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CISD educators and parents journey to “Gateway to Gifted”

November 4, 2009

Six dedicated educators in CISD will attend the National Association for Gifted Children’s “Gateway to Gifted” annual conference in St. Louis from November 5th through 8th.  Susan Creighton (CHS), Jean Guidry (Austin), Todd Kettler (Director of Advanced Academics), Kari Lockwood (Austin), Gina Peddy (CHS), and Stacie Nickols (Lakeside) will attend the conference thanks to grants from CGA.  The grants were made possible by CGA’s successful fundraising through our summer MOSAIC program.  These educators will be sharing their thoughts and experiences at the conference with you on this blog.  

And we are equally thrilled that parents of two Coppell ISD students will also be attending, Bret Brummitt and Amanda O’Neal.  They will be posting comments about their experience as parent participants.  

Stay tuned for insight into their journey through the “Gateway to Gifted” in St. Louis.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Bret Brummitt permalink
    November 6, 2009 4:28 pm

    The 1st 12 Hours:

    Looking as a Parent, I obviously have my own agenda for big “take-away” ideas. Things I can use to facilitate my own kids and such. Those things come at you easy.

    The other things one is faced with here is a broad question of where are we as a Coppell Community, where would we like to go and if we dare dream to go there what resources will it take and will we be able to articulate what we are looking to do before its done. (I’ll spare you my metaphors of Journey, that way you don’t quit reading)

    Our schools and our association are obviously more progressive and responsive to the gifted learners than many, but the question remains if we are identifying the right problems and if we are looking in the right places for both opportunities and how we measure success. I’m getting the feeling that behavior and social exhibitions may be greater indicators of the buy-in of our students than their grades or performance.

    One real big encouraging “take-away” that isn’t for me the parent, is that the academic presenters are talking about the unintentional affect of clustering and the opportunities and “raising of the ceiling” affect on the non-gifted kids.

  2. November 6, 2009 5:12 pm

    A few pearls of wisdom from “Creating Family Health and Well-Being Through Balance” session with Patricia Gatto-Walden, PhD.

    -Our gifted kids have radar. They know when we are upset and/or stressed. The whole family shifts with the parents. Take care of yourself first so that your children feel safe and calm. They will reflect back whatever you give off.

    -Perfectionism isn’t bad as long as it’s motivating the child positively. However, when performance equals worth, it’s a big problem, especially if the child doesn’t perform where they wanted to. We have to teach our children that their self-worth is not defined by performance.

    -Our quirky little kids need social skills to be successful and we have to teach them. Examples include entering a group and making eye contact. Model them for your children. Have friends and family over so your kids get to practice.

    -We all know asynchronous development can be challenging. In order to nuture, we must respond to the child’s emotional age. They may be 15, talk like a 35 year old, but have the emotional age of an 8 year old. Figure out where the child is and nuture them appropriately. Children and adults regress when upset, so at times we may need to respond differently. We’ll typically mature to the appropriate emotional age if nutured.

    And here are a few websites she recommended:

  3. Bret Brummitt permalink
    November 7, 2009 9:23 am

    Most academic researchers/ professors are very hard to understand and relate to when they are sharing the overviews of their years of study and publishing research papers.
    Howard Gardner does not fall into that category–he is a great speaker with a superb sensibility to speaking to a crowd and using humor and history to convey a message that is outside the regular ways of our modern sensibilities to thinking.

    I would recommend finding the podcast or youtube of this session and listening very carefully to his talk on Multiple Intelligences. (and if you are ready to appreciate how easy of a genius he is to listen to, also search for a youtube or podcast of Zizek and try that on as comparison)

  4. Bret Brummitt permalink
    November 7, 2009 10:24 am

    Because we all have some odd-ball geeky moment, I have seen 7 different types of fasteners (screws) holding the cushions on the conference chairs:
    Hex head,
    Phillips head,
    Allen head,
    #8torx ,
    and the very utlimate 32-point serrated head.

