Posts Tagged ‘teacher’

12.23

And the 2011 Global #gtchat Award Winners Are…

By Deborah Mersino

I’m pleased to announce the recipients of the First Annual Global #gtchat Awards! We celebrated the contributions of these linchpins during our final #gtchat of 2011 at noon (EST) today. Please join me in congratulating our winners and thanking these collaborators for their hard work throughout the year! Without further ado, here are your champions {cue applause}:

  • Global #gtchat Award for Most Devoted Participant: Jo Freitag, @jofrei, who gets up at 3/4:00 a.m. in Australia every week to participate in our noon (EST) chat!
  • Global #gtchat Award for Gifted News Postings: Lisa Conrad, @ljconrad, who is the gifted education news maven. She never fails to post timely, relevant links from around the world!
  • Global #gtchat Award for Passion: Krissy Venosdale, @KTVee, whose infectious energy blankets her blog posts & tweets. She’s a space-loving, White House-visiting tweep who puts students first!
  • Global #gtchat Award for Vision: Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented, @TXGifted, who put Social Networking on the big stage at its Gifted 3.0 Conference and offered free Wi-Fi to all attendees.
  • Global #gtchat Award for International Impact: Tim Dracup, @GiftedPhoenix, who provides us with in-depth profiles of global gifted education centers & policy information regularly.
  • Global #gtchat Award for Levity in Life: Jen Torbeck Merrill, @laughingatchaos, whose authentic, brilliant, no-holds-barred look at life w/2E kids gives us hope.
  • Global #gtchat Award for Technical Prowess: Brian Housand, @brianhousand, who has been leading the way for 21st Century Learning & Gifted Education!
  • Global #gtchat Award for Best Blog: Ian Byrd, @ByrdseedGifted, whose humble, yet potent leadership has created a firestorm of support for gifted learners.
  • Global #gtchat Award for Homeschooling Leadership: Corin Barsily Goodwin, @GiftedHF, who has given homeschooling parents inspiration & resources galore.

And, last, but certainly not least…

  • Global #gtchat Award for Lifetime Inspiration & Impact: Carolyn K., @HoagiesGifted, who has paved the way for us all to collaborate. She’s the mother of connection! Her contributions for the past 13/14 years have provided the foundation for connectivity and hope. I admire her greatly!

Choosing was particularly difficult in several categories; however, I hope to honor additional worthy individuals in the years ahead! Congratulations again to this year’s winners. Thank you also to our Global #gtchat Sponsors, including @GattonAcademy, @GiftedDevCenter, and @TXGifted, and all the participants who have helped make #gtchat what it is today. Whether you are new to #gtchat or have been around since the first chat in January 2010, you matter!

Here’s to a powerful and impactful 2012!

11.17

How Grade Skipping Changed Everything

speed limit

By Deborah Mersino

I’ve only been knee-deep in the world of gifted and talented education for 3+ years. Prior to that, my exposure was somewhat minor. I read scores of parenting books (some on gifted children), and we had both girls tested for programming at the Center for Talent Development at Northwestern University. We also considered sending them to Quest Academy in Palatine, Illinois, prior to our move to Colorado. However, it wasn’t until this summer that we heard the words about our dd10 (dearest daughter who is 10), “She’s an excellent candidate for a grade skip, and she wants to…”

Then, a week or so later, the same scenario repeated itself with my younger daughter at the Gifted Development Center in Denver, Colorado. “She, too, would be a prime candidate for acceleration.”

My first reaction was, “Really? Are you serious?” For one, I thought acceleration was primarily geared toward early entrance to kindergarten and profoundly gifted kids entering college. Our two daughters, ages 9 and 10, were smack dab in the middle of elementary school. Did people really grade skip at this juncture? I had loads of questions:

  • How will we know if it’s the right decision?
  • What happens if one skips and the other one doesn’t want to?
  • What about the fact that one daughter doesn’t seem to be particularly fond of school? She’s not even getting top marks.
  • What about my perfectionistic daughter? Will it be too challenging for her?
  • What about socially? Are they mature enough to handle a skip?
  • Will the school be amenable? How do I even initiate the process of discussing acceleration?
  • Should we be concerned that there are equally bright students (perhaps even more advanced) in their current classes?  They do have peers. Shouldn’t they simply stay where they are?
  • Will they feel too much pressure? Is this just a novel idea that will wear off when the work seems harder?
  • What about learning gaps? What happens if they don’t know what they’re supposed to learn about Colorado history and/or certain science requirements?
  • What if they start and then hate it?

