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Dr. Turner & CISD contingent head to Houston for GT conference

November 30, 2009

CGA awarded scholarships to 12 CISD teachers and administrators to attend the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented “Growing their Gifts” Annual Conference  from Dec. 2-4 in Houston.  The committed scholarship recipients are Dr. Jeff Turner (CISD Superintendent), Brenda Caproni (CMSW), Thom Hulme (School Board Member), Tracy Kling (Pinkerton), Melissa Mahan (Administration), Alicia Montgomery (CMSE), Marie Riley (CMSN), Melanie Ringman (CMSN), Laila Sanguras (CMSW), Jana Scott (Town Center), April Tate (Valley Ranch), and Kim Wootton (New Tech High).   The grants were made possible by CGA’s successful fundraising efforts through our summer MOSAIC program. 

Two CGA board members, Tracy Fisher and Amanda O’Neal, will also be in attendance to take advantage of all the conference has to offer them as parent advocates.  Tracy, CGA founder, will also be a featured speaker discussing “Effective Advocacy 101: Parent to Parent.” 

The attendees will be posting comments about their experiences at the conference on this blog.  Please visit this page often for a glimpse into their insights and participation.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. December 3, 2009 2:37 pm

    Highlights from Dr. Jan Davidson of The Davidson Institute – Think Big

    Hundreds of thousands of gifted students are not appropriately challenged. Regardless of ability students need to be nurtured.

    What do all highly successful students have in common? One or more highly engaged teacher who inspired and encouraged them. All highly motivated learners demonstrated perseverance. They are proactive in seeking out expert adults to learn from.

    Don’t set limits based on age. This hinders potential contributions to humanity. Several Davidson Institute students have enjoyed large accomplishments that affect our country (medicine, military) at 16, 17, and 18.

    Must embrace flexibility to allow highly motivated learners to soar where they are strong and support where they need help.

    Think big about the possibilities at our schools. Match the curriculum to positively change our nation. All of us must begin to think in different terms. When the curriculum is appropriate for the child, discipline issues decrease, learning increases, and confidence improves.

    Change starts as a whisper and turns into a roar. Starts with one person, one school, one district. Texans think big and can make those changes.

  2. December 3, 2009 2:44 pm

    Motivation and Underachievement by Dr James Webb – A Few Key Points

    Reading recommendations: Love Learning, Cradles of Eminence, and A Parents Guide to Gifted Children, Outliers

    The only truly unmotivated child is one that is depressed. Otherwise, they just may be motivated towards their interest, not society’s.

    Essential characteristics of gifted: above average ability, task committment, and creativity. All three areas are important. Don’t just focus on ability. Motivation is variable and the most influenceable.

    Overexcitabilities can be misdiagnosed as ADHD.

    Underachievement usually begins in the first few years of school. Indication of underachievement: Flashes if brilliance, but…off task, day dreaming.

    Physical reasons for lack of motivation: vision problems, hearing problems, learning disabilities, social and emotional.

    School reasons for lack of motivation: toxic classroom, educationally misplaced, insufficient attention to asynchronous development, poor study habits, task at hand doesn’t seem relevant.

    Specific strategies:
    -Assess possible reasons for apparent lack of motivation
    -Start where the child is
    -Try to transfer motivations and tie tasks into the child’s life
    -Catch them doing something right and use successive successes
    -Reward even the slightest movement in the right direction
    -Create challenge
    -Success must be frequent enough to maintain the new behavior
    -Recognize accomplishments and encourage attempts

    Frequency is more powerful than quantity. Reward often rather than big.

  3. December 3, 2009 3:01 pm

    Notes from Success and Happiness for Gifted After K-16 Education, Janette Boazman, University of North Texas

    The end goal is to have a good life, so it’s important to think about that in relation to their potential and expectations. A good life can take many paths. As educators, help them get to their end goal.

    Gifts can be developed into talents. We are born with innate gifts, but need external catalysts as well as internal to turn into talents. Appropriate intervention accelerates growth and motivation for high ability students.

    Positive catalysts: flow, happiness, friendship, character

    Flow – Feeling of energized focus, working to full capacity. Often experience faux flow through video games and tv. Faux flow is better than no flow, but is not ideal.

