Recently several teachers were talking about how much they were looking forward to this school year. They said their focus is on meeting the needs of their students, even when those needs are very different. I asked how they planned to do that, given the wide range of abilities and student needs in the classroom. Their responses were interesting, but every teacher said they wanted to improve their relationship with all students and their families.
When I asked why that was a priority this coming school year, the teachers said that from the past year with virtual learning, their eyes were opened to the way their students lived at home. Having a glimpse into the home via the computer camera gave them a small view of family interaction, and the impact of the home itself on the learning atmosphere for the students.
The teachers also said that over the past year with school sometimes virtual, sometimes in person, and sometimes both, they had learned the importance of being flexible and accepting others and their ideas more positively to provide more effective learning opportunities for their students. Learning from these two experiences, these teachers realized they became better teachers. They realized the importance of getting to know the students and their families a little deeper than they had before and to value their ideas, rather than assuming the family was there to support whatever the teacher said to do, from homework to sleep schedule.
Next, I asked the teachers about their gifted students and the coming school year. The teachers all said they were looking forward to working with gifted students and their families in a new way because of this new respect for, and desire to work with, the family and the home. They were eager to put into action the fact that no two learners are the same. The teachers planned to enable gifted students to go deeper into topics and share their projects with the class, and to value parent and student insight into the student’s approach to learning. Most importantly, these teachers all said they were more prepared to learn from their students, including from their gifted students, rather than doubting that the students knew more than they did in many areas and needed to be moved ahead in the subject matter.
The teachers were all excited for the new school year and hoped students and their families would be willing to work together to have a year where gifted students thrive. It is a worthy goal for educators, students, and families.
The Power of Parents and Teachers as Partners
How to Foster a Collaborative Partnership with Your “Gifted” Child’s Teacher
Collaborative Conversation with Parents and Caregivers of Black Gifted Students
Collaboration Among All Educators to Meet the Needs of Gifted Learners
Teachers Partnering with Parents
Dr. Wanda Routier, Past Board Member
One of the things some parents of gifted children tell me is that their child “doesn’t miss a thing,” even at a very young age. Parents say their children who are gifted pick up on verbal information, cues, opinions, and statements - and will often remind the speaker of what they said at a later date. Some of the time this reminder is appropriate, and other times it can be quite uncomfortable for the speaker, depending upon the setting. Many children who are gifted also take in vast amounts of information visually. They pay close attention to their environment and analyze what is in the environment, what happens in the environment, who is there, including interactions between people, things, animals, and many other observations. If a child is gifted and also has vision loss, he may utilize his residual sight, and augment it with hearing, assistive technology, and orientation and mobility skills, such as using a cane.
Regardless of how children who are gifted interact with their environment and others, they often pay close attention to details in their world and are thorough in their exploration of it. This can be a positive or a negative, depending upon how it is used by the child and perceived by adults. In school, teachers may not recognize that a child who is gifted and is doing several things at once (multi-tasking) might be using this strategy to help pay attention. Teachers should not judge or misinterpret what the child is doing when multi-tasking, but rather, ask them to summarize what was just said, or to review the lesson that was just taught. Many teachers are very surprised when these children can explain in detail what the lesson was about while they were seemingly busy doing something else.
At home, parents can help their children develop creative ways to use their attention to detail skills wisely - to further learn new things, to help people, and to positively channel their skill. For example, children may need to learn not to confront a speaker, but to engage in higher order thinking discussions about a topic.
Additionally, there is a difference between attention to detail and perfectionism. Attention to detail may be said to be a practice of being thorough, accurate, and knowing what is being said, done, and completed, whereas perfectionism is often about avoiding mistakes, fearing imperfection, constant seeking of acceptance/approval by others, and living up to an artificial standard of accomplishment.
Paying attention to detail is an important lifelong skill. It is needed in school and college to learn, read, understand, and complete assignments thoroughly, correctly, and on time. It is needed on the job to get the job done efficiently and figure out ways to do it better. In life in general, attention to detail helps one to problem solve, create new things and procedures, and more. Attention to detail is essential in some fields. We certainly want a physician who pays attention to details in our body. We certainly want engineers and scientists who pay attention to details when building things, solving problems, and creating new things in our world. By encouraging our children who are gifted to channel their attention to detail for useful purposes in life, school, and employment, they learn to use these skills for the benefit of our world.