Thankfully, we got all of these questions answered and then some. Between Dr. Linda Silverman, Barbara (“Bobbie”) Jackson Gilman, and Kim Boham at the Gifted Development Center, we not only discussed each question thoroughly, but we also learned an extraordinary amount about research on acceleration, how vital it is for the students to initiate the idea (not parents), and how to advocate with the school to ensure the best possible outcomes.

Many of you have asked me to share a bit more about our experiences. I’m going to simply provide a brief summary. As you can imagine, every child is different, and every school situation differs as well. This is not meant to be an exhaustive testimony on acceleration, but rather an example of how it unraveled for one family – ours. My hope is that you may resonate with some of the questions and/or concerns we had and learn a bit more about how to explore this option.

Here are some of the biggest lessons we learned:

  • Comprehensive assessment and testing is essential. We were fortunate to have both girls tested at the Gifted Development Center in Denver, Colorado. We started with a Needs Assessment. Then, the measures administered included the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children – Fourth Edition (WISC-IV); Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement (WJ-III ACH), Self-Perception Profile – Ages 8-12, “What I Am Like”, Gifted Development Center Emotional Inventory, Characteristics of Giftedness in Children Scale, Introversion/Extraversion Continuum, Behavioral Checklist, Short Sensory Profile, Overexcitability Inventory for Parents (OIP). This is only a sampling of the tests/measurements available to families; these represent the customized recommendations based upon our girls’ Needs Assessments.
  • Having a psychologist who specializes in gifted learners is essential. Both our girls felt an immediate rapport with the testers. Given we have an introvert and an extrovert, I was delighted. Such camaraderie helped make the entire experience much more enjoyable. Both girls had fun, and my oldest even said, “Why can’t school be more like this?” Moreover, the amount of experience and discernment such experts bring can have a significant impact on the quality of the evaluation, recommendations, and consultation.
  • Proper assessment gives parents a clear picture of their student. As someone who is admittedly controlling, I thought I had a pretty good read on my girls. I was actually aghast upon looking at their WJ-III scores. “Really?” I thought. I was also surprised to hear some of the comments they both had made to their testers about school. Afterwards, we felt as if we had new lenses on, which would help us in the years to come.
  • Parents can discover hidden learning disabilities and/or minor glitches. We learned that both girls had small tracking issues with their vision, something that often goes undetected in regular eye exams. Both girls received referrals for visual-therapy. Parents of twice exceptional students benefit particularly from comprehensive assessments such as this.
  • The post-test consultation was worth its weight in gold. I found myself shaking my head in amazement as I learned new insights about their personality types, their strengths, nuances, outlooks on life and family, views on school, needs, and passions.
  • The Psychoeducational Evaluation we received allowed us to initiate discussions with our girls’ school in an ideal manner.

Iowa Acceleration Scale

In the days to follow, we contacted the school’s GT specialist, who offered to complete the Iowa Acceleration Scale for both girls. According to the Institute for Research and Policy on Acceleration, the Iowa Acceleration Scale offers the following:

  • A more objective look at the student;
  • An analysis of the major factors to be considered in making a decision;
  • Guidelines for weighting the relative importance of the major factors;
  • Documentation of the student’s strengths and concerns;
  • A numerical range to guide the discussion and decision of acceleration; and,
  • A standard of comparison with students who have had successful accelerations.

Together with the Psychoeducational Evaluation provided by the Gifted Development Center, this tool accessed additional factors. After the specialist discerned that both girls were, in fact, good candidates, he scheduled a meeting with the school principal, the assistant principal, the school counselor, the District’s Gifted and Talented Coordinator, and our entire family.

We sat down in July with this group at the school and had an informal discussion about what the girls wanted and their concerns. Both girls readily stated they wanted to do a whole grade-skip. After discussing specifics, including dd10 going into Middle School instead of 5th grade, we came to a final decision.

In the weeks following, we had several conversations about next steps. It was then that the GT specialist suggested our dd10 take the end-of-year 6th grade Math assessment. Based upon her Woodcock-Johnson III scores, he and the principal thought she might benefit from a double-acceleration in Math. After taking the test, she was given the option to go from 4th grade math directly to 7th grade math; she chose to give it a whirl.