    Happiness – Life satisfaction, quality of life, subjective well being. There is a high correlation between happiness and gratitude, employment, hope, identical twins, and self-esteem based on actual performance. The highest correlation for happiness is with close relationships to others. This distinguishes the happy from the very happy.

    Highly gifted kids tend to have trouble making friends. Moderately gifted find it easier. Optimal intelligence for socializing and friendships is 125-155. Not all GT find friends and may settle for flatterers or bad relationships. For young GT kids, promote social interactions as a coping strategy. For adolescents, attempt to reduce social differences. A focus only on friendship can be detrimental causing a reduced effort at talent development and a desire to fit in.

    A thriving gifted individual is more than just talents – character/ integrity and holiness are the other two dimensions that create a well-rounded happy person.

    To achieve talent:
    Daily challenges
    Independent work
    Socialize and learn with ability peers
    Content domain strategies

    Social self concept correlates positively with acceleration.

    GT kids with intellectual curiosity and engaged families do better in the long run.

    Motivational factors leading to success in college: independence from family, finding and fitting into social system, desire to overcome challenges, internal will, and need for recognition. Honors vs non-honors in college: better grades, stronger self concept, no difference in professional aspirations.

    There is a strong positive association with prayer and mental health. Religious teens are more pro-social, less likely to abuse substances, and have a lower suicide rate.

    New GT: Gifted and Thriving

  4. December 4, 2009 8:31 am

    Thoughts from….
    Using Perfectionism in Healthy Ways
    Dr. Hope Wilson of Stephen F. Austin State University

    Recommended reading: Letting Go of Perfect

    Consider the amount of completed work vs the quality

    Healthy perfectionism: healthy yet realistic standards, gains pleasure from hard tasks, capable of choosing to relax standards, motivation based on personal standards, mastery-oriented

    Benefits: improvement through practice, goal setting, pleasure

    Perfectionists have more positive peer relationships, pride, and overall satisfaction.

    If unhealthy, has numerous negative effects such as procrastination, underachievement, and lower self esteem. Unhealthy perfectionism tends to increase over time.

    Strategies for home: deemphasize grades, celebrate learning and growth, be an example in your mistakes, books and movies to illustrate flawed protagonists, and finding off-peak times to talk to your kids about it, help children prioritize, encourage children to understand their own limitations, emphasize enjoyment over perfection, encourage intellectual risk taking, adopt activities that are fun but not an area of strength, help children make a plan for finishing long-term assignments, communicate regularly with your child’s teacher.

    Strategies for the crisis moment:
    -Help them calm down (nap, music, hug)
    -Help them make a plan and cope (what they would have done vs what is now realistic)
    -Don’t jump in and rescue
    -Keep them focused on the immediate work
    -When done, help them identify areas of pride
    -Don’t let them lose sleep over it. Bed time is the cut-off.

    Discussions to have:
    -Difference between healthy and unhealthy perfectionism
    -Teachable moments
    -Goal setting

    Dealing with homework:
    -Quiet place for homework
    -Dedicated time
    -Being available for support
    -Be an example by working on your own projects
    -Communicate with the teacher
    -Helping child recognize that homework is only practice

    Axe ’em Jacks!

  5. cgaregister permalink
    December 5, 2009 1:40 pm

    Change Your Story, Change Your Life – Stephanie Tolan (gifted writer) – what I heard… – Tracy Fisher

    As a child she:

    • Was annoying and fast
    • Was talkative
    • Grew bored in school, finished early and invented stories in her head…
    • Corrected teachers (felt it was her moral obligation)
    • Demonstrated all five of Dabrowski’s intensities – Over-excitabilities
    • Showed “Intensitivity” (intense and sensitive/emotional)

    She loved to read and was amazed that books (just paper with black marks) could create such wonderful characters. She began writing at 9 yrs old and was certain she would be a writer.

    As she grew older she began to get more depressed and was a pessimist. Nothing ever worked out, the line she would stand in would always end up being the longest line, etc. To cope, she wrote books for kids that always offered hope.

