As we entered the 2020-21 school, we were all asked to consider what we were passionate about. Was it our freedoms, our ability to be together with a collective voice, or a realization of how much we had steered away from what we are most passionate about?
The Oxford dictionary defines passion as “showing or caused by strong feelings or a strong belief” and the pandemic taught us many things. It afforded us time to think about what is most important in this world. The timing of the pandemic, coupled with the murder of George Floyd, caused many of us to acknowledge that at times we have not always seen experiences similarly to others, especially those who may look different or share a different experience in this world. For many of us, our passion for building a strong understanding of equity in the world, especially in the world of gifted and talented, took on an even greater urgency. We share a desire to examine inequities, and we are committed to the efforts we must make to improve the opportunities for all students.
One question that continues to be researched is this: “What makes one family aware and familiar with the pathways for educational success, while others guess and wonder what that journey entails?” Over time, we have seen generations breaking barriers, understanding the journey and ensuring that education and access to rigor is key to success.
A scientific study by Hart and Risley (1995),
Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children, shared pivotal information with educators about the importance of early literacy and the importance of vocabulary development in young children. The study found significant differences in the communication patterns occurring in higher socioeconomic families compared to lower socioeconomic homes, and revealed an early opportunity gap that must be addressed by American schools. The 30 million word gap by age 3 and children’s language differs greatly across income levels. Hart and Risley found that “so much is happening to children during their first three years at home, at a time when they are especially malleable and uniquely dependent on the family for virtually all of their experience, that by age three, an intervention must address not just a lack of knowledge or skill, but also an entire general approach to experience”. What can gifted and talented educators and programming do to begin to address academic gaps starting so early in our students' lives?
If we are truly committed to equity, we must be focused and intentional about early literacy work with students and families to ensure support for our most vulnerable learners. Where gifted and talented intervention often begins after second grade, our teams and interventions can and should be utilized in grades 4K-3 as well. Supporting teachers to deliver intentional vocabulary development will ensure that children are hearing affirmations and are making deep connections to the new information they are learning; this will enhance the understanding of new words and their meanings. Students must hear academic vocabulary to build their lexicon and have conversations that deepen their understanding of the words they hear in and around their surroundings. We must move beyond simple yes or no answers with little to no explanation, and must build rich vocabulary and understandings of words and concepts. These will stay with our children for a lifetime.
So where do you begin this learning? Well, one important way to connect to this learning is to attend the
Wisconsin Association for Talent and Gifted
virtual fall conference October 3-5, 2021. What better way to hear from our nation’s experts in gifted and talented learning than to be present and able to take away the learning from the very best?
Dr. Sharon Y. Alexander
WATG Board Member