We’re now several months into the school year, and I must say, the grade skips have had such an extraordinary positive impact on both girls. We’re fortunate that the receiving teachers welcomed the girls with open arms and understanding. The principal,  GT teacher, GT coordinator, and counselor proved so supportive and insightful. The adjustment has been much smoother than I anticipated. DD10 has confidence navigating the halls of middle school and has made good friends. She even went to her first dance right before Halloween! DD09 has finally gotten comfortable with not immediately knowing the answers in class and is developing much more of a growth mindset. She says this is her favorite year of school by far.

I realize we’re fortunate. Not all administrators and classroom teachers are familiar with the empirical research on acceleration. My hope is that this post might open a few minds. There will always be those who argue, “But you’re giving up a whole year with your kids!” and “They won’t have their driver’s license at the same time as other kids.” I feel more calm about our decision than ever.

Thanks to the experts at the Gifted Development Center and the girls’ school who guided us, I’m now aware of the dangers of not grade skipping students with certain profiles. Breezing through coursework without being sufficiently challenged and potentially losing interest in school altogether can prove debilitating – and even toxic – later on in life.

Here’s to promoting  a love for learning with no limits. Here’s to the psychologists, gifted specialists, and administrators who take the time to learn about the research and the cognitive and social-emotional needs of these learners. You’re impacting our collective futures, and I, for one, am utterly grateful.

11.17

How Texas Has Won Me Over

Texas

By Deborah Mersino

Some of you recently read about how the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented (TAGT) has signed on as the Lead Global #gtchat Sponsor for 2011-2012. Well that’s not the only reason I’m feeling fond of Texas right now.

Here’s 5 more ways this visionary state is capturing my interest pertinent to gifted and talented learners and why other states and national associations, administrators, educators, psychologists, and parents from throughout the world would be wise to keep an eye on TAGT’s Gifted 3.0 Conference:

  1. Free Wi-Fi at their upcoming Professional Development Conference, entitled, “Gifted 3.0” in Austin from November 30 to December 2. Free. <=#current #relevant #technology
  2. TAGT will have a special “Social Connections” area in the Austin Convention Center, where participants will be able to make IRL (in-real-life) connections with all of those people they’ve been collaborating with on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.
  3. We’ll be hosting a LIVE #gtchat session from the conference on Friday. You are ALL personally invited to participate, whether you’re planning to come to Austin or not. On December 2, we’ll have just one #gtchat session at noon/EST; no 7pm/EST #gtchat. I would like the noon/EST #gtchat to be our biggest chat to date, as we’ll be highlighting tweets on a big screen in the Austin Convention Center and exposing lots of new educators, administrators, and parents to the wonders of Twitter collaboration. Mark your calendars now for this must-attend #gtchat session! #exciting
  4. Ian Byrd, one of my favorite gifted educators and creator of www.byrdseed.com will not only be involved in a Half-Day Symposium, but he will also be on a panel with TAGT President-Elect Dr. Lynette Breedlove, Joel McIntosh, and me. #delighted
  5. TAGT will be offering a full strand on Testing the Gifted in the 21st Century. This specialized event is designed for psychologists and experienced gifted administrators and will focus on the assessment and identification of gifted youth. This training is approved for CE credit from the APA. #relevant #needed

I could go on and on, but what I’m seeing, this organization is casting a huge vision. I’m honored to be a part of it.

11.17

Are You a Visual-Spatial Learner?

picture in mind

By Deborah Mersino

I remember vividly the day my daughter at age 4 said spontaneously, “You know Mom, when you want to remember something important, you just need to take a picture of it with your mind. Then, you can keep it forever and go back to it whenever you want.”

At the time, I had never heard of the term visual-spatial learner (VSL), nor did I understand the essential implications for supporting students who think in images at school and at home.

In her book, Upside-Down Brilliance: The Visual-Spatial Learner, Linda Kreger Silverman, PhD, writes about this learning style in detail. Silverman, a licensed psychologist who directs the Institute for the Study of Advanced Development and its subsidiary, the Gifted Development Center in Denver, Colorado, explains that “…the way VSLs learn is upside-down: easy material is often hard for them and the hard subjects are easy.”

In describing how society views these individuals, she says, “…right-hemispheric giftedness turns all of our preconceived notions of “smart” upside down. Visual spatial-learners usually don’t conform to the typical notions we have about bright people. We rarely think of them as gifted children. Yet, in adult life, it is visual-spatial reasoning that leads to true genius: scientific and technological breakthroughs, innovative forms of art, inventions, new perspectives in every field, and visionary leadership. Sounds like something we should know about, right?