  5. saintaugustinemusic permalink
    November 8, 2009 9:39 am

    The Last Day notes—a summary by scatter-shooting:

    Existential Crisis is almost unavoidable and we need to develop self-worth aside from our abilities (it cushions the crisis)

    The idea of Multiple Intelligences and and the ideas of domains of expertise help deepen our ideas of what we culturally call talents and helps spread the ideas of personal value much broader than what we culturally reward as “smart”

    No matter how much research we do, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is still the most relevant piece of work when speaking of building the foundations of positive human development.

    Meditation seems to be used by the genius people only during burnout–and those that use it more often seem much more calm and focused.

    Work/ Life/ Sleep cycles are important but in the right combination one cycle provides downtime from the other if they are in counter intensities (physical cycle provides refreshment from mental intensities–and the principles of going deep apply to both)–and then we may be able to do/accomplish more if counter positioned correctly in our lives.

    We need to focus on teaching our kids social skills and social setting skills/strategies to help guide them in a sensitivity that is commonly lagging behind in the asynchronous development.

    Everyone cheers when someone makes “No child left behind” the big enemy–and it seems to be the scapegoat instead of talking about strategies to excel to the utmost potential regardless of the current framework.

    Let our kids fail and let them see us fail and let it be a safe thing.

    Be a support to your teacher community and a partner for change, not the adversary.

    All these great minds seem to have spent time studying the philosophers and the psychologists for most of their foundations.

  6. klockwood permalink
    November 10, 2009 4:44 pm

    This is a joint post from Kari and Jean (teachers at Austin Elementary)

    Here are the sessions that we attended:

    Kari –

    Think Like A Scientist: Inquiry-Based Science Units for K-3 Learners (Lori Bland, Joyce VanTassel-Baska, Steve Coxon, Bruce Bracken – College of William and Mary)

    Grouping For Instruction – Perspectives, Issues, and Applications (Paula Olszewski – Northwestern University)

    Tactile Tricks: Creative Ways to Teach (Laura Magner – Gwinnett County Board of Education)

    Using ThinkFun Games in the Classroom (this was a short “Lunch & Learn” Session that highlighted their product – the game “Rush Hour” and how it can benefit students)

    Mentoring Young Mathematicians: New Advanced Curriculum For Primary-Level Students (Katherine Gavin & Jenna Bachinski – University of Connecticut / M3 Math) – I really liked this one because they announced that they will be releasing their new program, called M2 (squared) in April. M2 is the same a M3 (cubed), but it is designed for students in grades K-2. Hopefully we will be able to purchase M2 when it comes out in April – it looks like it will be excellent!

    Creating an Interactive Curriculum With Google Earth Tours (Katherine Baker & B.J. Drewes – Sycamore School) – This sessions was great! They demonstrated several ways to incorporate Google Earth into classroom instruction. There is an application that allows users to view a map of all the locations in a book. I plan to try this next week when my students will take a closer look at Plymouth, Massachusetts.

    The Power of the Question: Inquiry in the Classroom (Janice Burroughs – Parkway School District)

    Making Scientists Out of Primary Students (Steve Coxon – College of William and Mary)

    Surviving the Standards-Based Academic Classroom

    Geometry: Exploring Shapes and Beyond (Janine Firemender & Jenna Bachinski – University of Connecticut)

    What to do When They Break the Code: Challenging Young, Talented Readers (Elizabeth Fogarty – East Carolina University)

    Innovative Learning: Bringing the Joy Back to School


    Differentiating Instruction to Nurture High Achievers, Gifted Learners and Creative Thinkers (Bertie Kingore)

    Grouping for Instruction: Perspectives, Issues, & Applications (Marcia Gentry)

    Hasten Slowly, Thoughtfully Planned and Carefully Monitored Accelleration

    Working With High Achievers in Critical Thinking (Nathan Levy)

    Using the Tools of Technology to Extend Professional Development for Teachers

    Integrating High Order Thinking and Open-Ended Learning Experiences to Recognize and Nurture Gifted Potential

    Making Scientists Out of Primary Students

    Surviving the Standards-Based Classroom

    Beyond Book Reports

    What Do They Do When They Already Know It?