    She made living and story connections in Welcome to the Arc – a book that some describe as science fiction – which is about profoundly gifted children who were able to communicate telepathically with one another, really. Profoundly gifted kids appear to most people as unreal – they do things that are unbelievable, such as speaking in sentences at 6 mos, reading at two, etc.

    She asks kids when she meets with them: How many have read a book and were sad when it ended – just marks on a page?

    Surviving the Applewhites (2003 Newbery Honor Book)

    Where were the applewhites before they were in the book?
    They were in your imagination.
    Where does imagination come from?

    Authors have a great sense of power and understand about “free will.”

    We ALL tell stories…everyday. She used the example of the freak snow storm in Houston the morning of her talk. We can tell a story, “I’m never going to get home, I’ll be stuck for hours…etc.” Or “I’m so glad I’m inside and warm. What a gift. I’m sure things will go well for me today…”

    Change your story, change your experience.

    “Nothing exists in reality that didn’t first exist in the mind.”

    Minds are thought of as in the head/brain…

    The mind resides throughout body…scientists have learned

    Brain is organic equivalent to technology…

    Is the music in the radio?
    Radio waves…

    There are cultural mindsets.

    Consciousness –

    Listen to the stories you tell about yourself…

    Say instead, “I have what I need.”

    World is worse for GT kids today.


    So, let these GT kids know they are the Heroes of their own stories.

    “I’m always going to get beat up, picked on…”

    How they feel about themselves is critical.

    Read her article “The Problem of Pain

    “Lord of the Rings” is one of her favorite stories

    It had meaning (save middle earth) – hero of story… Fellowship of others to protect them. Gallum is a villian, Froto can’t give up ring, Gallum does it…he was needed.

    Need conflict for a story…

    Cinderella – changes her story… Magic happens when you’re determined enough (not really a fairy godmother).

    How much power exists in every hero in every story.

    It’s up to the story teller…

    Imagination is extremely malleable

    Pollyanna has much more fun…(optimist)

    Kids are better able to change their story… Tell them to, “Take responsibility for your own story.” Feel better, not rotten

    Get an Easy Button from Staples

    I can do this!

    Lie down if you’re exhausted… Then get up and keep going. Heroes don’t quit.

    We’re not here to hit holes in one… We build hazards in golf courses. We need conflicts, makes it interesting…

    You are not accidental. Everyone is a part of existence.
    Existence needs you. Without you something will be missing in existence and nobody can replace it.

  6. cgaregister permalink
    December 6, 2009 8:45 pm

    GT Kids Online, Differentiation and Web 2.0 – Elfi Sanderson, Northwestern University – Center for Talent Development – a summary by Tracy Fisher

    Several top universities offer online enrichment courses for gifted kids (K-12) – including Northwestern, Johns Hopkins, and Stanford. Also Honors and AP courses are available to students in grades 6-12 for credit.

    GT students have special needs and have the right to struggle and work with intellectual peers, etc. We heard basic information about the organizational patterns of gifted kids (ref “Growing Up Gifted: Developing the Potential of Children at Home and at School” by Barbara Clark – Review) such as grade acceleration, advanced classes at other campuses, flex scheduling, subject acceleration, etc. The development of GT learners is asynchronous – cognitive and emotional abilities often development at very different rates than their age peers with their social and physical abilities developing closer to average (or below).

    Sanderson spoke about rigor in the classroom being especially important for the gifted student – The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin. Complexity and rigor need to be integrated. GT students need real problems, beyond the familiar, authentic audiences, and original products, etc.

    Online learning helps push learning beyond the schoolhouse walls and is especially beneficial to gifted students. Technology helps GT students with their organizational patterns (referenced above).

    Web 2.0
    User centered
    Info sharing
    Create knowledge

    She stressed that even with the use of technology teachers must still plan their curriculum. The following were types:

    (Genuine educational value, journaling, interaction, etc. Used for brainstorming, story board, peer review, etc.)

    – Online writers workshop grades 3-8 (Northwestern).
    Uses Blackboard (9 week course – enrichment), uses Acrobat Connect – chat, and uses to find real audiences for writers.