Silverman’s colleague Betty Maxwell summarized it this way:

  • There appear to be two major ways of learning: auditory-sequential (more left-hemispheric) and visual-spatial (more right-hemispheric). Auditory-sequential learners are good listeners, learn well in a step-by-step process, tend to be rapid processors of information, and are generally able to express themselves verbally. They are often able to compartmentalize their reasoning from their emotions.
  • In contrast, visual-spatial learners are excellent observers, comprehend holistically – may have a sudden “Aha!” understanding that leaps over steps – appear to think in images, may need translation time to put their ideas into words, and sometimes have word retrieval problems. Their thinking and emotions are very intertwined.

So, why then should we learn more about visual-spatial learners? Neither learning style is better than the other. According to Silverman, “Some of my highly gifted, complex friends find this dichotomy too simplistic. Maybe it is. I certainly don’t mean to imply that people are completely one or the other. I see each pair of the characteristics as a continuum, and I believe we are all a mixture of both.

“More teachers need to be able to spot visual-spatial learners, so that their special talents can be developed,” says Silverman. “Validation studies we conducted with middle schoolers suggest that approximately one-third of the school population are probably visual-spatial learners! Their numbers are growing and we simply can’t afford to ignore them any longer.”

Do you think in images? Are you a visual-spatial learner?

Are you ready to discern whether your student is a VSL? Whether you’re a VSL? Click here for the Visual-Spatial/Auditory-Sequential Identifier.

Then, to learn more, visit http://visualspatial.com/. This site, which will be redesigned soon, is chock full of useful information for teachers, parents, psychologists, and administrators. I also highly recommend the book, “Upside-Down Brilliance.” It’s now available for purchase via the Australian Gifted Support Centre. Click here for the order form (it’s a bit tricky to open; you’ll need to right-click and save).

Upside-Down Brilliance

It’s worth it though. This book provides specifics on all things visual-spatial, including assessment, twice-exceptional students, the inner world of introverts, the challenges of parenting a visual-spatial learner, teaching techniques that work, and what it means to be a visual-spatial adult. I could not put it down.

When I saw one of the cartoons in the book, with a teacher asking a student this question, “You mean to tell me that you can do this complex math problem, but you can’t tell me what day follows Tuesday?” I smiled and thought of my daughter. She makes more sense to me now. And isn’t that what the best books do? Expand our knowledge and understanding?

Here’s to visual-spatial learners everywhere; after all, you do make the world click!

09.12

Take Five: Spotlight on Resources for Gifted Learners

By Deborah Mersino

On 09.02.11, our #gtchat session focused on five resources and sites resplendent with information and opportunities for educators, parents, and gifted education advocates. As promised, I am recapping the resources here. Please share these five finds with classroom educators, gifted specialists, administrators, friends, parents, students, and tech lovers. The links are live, so simply scroll over them to access.

{Drum roll, please….}

#1 – www.brianhousand.com

After you take a moment to appreciate the clever logo, dive into this site, designed by  Brian Housand, an Assistant Professor at East Carolina University in the department of Curriculum and Instruction. You’ll be happy you did. Many of you may know Brian from his novel presentations at NAGC, Confratuate, and Edufest (among others). This forward-thinking educator never tires of “exploring ways in which technology can enhance the learning environment” and “striving to define what it means to be creatively productive in a digital age.”

If you click on 2011, 2010, and/or 2009 on www.brianhousand.com, you will see just how busy this digital guru has been. Be sure to click on the “60 in 60” presentation in 2011, where Brian introduces “60 Sites in 60 Minutes.” And although you won’t hear Brian’s riveting dialogue, you will see some of the most current apps and sites worth exploring. You’ll also get a true sense of what the future of education could look like.

#2 – www.byrdseed.com

Perhaps one of the finest gifted education blogs available today, Ian Byrd crafts regular posts to stretch our thinking – and benefit the minds and spirits of gifted learners. Ian has taught in a gifted classroom since 2007 and was a GATE student himself from first through sixth grade. He’s quickly becoming one of the most sought-after speakers for professional development in gifted education. To me, it makes perfect sense. This humble, yet wickedly creative soul has tenaciously devoted himself to making education come alive for gifted learners via sound gifted education practices mixed with relevant life and digital applications. More than 3,400 educators have already signed up to receive his free PDF entitled, “Improve Your Gifted Classroom: 7 Ways in 7 Days.” Whether you’re looking for lesson plans, resources, and/or fresh ideas, Ian’s blog and site will inspire.

