via virtual training sessions and a written Kids Tales workshop curriculum. The time commitment for teen instructors is three to four hours of teacher training, plus one week during the summer to teach a Kids Tales workshop. If you are a teen who loves to write and are passionate about helping younger kids, please consider joining us and becoming a Kids Tales instructor this summer. We need more Kids Tales teen teachers!
To become a Kids Tales teacher, fill out our application: http://kidstales.org/apply-now/
If you have any questions or want more information, please email me, Katie@KidsTales.org.
This resource list is a comprehensive, although certainly not exhaustive, compilation of articles, books, websites, and other media that address the wide range of issues facing families and schools dealing with Twice Exceptionality.
“Twice Exceptional” is one label to refer to children who meet criteria for Gifted Programs as well as criteria for educational accommodations and/or special education interventions. Sometimes “2e” is used an abbreviation, or “GT/LD” is used, short for “Gifted/Talented with Learning Disabilities.” Regardless of label, these children are a complex mix of shine and struggle; tap into their high interest areas and scaffold their challenges to guide them toward their full potential.
The list starts off with articles which do a great job laying out how to explain “Twice Exceptional” traits to schools and what legal protections these students have. Next there are articles addressing general guidelines. And then articles on specific issues, like slow processing speed and executive functioning. Following that are sections to list out teaching strategies and specific curricula (with links to ebooks, pdf pages, websites); a section on books and chapters in books; a section listing out websites to include official organizations along with blogs; sections sampling relevant podcasts and a few films; and rounding out with sections on Academic Centers and a sampling of Experts.
If more people (and especially more schools) are aware of 2e students, then more 2e students will have opportunities to thrive. These students are so vulnerable to frustration or underachievement when their needs go unmet, yet they have so much potential. In this spirit, may this resource list contribute to creative collaborations which will improve outcomes for 2e students.
Cathi McCutchan is mom to a 2e teen and former mental health professional. She practiced Dance/Movement Therapy for 10 years. She has also done professional editing and research, especially in regard to the Creative Arts Therapies. Cathi completed the WI Partners in Advocacy program in 2014. Her areas of expertise include food allergies, diabetes, expressive language disorders, Down syndrome, ADHD, Asperger’s, and Section 504. She is still getting up to speed on 2e and writing disorders.
Over the years, I have worked with hundreds of immigrant students, many of them gifted, whose stories go beyond stereotypical narratives told by the media. Their stories, dreams and desires to succeed represent the other side of their story. The truth is that most immigrant stories are incomplete. They are incomplete because they are often told from the perspective of those who look at these students from the periphery of society. There are times when telling a story we choose what to write, which details to omit, and more importantly what image we want to portray. We live in a society of incomplete stories. Yet, it is hard to stop and think of the other side of that story. Our lives, our cultures are composed of many overlapping diverse stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding. In her narrative she reflects on how telling a single story could be oppressive and lethal, especially for children.
As an educator I have learned to discover the untold stories of immigrant children whose resilience, courage and talents go beyond a label we immigrants receive upon arrival. Currently, many of these immigrant children are being overlooked and unidentified, in part because educators fail to see the other side of their stories. Patricia Gandara (The potential and Promise of Latino Students, 2007), points out that contrary to deficit perspectives, immigrant students possess a set of unique characteristics. The five characteristics that are typical of many immigrant students are a collaborative orientation to learning, resilience, immigrant optimism, multicultural perspectives, and multilingualism. Many of these characteristics are learned and developed as they try to assimilate in a heavily racialized society. For example, because immigrants cannot rely on the normal routines of their homelands and must adapt to new circumstances and expectations. Children learn to be resilient and persistent in the face of adversity. This persistence and resilience to succeed leads to deeper learning. For example, second generation immigrant students tend to outperform subsequent generations academically, in spite of language differences and cultural barriers. This phenomenon has been labeled immigrant optimism, in which these students, taking a cue from their immigrant parents, come to be true believers in the American dream and strive to realize it, exhibiting extraordinary motivation.
So what can educators do? Teachers have an amazing power to change mainstream discourse and narratives of immigrants. Teachers can nurture the assets and talents these students bring to school, such as their resiliency and the persistence they have shown in difficult circumstances. Teachers can celebrate the cultural practices that have nourished immigrant communities. Teachers can serve as the cultural brokers, empowering students and challenging distorted narratives we often hear. They can ensure that being labeled an English language learner or immigrant does not limit a student’s access to all the courses and opportunities that English speakers enjoy. But, perhaps even more importantly, what teacher should do is to avoid the danger believing and telling a single story!
This phrase has been used in marketing for years. In the 1920’s it was first used
commercially to sell the Victor Radio. Recently, it has become to mean something we
really don’t want to experience again: an overly talkative student or colleague who
frequently violates the TMI sharing rule; a lemon of a car you can’t afford to replace; an
emotion that surfaces at all the wrong times. In this season when too many things
demand our attention and the difference between giving and buying is pretty smudged,
it is worthwhile to call attention to a gift that does keep giving: curiosity.
Last year I stumbled upon a website called “The Kids Should See This.” I signed
up. Every week I receive several little videos or vignettes that reveal something totally
cool. Once it was a clip from a Charlie Chaplin movie; another time it was a video in
real time of a monarch caterpillar changing into a chrysalis. Just fascinating things in
our world that make you go “WOW!” No lessons, no morals to live by - just really cool
stuff. I would share them occasionally, but didn’t really think of them as an important
learning tool. After all, everything we do has to have a purpose, right?
