As I reflect on this school year I have mixed feelings. It was another stressful year, but not without rewards. One highlight I’d like to share with you is my Merton Press Room. I teach fifth grade language arts and science. As I got to know my fifth graders at the beginning of the year, I noticed that this group had some students who showed great leadership potential. I decided to publish a fifth grade magazine. I’ve done this in the past, but not every year. This year I was hopeful we could publish student work and share it with a real, public audience.
I reopened my Merton Press Room with a magazine division and website division. I approached the students with leadership potential and asked them to take on an Editor’s role for our magazine. We have fifth grade editors for the news and opinions, arts and entertainment, science, and sports sections of our Mustang Magazine. I opened up the Press Room to all fifth graders and they could join as staffers. For the staffers, this was more of an enrichment opportunity. For the editors and monthly artists I would say it was closer to gifted programming. I was able to connect, challenge, and support my students at a more rigorous level through the Press Room. I was also able to connect our GT Coordinator with a few students who had some social and emotional issues that needed support. I found these students by forming relationships with them and getting to know them via the Press Room.
Then we had a mentor! Bailey is a former student of mine and she is a junior at Marquette University in their School of Journalism. She met with us virtually as well as in person throughout the year. She mentored the fifth grade writers about story ideas, story formats, and showed them how to interview people. Bailey even joined us when we presented to our school board!
Our Mustang Magazine publishes work from students in grades 3-7. Our main staff is fifth grade, but I asked our GT Coordinator to line up some other students in other grades to join our staff. We publish original art, paintings, digital art, videos, stories, news articles, feature articles, and poetry. The Press Room staff added more features as the year went on. Now we have surveys and photo contests too (See May Issue). Each month I was able to step back a bit more because the students stepped up a bit more to take initiative and write the magazine. It was a growing experience for all of us.
We publish one issue about every month. We share them on our Google Classrooms, our superintendent sends the links to our school board, and our principal tweets us out. In fact, our principal takes copies to the local Kwik Trip and they have piles of them next to the registers for community members to take and enjoy. We also have copies in our school offices and teachers’ lounges. To give you an idea of our publications, I’ve shared some:
May 2022: May the Force Be With You
April 2022: April Showers Bring May Flowers
March 2022: Spring in Our Step
January/February 2022: New Year New You
December 2021: Merton For the Holidays
I will miss my Press Room Staff as our year comes to a close. I hope they come back next year. Press Room is a great way to grow talent, build relationships, and serve gifted students’ needs. If you have any questions about this service, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sarah Kasprowicz, President
WI Association for Talented and Gifted
Often criticism about gifted education centers around concerns about elitism. Additionally, we often hear comments about the social and emotional wellbeing of our students. Statements such as, “those kids are showoffs” or “but how will they learn to be nice?” can undermine and minimize these children.
The challenge in responding to these statements stems from the fact that they appear to be logical. In many instances, advanced services may require students to go to a different room or grade level to have their needs fully met. This sets them apart from other students, and can appear to be elitist. Furthermore, some gifted students exhibit higher levels of excitability than their peers, and their temperaments can brand them as “showoffs” or “braggarts” to others. When this happens, gifted students may need counseling to temper criticisms leveled at them, and to help them express their overexcitabilities more gracefully.
The best way to empower students, however, is by providing appropriate and needed services systematically and continuously. Appropriate educational services do more than simply help a student learn at his/her rate. Appropriate services address the pace, frequency, depth, and intensity of learning necessary for able learners to progress. Further, appropriate services ensure that even the most able students can experience, process, and learn to deal with productive struggle. It is important that students experience this struggle early on to pave the way for future success. Often, this may also help advanced learners understand the struggle sometimes faced by other learners, and can foster empathy and humility.
If you are looking for ways to help your gifted child/student, the WATG website has resources and articles to help students and their advocates navigate their world. We hope this resource proves beneficial for you. Additionally, if you have resources that you’d like to share, please send them to us.
Dr. Maria Katsaros-Molzahn
For the Justice for All Taskforce
(WATG would like to extend a huge thank you to Esther Vazquez Guendulain of the Appleton Bilingual School for translating this article into Spanish for our Spanish-speaking families and educators. The translation can be found below.)
Nuestra página Web.. ¡una Gran Fuente de Información!
A menudo, las críticas sobre los centros de educación para habilidades excepcionales, se centra en el elitismo. Adicionalmente, frecuentemente escuchamos comentarios sobre el bienestar social y emocional de nuestros estudiantes. Declaraciones como "esos niños son presumidos" o "pero, ¿cómo van a aprender a ser amables?" pueden quebrantar y minimizar a estos niños.
El reto al responder a estas declaraciones se deriva del hecho de que parecen ser lógicas. En muchos casos, los servicios avanzados pueden requerir que los estudiantes vayan a un salón o nivel de grado diferente para satisfacer sus necesidades por completo. Esto los aparta de otros estudiantes y puede parecer elitista. Además, algunos estudiantes con habilidades excepcionales exhiben niveles más altos de emociones que sus compañeros, y su temperamento puede hacerlos parecer como “presumidos” o "fanfarrones" para los demás. Cuando esto sucede, los estudiantes con habilidades excepcionales pueden necesitar el apoyo de un consejero que los ayude a manejar las críticas que se les hacen y para ayudarlos a expresar sus sobre-emociones con más gracia
Sin embargo, la mejor manera de empoderar a los estudiantes es brindando los servicios adecuados y necesarios, de manera sistemática y continua. Los servicios adecuados de educación hacen más que simplemente ayudar a un estudiante a aprender a su ritmo. Los servicios adecuados marcan el ritmo, la frecuencia, la profundidad y la intensidad de la enseñanza necesaria para que los estudiantes capaces progresen. Además, los servicios adecuados aseguran que, incluso los estudiantes más capaces puedan experimentar, procesar y aprender a lidiar con la dificultad de ser productivo. Es importante que los estudiantes experimenten esta lucha desde el principio para formar el camino para el éxito futuro. A menudo, esto también puede ayudar a los estudiantes avanzados a comprender las dificultades que a veces enfrentan otros estudiantes y puede fomentar la empatía y humildad.