#3 – www.everydayintensity.com

During our #gtchat session, I actually shared a different resource in this #3 spot, only to later realize the site had grown cobwebs {gasp} from being poorly managed. In its place, I’m pleased to highlight one of my favorite new streams, the Everyday Intensity blog, which I personally have delivered via email because it’s.that.good. Lisa Rivero has been a strong force for good via social media platforms this past year. She not only serves on the Board of SENG, but also teaches, writes books, and now pens a Creative Synthesis blog for Psychology Today.

In Everyday Intensity, Lisa asks,

  • Do you want to know how to live with more intensity?
  • Are you interested in finding and sharing resources that pertain to intense learners (children and adults), giftedness, creativity, and personal growth?
  • Are you looking for ways to learn about and discuss giftedness that move away from the gifted label?

If you’re looking for wisdom and grounded insights, this site will open your eyes and evoke a sense of community and wonder. You’ll find yourself nodding your head in agreement and shifting your thinking regularly. After all, isn’t that what the best blogs do?

#4 – www.activehistory.co.uk

Russel Tar (@RusselTarr) was one of the first educators I started following on Twitter back in 2009, and he’s still one of the best. Currently working as the Head of History at the International School of Toulouse, Russel has created the ActiveHistory site for teachers and students of World History, and he regularly offers up some of the best history resources on the planet. His site is chock-full of interactive simulations, decision-making games, self-marking quizzes, worksheets, and lesson plans designed to make education captivating.

ActiveHistory has received acclaim throughout the world. The New York Times, The Guardian and other major news outlets have praised the apps on the site, including his Head2Head Interviews, where students can have virtual conversations with historical figures like Hitler or King Henry VIII. Whether you want your students to compare and contrast the rise of power of Mao to Stalin, interview William the Conqueror or pass sentences on criminals living in the 19th Century, this site is for you. Even if you want to devise a new IB Study Unit on Pinochet, he’s got you covered.

Unlike all the other sites listed in this recap, ActiveHistory costs, but it is reasonable. While you can often get free resources from @RusselTarr on Twitter, he does require a small fee to access the full content of the site. Fees for a whole school run $150.00 US/$125 Euros. Single teacher access runs $60 US/$50 Euros. Please let me know if and when you start utilizing this site; I will gladly share your experiences – and those of your students – with others. Personally, I can’t wait to create an online book club in seconds…just one of the many activities available.

#5 – Nicholas Green Distinguished Student Awards

The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) offers many vital opportunities for educators; however, not everyone may know about this laudable awards program for gifted students in grades 3 through 6.

Please note that the deadline for this year’s awards program has passed. I’m sharing this because I hope you will keep students in mind for next year!

Here’s what the NAGC site says about the awards:

The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) is pleased to announce the NAGC – Nicholas Green Distinguished Student Awards program for the 2010-2011 school year. Originally funded by the Nicholas Green Foundation and NAGC, this awards program is designed to recognize distinguished achievement in academics, leadership, or the arts, in children grades 3 through 6. NAGC believes that the Nicholas Green Distinguished Student Awards inspire children to achieve to their fullest potential, highlight high-ability students, and draw attention to the educational needs of our nation’s gifted and talented students.

The Nicholas Green Foundation was established by Maggie and Reg Green to honor the memory of their seven-year-old son Nicholas who was killed in a drive-by shooting while visiting Italy in 1994. The Greens paired with NAGC to start the Distinguished Student Awards because they wanted to recognize young people who are: 1.) working hard to make the most of their lives to develop their unique gifts and talents and 2.) around the age of Nicholas at the time of his death.

One child in each state may be named a Nicholas Green Distinguished Student. Each winner receives a $500 U.S. savings bond and an NAGC Certificate of Excellence. Eligible students may be nominated by parents, teachers, students, or community/civic groups.
Thank you to NAGC and Maggie and Reg Green for this program.

So go to the NAGC site, print out the application information, and put it on your bulletin board as an encouraging reminder to think about possible student nominees for next year. During our #gtchat, educator Krissy Venosdale (@KTVee) made this worthy suggestion!

That’s it for this recap; I appreciate you stopping by. My hope is that you will not only check out these resources regularly, but also will gladly share them with others. As always, I welcome your comments.