Attention to Detail
Indeed: Attention to Detail
Dr. Wanda Routier
Former WATG Board Member
This summer we take a break from the intensities of the past year and enjoy some time together with our families, neighbors, friends, and others. Gifted students often use the summer to explore special camps or programs for gifted students and really enjoy being with others who are like them. There is freedom in being able to be oneself among peers who share similar abilities and interests.
For families who do not send students to camp, or for times at home other than camp, there are a myriad of activities that students young and old can do during the summer. One book series that can prompt hours of fun and learning activities for children, youth, and adults is the Backpack Explorer Series. There are five books in the series that provide activities to explore our world:
1) On the Nature Trail: What Will You Find?
2) Bug Hunt: What Will You Find?
3) Bird Watch: What Will You Find?
4) Discovering Trees: What Will You Find?
5) Beach Walk
Grab a backpack, a few items for safety, and have fun exploring!
Other activities bring fun and learning near your own home. Have you ever explored the town where you live? Be a tourist in your own hometown. Does your student like art? Create art on the sidewalk with chalk. Write stories (ghost stories or another genre) to tell later around a firepit or campfire. Participate in the local library’s summer programs. Help someone in your family or a neighbor. These activities are local and have little or no cost.
During and after these activities, gifted students may want to delve deeper into certain topics, activities, or create their own spin-offs of activities. Summer is the time for them to create and use their imagination. See what your gifted student will enjoy this summer and give them the freedom to do so!
Dr. Wanda Routier
Past WATG Board Member
Este verano tomamos un descanso de todas la intensidad del año pasado y disfrutamos un tiempo juntos, con nuestras familias, vecinos, amigos y otros. Usualmente, los estudiantes con talentos especiales utilizan el verano para explorar campos especiales y programas para estudiantes con talentos especiales en donde disfrutan realmente el poder estar con otras personas que son como ellos. Hay libertad al poder ser uno mismo entre compañeros que comparten habilidades e intereses similares.
Para las familias que no envían a los estudiantes al campamento, o para esos momentos en el hogar cuando no están en el campamento; hay una gran variedad de actividades que los estudiantes, jóvenes y mayores, pueden hacer durante el verano.
Una serie de libros que hará que el tiempo se vaya rápido con horas de diversión y actividades de aprendizaje para niños, jovénes y adultos, es "Backpack Explorer Series". Hay cinco libros en esta serie que proporcionan actividades para explorar nuestro mundo:
1) On the Nature Trail: What Will You Find? (En el sendero de la naturaleza: ¿Qué encontrarás?)
2) Bug Hunt: What Will You Find? (Búsqueda de insectos: ¿Qué encontrarás?)
3) Bird Watch: What Will You Find? ( Observando las aves: ¿Qué encontrarás?)
4) Discovering Trees: What Will You Find? (Descubriendo árboles: ¿Qué encontrarás?)
5) Beach Walk (Caminando por la playa)
¡Toma tu mochila, un poco de artículos de seguridad y diviértete explorando!
Otras actividades brindan diversión y aprendizaje cerca de tu casa. ¿Haz explorado alguna vez la ciudad donde vives? Conviértete en un turista dentro de tu propia ciudad. ¿A su estudiante le gusta el arte? Crea arte en la banqueta con un gis. Escribe historias (historias de fantasmas u otro género) para que las cuentes después alrededor de una fogata o en una noche de campamento. Participa en los programas de verano de la biblioteca local. Ayuda a alguien en tu familia o en tu colonia. Estas actividades son locales y de bajo precio o gratis. https://www.additudemag.com/summer-activities-for-teens/
Durante y después de estas actividades, los estudiantes con talentos especiales podrán querer profundizar en ciertos temas, actividades o crear sus propias actividades con ciertos efectos. El verano es el tiempo en el cuál ellos pueden crear y usar su imaginación. ¡Vea lo que sus estudiantes con talentos especiales disfrutan hacer este verano y dé a ellos la libertad de hacerlo!