    The Pantry War (example of a book published)
    Elizabeth Dang (8 yr old)

    (Wiki wiki means “Quick or fast” – Hawaiian)
    Collaborative, builds connections, writing skills improve when working online.

    Provocative discussions
    Acrobat Connect – real time video, share documents, give/take tests, etc. (can use for staff development)

    AP English Lit – uses email discussions – – teacher begins discussion thread then all students respond based on the books they are reading (i.e., concept of tragedy) – microphone, phone in, text in, etc. For mini pod casts or other

    Googledocs – GREAT – spreadsheets, forms, websites, email surveys (get real research data) – AP stats, etc.
    Pre assessments and post assessments – beta and free
    Pre assess – create – pre assessment
    Write down everything you know about tragedy… Compare, contrast, post activity – May Twitter also (150 words)

    Research, pulling info together in a new way

    Social networking is great for comparing and contrasting because it is limited to 150 words – students must be succinct

    Video conferencing

    Students need these tools in 21st century

    Other websites –

    Sanderson stressed that the above are tools but must keep goals and objectives in mind. (Plan curriculum etc.)

    I’ve asked her to send me a list of all her website resources. Watch this thread for an update!

  7. janascott permalink
    December 6, 2009 9:28 pm

    I attended a variety of sessions. The following were most applicable:
    1. Gifted Kids online gave me ideas for distance learning and Web 2.0 activities.
    2. An overview of M2 for our K-2 students was beneficial as we may purchase this in the spring to complement our M3 program.
    3. The Texas Performance Standards resources available especially for the Enigmas unit.

    Finally, if you’ve never listened to Bertie Kingore present she is a must see. Her presentations are grounded in theory and easily applicable for diffentiation in any elementary classroom. Handouts of her presentation are available at for the next two weeks.

    Willis and Wolfe say activities need to include:
    *mental engagement
    *process engagement or metacognition
    *emotional and social interactions
    This requires students to be with intellectual peers not necessarily age peers.

    Erickson suggested concept based instruction versus fact. Ideas to incorporate concept based instruction are:
    *3 way venn diagrams
    *Brainwriting (see handouts)

    Marzano focused on the need for summarization and finding similarities and differences. Handouts focused on specific strategies to build these concepts.

    The gifted child needs variation in faster pace and in depth level. Though other strategies good for the gifted child are good for all children, these two strategies are specific to the gifted child.

    I really enjoyed her activity using analogies and items in your purse. She always presents useful material in an enjoyable format.

  8. kimewootton permalink
    December 7, 2009 12:49 pm

    1. The whole conference was outstanding, but my highlights are as follows:

    a. Jan Davidson: General Session
    This was a nice way to kick-off the weekend and a wonderful teaser for the inspiring and motivational information which followed in all the sessions.
    b. Elfie Sanderson: “Differentiation and Web 2.0”
    Ms. Sanderson’s Internet links weren’t working properly, but she did have some good sites to point us to. It would have been helpful to have been provided with a resource list.
    c. Dr. James Webb: “Motivation and Underachievement” and “Stress, Perfectionism and Depression”
    Dr. Webb is one of my favorite authorities on “what makes people tick.” I always attend his sessions at TAGT and learn from them each time. He is at once instructive, witty, and insightful. Because of him, I reflect on my learners’ underlying motives and understand them better.
    d. Debbie Behling: “Making Social Studies Different”
    I went to this session to get some ideas to use in my integrated social studies/English class. Wow! Although it was billed as a session for middle school, I came away with great ideas for my 9th graders and a few history lessons for myself, as well!
    e. Curriculum Potpourri: What else can I say but “AMAZING!”
    f. Stephanie Tolan: “Change Your Story” and “In Praise of Pollyana”
    Since I’ve always referred to myself as a Pollyana, these two sessions really spoke to me. Further, since I heard Ms. Tolan’s talks, I’ve noticed that when I’ve started to have a negative thought, I’ve instead spoken to myself and said, “Change your story, Kim!” ^_^
    g. The student exhibits were outstanding and provided great ideas.
    h. The Exhibit Hall was, as usual, full of great booths with helpful vendors.