Growth Mindset is the current favorite thing in pop culture and education. And I
believe that it is imperative that we all try to have one and teach it to our kids. But
shouldn’t we also try to instill a wonder and curiosity about our world? In my mind,
those two concepts go hand in hand. To have a curiosity about something will cause
one to grow.
Remember Madeline Hunter’s anticipatory set? Put a spin on it and show your
students something fantastic and exciting just for the heck of it! Show them an amazing
animal doing something in slow-motion or a painting by Cinta Vidal. Get your students
to wonder how something happens or how someone could possibly create such a
painting and why. I started to show my students things that piqued my curiosity at the
end of our group times. We look at it together for a couple minutes, and they leave our
lessons curious and talking about what we had just experienced together.
We know a lot about gifted kids and try really hard to meet their academic
challenges and social needs. Yet, I often feel that what needs fuelling is a strong
sense of curiosity. That will serve them for the rest of their lives.
Unless you were in my Economics class at Tomahawk High School, the words “Supply and Demand Challenge” probably don’t get you excited. You don’t start sweating, or shaking, or running through various economic scenarios in your head. But I can still remember how excited I was for that academic competition, and how earnestly I had prepared for it.
Admittedly, these reactions weren’t totally unique. Of course I’d studied before, and felt nervous before exams. That can be attributed to my garden-variety test anxiety. No matter how hard I studied, there was always the possibility that I’d have an of” day, one 50-minute period of time where I’d drop the ball, lose focus or draw a blank, and it would irreparably ruin my high school record. But this piece isn’t about grades and how much I loathe them. In fact, the Supply and Demand Challenge had nothing to do with grades.
It wasn’t an exam of any kind, just a way for us to study. All we “had” to do was participate and give an honest effort, but preparation outside of class was optional. Those who dropped out of the competition immediately after one round were given the same participation grade as those who won the whole thing.
There wasn’t an explicit incentive to training for the Supply and Demand Challenge, not even extra credit. Doing well in the challenge only meant doing more work, doing more supply-demand problems, drawing more graphs. Winning was some reward in of itself, I guess, but so was getting to sit through a class period and relax for an hour. So, then, why were most of my peers and I so excited, so driven to do well in this challenge, when all it entailed was working harder?
Because for once, the kids who wanted to try hard were getting MORE attention, not less.
Funny how it’s usually the other way around, right? But it makes sense: if one student isn’t doing their work and the rest of the students are, that one student’s going to get most of the teacher’s attention. Not because they’ve done anything to deserve it, but because the teacher has to keep class moving and make sure no one gets left behind.
And take two students who are both struggling in the same class. The first student studies the material on their own time, looks up videos online, and takes practice tests, and the second student doesn’t. Ideally the teacher would be able to reach out to both struggling students, but if they only have time for one, they’ll go to the second student. Again, only because it’s necessary, not because it’s fair.
I know that’s an oversimplification, and I’m not trying to throw any shade on teachers for looking after struggling students. It’s their job, after all, and most teachers are superb at it. But at the end of the day, the more a student is able to accomplish on their own--whether by natural ability, extra effort, or some combination of the two--the less the teacher needs to do for them. And that’s perfectly fine...if all you’re concerned about is grades. If a teacher’s attention was divided based on willingness to learn, regardless of where the student fell on the bell curve, I think it would be a different story.
Which is why The Supply and Demand Challenge was so special and exciting, even if I didn’t know exactly why at the time. The students who didn’t care, who learned just enough to pass the test and nothing more, fell out of the competition right away. No punishment, no grade penalty, they just weren’t able to compete anymore.
And with those students out of the way, the rest of us were able to run wild. We went up to the whiteboard over and over again, racing to shave another second off our graph-drawing time and advance up the roster of teams. It didn’t matter how good we were at it; every team was duking it out with each other, scrambling for split-second victories. By the end of the class, we were screaming and jumping out of our desks, immersed in the thrall of basic supply and demand principles.
And the grand prize? Nothing more than the team roster itself, a piece of paper with your team’s name in the coveted ‘champion’ blank. Yeah, winning was fun, but it was the experience that was the real prize. No one from that class remembers which teams won, but I guarantee we all remember the competition itself.
Economics was a class every senior had to take. Some of us might’ve opted to take the class even if it wasn’t required, but I’m guessing that most students weren’t jumping at the opportunity. Since it was a required class, I wasn’t expecting to be challenged very much. No matter how “advanced” a class was, it was always limited by the student who tried the least. And since everyone in my grade was taking this class, the odds of getting put in a class with someone who didn’t try at all was depressingly high.
Looking back, the only reason that class was, and remains, one of my favorites was how the teacher handled this type of student. Yes, of course the teacher set aside extra time for students who were struggling, but they also bypassed the students who didn’t try at all. The student got a warning, an offer of help, and that was it. I think I speak for the rest of the class when I say how much of a relief that was. We could come into class every day knowing that we’d accomplish something, not get hung up on a single problem student who hadn’t yet decided to start caring.
Economics was a class for people who wanted to try. The Supply and Demand Challenge was the most tangible evidence of that: it relied entirely on people wanting to challenge themselves just for the sake of a challenge.
The biggest thing I learned from that class is that, thankfully, most students do care. They want to learn, and they want to be challenged. They just need the opportunity.
Student and Parent Voices
Hear from and about gifted and talented students and parents across the state Wisconsin.