    Larger Than Life: Exploring the Lives of Eminent Creators

    On Friday evening we both attended the Opening General Session with Guest Speaker Josh Waitzkin from the J.W. Foundation. His presentation was called “Learning and Talent Development: Navigating the Road to Excellence Through Performance Psychology” We got a copy of his book that will be kept on our campus (with Cathy Kirby, our GT Specialist) to be checked-out and viewed by anyone that is interested.

    We were very impressed by Howard Gardner’s presentation regarding his theory of Multiple Intelligences. It was very insightful. He discussed the fact that many people have a “jagged profile”, rather than a linear level of ability. Gardner feels that the term “genius” is used too loosely. His definition of a “genius” is “one that adds something new to the world or adds to the sum of knowledge.” He also shared that some people have a “searchlight mind” (politicians and businessmen), while others are very focused, with a “laser-like mind” (such as Einstein and Steven Hawking)

    On Saturday Evening, we both attended “Creativity Night”, which was excellent! It was sponsored by the Future Problem Solving Program and allowed us the opoortunity to rotate between 15 different stations that highlighted new ways to incorporate creativity into our teaching. We were especially impressed by a presentation called “Supporting Right-Brained Learners Through Tableaux.” Tableaux is “a freeze frame or snapshot of a moment in time that engages learners by building imagery and involving all senses.” We will both use this technique with our students this week! (and we have already shared it with our colleagues!)

    The sessions that we learned the most from were:

    Birtie Kingore’s presentation about the “Learning Pyramid”, which is a way to organize and categorize what a student is reading. Jean was already able to incorporate this into her classroom!

    “What Do They Do When They Already Know It?” with Patricia Curry from Francis Howell School District in St. Peters, Missouri was also very informative. She shared ideas for how to plan extension activities and units of study for students who have already mastered the curriculum.

    We were looking forward to the session about the standards-based report cards, where we learned that the standards-based report cards can, in fact, give an accurate profile of a learner’s abilities only if the card accurately reflects the standards and if it allows an opportunity to demonstrate a student’s understandings beyond the grade-level expectations.

    All in all, the convention was amazing! We both returned to Coppell with our minds overflowing with great ideas that we are already using in our classrooms. We have been talking to many other teachers and sharing the ideas that we learned. We want to thank CGA for allowing us this opportunity to attend such a spectacular convention and we look forward to sharing all of our new knowledge and ideas with others! THANK YOU!

  7. screighton permalink
    November 28, 2009 2:31 pm

    One of the benefits of teachers going to any sort of convention or staff development is to experience being a student again. Reliving the learning cycle is immeasurably helpful for me to remember how great (or how boring, ill-conceived, or untested) the learning experience can be. I relearn how to empathize with short attention spans, to provide relevance, and to remember that all of us need to laugh frequently. With that said, I’ll summarize the noteworthy events I attended at the NAGC convention as well as comment on the how I experienced them.

    Best hands-on session was with Dr. Bertie Kingore, who I understand has actually done some staff development at CHS from Professional Associates Publishing. She offered approaches, templates, and concrete ideas to promote creative thinking. Her focus was on project-based learning, wherein goals are established with students and all the work (learning) is to meet those goals. This is particularly effective with GT kids, who inherently question “Why are we doing this?” and who are not impressed with lessons in the isolation of a classroom. Her handouts can be found at I was excited to apply her ideas, and will be using a picture book about heroes (William Bennett’s) to introduce Gilgamesh.

    Another very practical session was with Debbie Blum from Howard County Public Schools in suburban Washington/Baltimore area. She is a technology specialist who teaches student how to produce films which become the outcome of their learning units. (As a fellow teacher who believes that if they can produce it, they understand it, I had just assigned my sophomore GT students presentations showing understanding how Lord of the Flies is relevant today. Their subsequent documentaries have been compelling exposes of the correlations between the boys on the island and gang and teen violence today.) The session showed me how students can work more systematically with script development and storyboarding, and related film production to the writing process.

    The Creativity Night offered a grab bag of ideas, the best of which was one mentioned above, the Tableau. While not a summative assessment tool, it does “take a temperature” on what students understand about a pivotal point in a novel, or a poetry or short story theme or tone. Sold as a low risk dramatic activity, tableau assesses students’ understanding by having them perform moments in a sequence of events. For instance, students would be different characters in a novel before, during, and directly after a climactic event in a novel. Their decisions on how to pose themselves and their subsequent explanation (which could be written or verbal) help students get closer to the moment and find their common emotions. I can see using this in our next book (Gilgamesh) especially because it’s an ancient tale and I want students to experience the shared range of emotions between the hero and themselves.