Dr. Wanda Routier
Past WATG Board Member
(WATG desea extender su profundo agradecimiento a Esther Vazquez Guendulain de Appleton Bilingual School por traducir este artículo al español para nuestras familias y educadores hispanohablantes . La traducción puede encontrarse también en el blog de nuestra página web.)
As we reach the end of the school year, we can look back and reflect upon a full school year unlike any other. While the 2019-2020 school year suddenly stopped and changed in March, it impacted only the last quarter of the school year. The 2020-2021 school year was different for the entire year, from August through June. Many people, including families, students, and teachers, are looking forward to the summer to enjoy some activities and/or travel that have been limited over the last year. It is a welcome diversion from the intense situation that we have all experienced - in our work, school, or home.
This summer, why not try some family endeavors at home or on the road that start with a book and lead to a fun family activity? Research is clear that reading aloud to a child is one way to greatly improve their literacy skills. It builds reading skills, and improves vocabulary skills, among other things. So, why not read a book together, and do some fun activities with some learning benefits at the same time? Since gifted children tend to like to investigate things in a deeper manner, and to learn answers to the endless question of “why,”these books and activities are perfect to do together. This allows children to independently pursue some specific investigation of their interest from the book, and brings everyone back together to share their findings and enjoy the fruits of their labor.
In May we lost two beloved contributors to children’s literature. Eric Carle and Lois Ehlert passed away. Carle is the author of many, many children’s books including The Very Hungry Caterpillar. He was a prolific author and illustrator and introduced a new way to write and illustrate children’s literature. Carle’s stories taught values, and centered on learning themes such as colors, counting, shapes, opposites, rhythm, and rhyme, to name a few. There are many resources on the Internet about Carle’s works. Here are a few to explore:
Official Eric Carle Website
(Has booklists with books in several languages, activities, downloads, etc.)
Interview: Eric Carle Discusses 50 Years of The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Eric Carle Reads: The Very Hungry Caterpillar
The second person important in children’s literature, and featured in this article, is Lois Ehlert, illustrator of the book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. Did you know that Ehlert was born in Beaver Dam, WI? While Chicka Chicka Boom Boom may be her most popular work, it is not her only work. Ehlert wrote other books, including some that teach skills such as colors and the alphabet in a garden setting.
Here are a few Internet resources that explore Ehlert’s work, with ideas for follow-up exploration and activities learned in the books.
Lois Ehlert Biography:
Video Interview with Lois Ehlert
Growing Vegetable Soup
Children’s Read Aloud Picture Book
Read by Mr. Chad
**Activity-Cook vegetable soup together
Pie in the Sky
Video Read Aloud
**Activity-Make a cherry pie with your family.
The recipe is part of the text of the book.
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
Video: Story Time at Awnie’s House
Alphabet-upper case and lower case.
**Activity-Keep the beat by snapping in rhythm to the story.
A few other books by Lois Ehlert:
Planting a Rainbow
Eating the Alphabet
Lots of Dots
In My World
I hope these books give you a place to start to enjoy these two authors/illustrators who are no longer with us, but whose works will remain favorites of children and parents everywhere.
Dr. Wanda Routier
Former WATG Board Member
This spring has been a mix of weather, ranging from sunshine and warm temperatures to snow and storms. During a virtual meeting, a few gifted students noted the weather at their home and were comparing it with the weather others had at their home in various locations around the state. The students found it rather interesting that while some of them had trees and flowers with leaves and blossoms, others of them still had “winter trees,” devoid of signs of spring. They decided to track the weather and plant growth for three weeks so they could continue to compare their locations and the rate of spring’s advance in Wisconsin. It was a welcome distraction, given the pandemic and the restrictions of the past year.