Si está buscando la manera de ayudar a su hijo(a)/estudiante con habilidades excepcionales, la
página web WATG cuenta con recursos y artículos para ayudar a estudiantes y a quienes abogan por ellos, a para navegar en ese mundo. Esperamos que estos recursos sean de beneficio para usted. Adicionalmente, si tiene recursos que le gustaría compartir, puede usted enviárnoslos por favor.
Dr. Maria Katsaros-Molzahn
For the Justice for All Taskforce
(WATG extiende su agradecimiento a Esther Vazquez Guendulain de la Escuela Bilingüe de Appleton por la traducción de este articulo al español para nuestras familias y educadores hispano-hablantes. La traducción la puede encontrar también en los bloques de nuestra página web.)
What is Kami?
Kami is a Google Chrome extension that allows teachers to upload a PDF for students to annotate. Students are able to add text, highlight, draw, add shapes, etc. onto the document that was uploaded. Kami is free; however, you may upgrade to get more features.
Uses of Kami
There are a ton of different ways to use Kami. Here a few ideas I came up with/found:
Pros of Using Kami
Using Kami makes it so easy for teachers to upload a PDF that students can then “write” on, and the teachers can provide feedback to the student within the document that was already annotated. It also provides an interactive experience for students. Kami can integrate with Google Classroom, Schoology, and Canvas, making it easier for teachers to assign the work to their students.
What are some ways you have used Kami that has been useful for you and your students?
Stacy Novak, WATG Board Member
One of the best ways to meet the needs of gifted learners in the regular education classroom is to use differentiation techniques. If you are not sure where to start, tune in to the podcast called Gifted Education, episode “Differentiating Instruction for Gifted Students.” Best selling author Laurie Westphal discusses exciting strategies for teaching gifted students in a mixed-ability classroom. Practical ways are explored to ensure that gifted students are engaged and challenged.
After your inspiration from the podcast, you can purchase Westphal’s books with choice menus in all K-8 content areas from Prufrock press. Whether students need enrichment, choice in independent practice, or even additional academic options resulting from curriculum compacting, these books provide teachers with a complete ready-to-use resource that includes rubrics which can assess different types of products and free choice proposal forms to encourage independent study.
I have used these books for many years with success with students in grades K-8. I highly recommend them for differentiation with students, whether in virtual learning or face-to-face learning in school. Hop on over to the podcast to learn about these great resources!
WATG Board Member
By Sarah Kasprowicz, WATG Board
“I’m not talking about pushing. We’re only talking about giving students what they’re ready for.”
These wise words were spoken by Dr. Susan Assouline, the Myron and Jacqueline N. Blank Endowed Chair in Gifted Education at the University of Iowa during her appearance in Jonathan Plucker’s Bright Now podcast, “Types of Acceleration.”
I teach sixth grade language arts and science in the Merton Community School District in Wisconsin. It is important for me to think in similar terms when planning for my students so they don’t get stuck in a spin-cycle of repetitive tasks that they already know how to do. “What are they ready for?” I asked myself. I decided to ask my students. I started out with a question they’ve never heard before. “What do you want language arts to look like this year, and what is a waste of your time?”
I didn’t have to wait long for a response. Three faces lit up and three pairs of eyebrows shot to the ceiling.Then they all started talking at once as I raced to keep up; scribbling notes as they went.
“Worksheets and practice are a waste of my time.”
“Going over everything a bunch of times when I’ve got it.”
“I want to write more stories.”
In our school district, we use local norms and data to match programming options with our students. All three of the students who responded above are in our accelerated math program, a single subject acceleration, but they also need acceleration in order to learn something new each day in language arts. Our MAP (Measure of Academic Progress) data report indicates that not only are these three students scoring the highest in sixth grade, they also compare to the top two to ten percent of our current eighth graders.
In our district, we also use EOs (Essential Outcomes). I believe spending time working with our sixth grade EOs for reading would be a waste of their time. Our EOs are what we expect at each grade level and are based on our Teachers’ College Units of Study for Reading Workshop and Common Core Standards. I can easily use local MAP reports to match each individual’s goals with what we expect in seventh and eighth grade, and these students have already mastered many of our sixth grade EOs. Why should I put them through the sixth grade EOs again? They don’t need it. So I don’t. Each time we have a new EO for reading, I do a quick exit slip to see what my students are ready for. Once I verify that my trio of gifted students don’t need more work in a sixth grade EO, I meet with my them to plan. I look at what our 7th and 8th grade language arts teachers have for EOs in the same category, and then I use the MAP reports that show what each reader is ready to learn. They do not need the mini-lessons that go with the unit, so I don’t make them attend. I meet with them as a small group instead.
Here is an example of what we did for our EO for Character and EO for Theme during our first Unit of Study, Deep Study of Character.
If you are an educator, I encourage you to find ways to accelerate within your classroom. It’s okay for some students to do something different in your class if that’s what they need. If you don’t think they need a lesson, you don’t have to have them attend it. It all comes back to those wise words, “We’re only talking about giving students what they’re ready for.”
If you have questions or comments, feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
Tools to Use Today
Note: WATG neither endorses nor recommends specific products and programs. This column is for informational purposes only.