    Howard Gardner’s speech was, as mentioned above, excellent and alone worth the trip. I would like to add that his theory of seven intelligences is continually morphing with his ever-increasing understanding of how our minds perceive reality. (My exposure to his seven intelligences dates back about 17 years as I realized that my youngest child’s reaction to the world was very different from my other children’s. He so identified with nature that he related the first month of the year by when any particular animal species was born. Humans, he felt, were randomly born so had no such pattern.) My understanding of Gardner’s multiple intelligences has made me a better mother and teacher, and also makes me work toward creating an educational opportunity that rewards more than the two traditionally assessed in school– linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences.

    The last session I attended will probably have the most impact on my classes; two graduate students from Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY) presented a philosophy course they are creating for high schools. I’ve been adding more and more philosophy in my classes so students can connect our reading to more “big picture” concepts. So we begin with Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” to explain the limitations of our own points of view; look into Utilitarianism and contrast it to Libertarianism so we can evaluate Animal Farm and Lord of the Flies; and read Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics to view characteristics of a proud (good) man to make sense of Gilgamesh and Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart. What this course offers is a more systematic approach to discussing many of those “big ideas” in which our English classes endeavor to engage students. This course is now being developed, and I can see using it as part of my sophomore and (next year) IB senior class.

    Though this is just a glimpse of the three days’ activities, these are the important ones that have stayed with me. Other noteworthy ideas are:
    1. The importance of creating a parallel curriculum, where all courses share an incremental increase in the sophistication of thought, follow a logical sequence of challenges that make sense to the learner, and facilitate student progression toward expertise in the discipline.
    2. The growing understanding of interdisciplinary connections (to which the IB program is an answer, but should be introduced much earlier).
    3. Recognize more of the affective elements of education, as introduced in brain research of how people learn. This could be achieved by teaching more habits of mind, which means developing an intelligent reaction when confronted with problems, the answers to which are not immediately known.

    A last word on being a in a more passive learning environment—I don’t like it. While I know that conferences do not mimic classrooms closely because sessions meet just once and have a finite amount of information to cover, I was reminded how important it is to engage our students actively and creatively. Conversely, I was refreshed with the sheer volume of effort expended in learning how students learn, and I was invigorated by the variety of opportunities that students have today, from learning at sea (where was this when I was a teenager!?) to keeping in touch with other students globally.

    Overall, a very worthwhile trip, and one which I’ll share with my fellow English, GT, and IB teachers. Thank you for the opportunity to attend.

  8. December 7, 2009 11:35 am

    I enjoyed the opportunity to attend the TAGT conference in Houston, if only for one very snowy day. I was a litte disappointed that on Friday many of the sessions were cancelled due to presenters and participants hurrying to get out of town. I was, however, able to attend sessions by Stephanie Tolan from the Institute for Educational Advancement, and thought they were excellent.

    “Change Your Story, Change Your Life” was one of the Featured Presentations and it was excellent in providing strategies for our students (actually for all of us) when negative stories dominate our thoughts. Many times our students are highly sensitive and face emotional challenges due to their giftedness. I thought her personal stories were on the mark and recognized several issues I faced with my own kids.

    I stayed with Stephanie Tolan for “In Praise of Pollyanna” which was and extenuation of her positive story theme. She related her experiences with the story of Pollyanna and finding “gladness” in everything.

    “Valuing Imagination”, also from Stephanie Tolan, reconfirmed my concerns about the lack of creativity and imagination in our classrooms. TAKS testing, and the preparation for it, have pushed out opportunties for students to use their naturally inquisitve natures when covering the curriculum.

    There were several afternoon sessions that sounded interesting but they were cancelled. I did have the opportunity to network with several friends who work with gifted programs and the preparation of gifted teachers, and several parents who have gifted children. I was very appreciative of the oppotunity to attend and have many questions for our staff as we seek to meet the needs of our gifted learners.

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