There were many things that students learned through this weather and growth analysis. First, it was completely student-driven. It was their idea, and their follow-through. They told their parents about the endeavor, and the parents were eager to support them. Next, students used inquiry to explore and record the weather and plant growth. They also used reading, writing, math, science, and measurement skills. When the students got back together virtually to compare notes, graphs, and charts, they were using communication, technology, and collaboration skills. Students enjoyed performing distance research and comparing the weather and plant growth across the state. These students were able to go deeper into the weather patterns and plant growth, as many gifted students do.
Parents were also excited with the engagement of their students, the collaboration with peers in other places, and the analysis the students did together. Parents expressed that this activity provided a unique learning opportunity which was fun and allowed their students to learn in new ways, all stemming from a casual virtual meeting. Additionally, parents were pleased with the positive efforts of the students and the virtual learning that was accomplished.
Often a casual friendly encounter can turn into something exciting and engaging, and a positive learning experience that is also fun.These teachable moments are valuable for families.
Here are some websites that provide scientific information about the weather, and growing things.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Includes local weather information.
National Weather Service
Includes local weather information.
WI Vegetable Entomology, UW-Madison
WI Horticulture, UW-Madison Division of Extension
Garden Calendar for May
The Old Farmer’s Almanac-WI Planting Calendar
The Old Farmer’s Almanac-Weather
Dr. Wanda Routier
A few young gifted adults were talking with me recently, and the topic wandered to taking tests. These young adults compared notes from high school and college and shared how they disliked tests in school because the tests frequently required memorization of information that didn’t seem to relate to the topic or the real world. Once the test was over, they had little application of the memorized information and quickly forgot it. However, classes in which they did projects and applied information in the depth and breadth they desired were a different story. They could remember all of the details of those projects even though high school was years ago.
Next, these young adults talked about their college days, both undergraduate and graduate levels. This group of young adults all pursued STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) majors and careers and talked about the difficult tests in high-level STEM classes. They spoke of learning how to take online timed tests because there is a method to it. They all shared that their universities, all of which were different, gave tests in STEM subjects online, and students had a certain period of time to complete the tests, usually over several days or a certain number of hours.The young adults said they learned how to take these tests to plan their approach, maximize their time, and pass the tests.
They shared some tips that worked for them. First, before they started the test, they were sure to have all the allowed resources in front of them so that they didn’t have to waste time looking for a book, notes, calculator, or a tool; it was right there for them to use. They also made sure their laptop or other device was working properly. Next, when they began the test, after reading the instructions, they took a brief amount of time to review the entire test so that they knew if some questions would take longer than others because of the content, or because of the type of question it was.Then they determined which question needed the most time (and usually had the most points), and started with that question so they were sure it was finished with time left to complete the other questions. If they had time left after answering all questions, they reviewed certain questions to ensure they did not forget to include anything.
These young adults then told me that learning how to take challenging, online timed tests helped them learn the material, show what they knew, and prepared them for complex projects and deadlines in their careers. They all shared that the surprising benefit of the challenging online timed tests was that they were able to transfer what they learned from taking the tests, both the process and the content, to the real world of work in highly technical careers.
These shared tips are good tips for students taking tests at any grade level, especially tests that require application and synthesis of knowledge rather than just memorization. Below are a few of the many test-taking web pages found online that may provide additional tips to help your student take tests.
Test Taking Strategies
Test Taking Tips
Test Taking Strategies
Tips for Taking Online Exams
Tips for Taking Online Exams
How to Prepare for and Excel On Online Tests
Dr. Wanda Routier
Past WATG Board Member
It is often the case that as we go through life, we lose track of people who were once very important to us. People such as a childhood friend, our friend groups in middle school and high school, college buddies, adult friends, and others. Sometimes losing track of these friends leaves one wondering about a particular person for many years. Now, with the wide use of social media, it may be easier than ever to find long lost friends and rekindle friendships, but that is not always the case.
While speaking with a friend, I recently learned of the life path of several children with whom I worked who are now adults. Now grown, they graduated high school and college, and entered the workforce and adult life. These children were important to each other as friends as they maneuvered life in the community together. They were in some of the same community activities: youth sports, county fair, church, scouts, and library activities, to name a few. While they did not attend the same schools, they saw each other often at activities outside of school.
A few of the children who were not readily accepted by the whole group were gifted children who stuck together during these activities. Most of them were either not identified as being gifted, or were misidentified as needing special education services. It was interesting to learn of the lifepath some of the children have taken. Most of the larger group either found a job or joined the military reserve after high school, remained near their home town, and are still pursuing those endeavors today. A few went to college and returned home to find a job, most outside of their major area of study. The gifted youth, who were not accepted by the larger group growing up and thought to be a bit odd, all went on to college across the country and pursued STEM study, graduated from or are in graduate school now, and have careers with major companies where they are thriving working in complex high-level fields. These were the children and youth who did not fit in, who most adults and children in the community and school thought were rather slow and were not going to amount to much.
I am not judging any person’s path to adulthood nor their effort to work and make a life for themselves and their family. All of us generally do the best we can. What strikes me, however, about learning about these gifted children who are now adults, is the striking difference in their path compared to their peers. What also strikes me is that even though most people, kids and adults alike, thought these gifted children and youth would never amount to anything because they didn’t fit in; clearly they were wrong. It is another example of gifted children and youth being misunderstood, underestimated, misdiagnosed, and yet overcoming how everyone else treated them to go on and follow their interests and their own path. They persisted and persevered because their innate giftedness would allow nothing less.
My message for us is to remember that each person has value, and children and youth who don’t fit in should not be judged or underestimated. They could have gifted abilities that preconceived judgments miss. Each child and youth should be given opportunities to thrive, especially those who others may think are not gifted.
Last year at this time, we were starting to hear about the pandemic. Many people were hopeful that after a few months of closing down, we would be able to get back to “normal” and life would go on. Here it is a year later, and we are still in the midst of a global pandemic. One of the institutions that has been affected in a major way is our schools.
Parents have had a choice in how to educate their children for many years in WI, the details of which depend upon where one lives. February 1 started the state-wide open enrollment period, the time when parents can apply for their children to attend a school outside of the district in which they live. The open enrollment period is from February 1 to 4:00 p.m. on April 30, 2021. Open enrollment is one way that parents can determine where and how their children attend school. I recommend carefully reading the DPI website on public school open enrollment to learn about it, download a brochure, get deadlines and requirements, and obtain an application. The website is: https://dpi.wi.gov/open-enrollment
Generally, there are two types of schools in open enrollment: a regular public school, or virtual charter schools operated through public schools. During the pandemic, much has been said about virtual learning. One of the problems of virtual learning during the pandemic is that most public schools were unprepared to implement virtual learning full-time. Issues of reliable Internet and device hardware access were magnified. Both teachers and students did not know how to do virtual teaching and learning effectively. Teachers were not trained to provide instruction online, students were not taught how to learn online, and families were not oriented to the features of virtual learning. In a virtual school -- where online learning is done well and teachers, students, and families are taught how to do it successfully-- students can thrive and succeed in ways they never did in a face-to-face classroom. This is especially true of gifted students in the right virtual school, where they are empowered to learn at their own depth, breadth, and rate, with good teachers who know how to teach gifted learners.
Check out the DPI website about virtual charter schools to learn more if you are considering open enrollment in a virtual school:
The website has a list of virtual charter schools that operated during the 2020-2021 academic year, and is a useful guide for applying to a virtual school via open enrollment. As with any open enrollment, it is worth considering the year the virtual school opened, attending their information sessions, and talking with teachers and parents of currently enrolled students. Virtual schools that do it well do not have students spending hours a day at the computer. Learning is done in a variety of ways, including face-to-face interaction with field trips, and other events. It is important to note that enrolling in a virtual charter school is different from homeschooling. Virtual charter schools have licensed teachers who direct the education of the students, whereas when homeschooling, the parent is solely responsible for the curriculum and all other aspects of education for the student.
The reasons for choosing open enrollment are many, and it is a very individualized decision for each family; however, it can be a good solution for students who need a different school to better meet their needs. Each February I write a blog post about open enrollment with tips, and other information. For previous blog posts, please see the archives in the blog post menu, “Ask the Doctor.”
Ask the Doctor