    2. I have to refer back to Dr. Webb as providing me with the most helpful information that I can take back to use with my gifted pupils, as well as with all of my learners. The most profound thing I took was this: “Students are NOT unmotivated. They may not be motivated to do what I want, but they are NOT unmotivated.” Keeping that in mind will help me to understand the students and remember their human emotional needs which drive their willingness and ability to learn and produce in the classroom.

  9. aliciamontgomery permalink
    December 11, 2009 2:10 pm

    While at TAGT Houston, I attended a number of sessions that provided me with great ideas to share with my students.

    One of the most practical session, and enjoyable too, was “Why are We Reading this Boook?” What a great title! I’ve had students ask me that same question more than once, so I was intrigued when I saw this session. It was conducted by Robyn Burris from Round Rock ISD. She teaches 5th grade, but much of her information was appropriate for my 6th grade LA class. Her website has a great deal of information and materials she is willing to share with other teachers.
    She shared some fun ideas about how to bring historical context to well-known and widely read novels.

    Another session I attended that I really enjoyed was “Making Writing am Extravanganza for Life.” This session was conducted by Jessica Acosta and Michelle Campbell. This workshop was very hands-on. We did the activities we would take to our kids. I really enjoyed that as it gave me a chance to sit in the student’s seat. Their lessons guided us through brainstorming ideas, quick writes, and ended with creating a “Truism” or Life lesson from the story. What a great way to get our kids writing, thinking, and sharing!

    I have not yet had a chance to share my new ideas with my Language Arts team, but I will. I enjoy hearing the other ideas my team has for tweaking the lessons and using them on their own students.

  10. aliciamontgomery permalink
    December 11, 2009 2:14 pm

    I do have to share another fun fact about the trip completely unrelated to anything I learned while in a session!

    After being snowed into Houston (yes…Houston, TX), I learned a valuable life lesson. You should always be prepared and ready for the airline to cancel your flight, take your luggage and not return it to you. And you should always travel with friends because that makes life so much better. And you should definitely not stress out when your plans change, rather you should just enjoy the ride. Thanks friends for making this my most eventful TAGT Conference yet!

  11. December 13, 2009 12:33 pm

    This year’s TAGT conference included not only its usual great keynote speakers and information-packed workshops, but added the unusual delight and drama of snow in Houston, canceled flights home, and an extra night with great friends (and no luggage) in a beautiful hotel! This year’s conference was quite the adventure!
    One workshop that I found particularly helpful and informative was called “Writing is Art:The Use of Art to Teach Writing” by Chelsea Kostyniak from Grand Prairie ISD. The session included great new ways to incorporate Thinking Maps into writing, the use of a visual dialectical journal for writing interpretive responses to literary texts, any many ways to incorporate drama and dance into writing. The session focused on the collaborative and creative aspects of writing that is so engaging and enjoyable for students. It was informative and practical, and I have many new ideas and strategies that can be applied immediately in my classes.
    With all of its usual informative and enjoyable presentations, along with some exciting unexpected events, this year’s TAGT conference was one that I definitely will not forget!

  12. apriltate permalink
    December 16, 2009 12:23 pm

    Guiding the Gifted Reader

    – Don’t assume gifted readers don’t need guidance
    – There is a problem in pushing students to read when they are not emotionally mature enough for the content. Be sure they are ready for what they are reading, not just reading because they understand individual words.
    – Stress INTERACTION with the book.

    Characteristics of Books for Gifted Readers:
    1) Language: high level (age appropriate), descriptive, authors delight in language and nuances, and language from other times and places.
    2) Style: figurative language and literary devices
    3) Plot: unfinished or misunderstood, different perspectives, forces the mind to work, unpredictable but realistic
    4) Setting: allow for various experiences and are imaginative

    Recognizing Good Fiction
    1) honest and accurate
    2) enough depth to engage the imagination
    3) plots must be plausible
    4) something should happen within the characters (they change through the course of the book)

    Characteristics of Good Fantasy and Science Fiction
    1) more likely for gifted readers
    2) some adults see it as escape literature, but it does develop imagination
    3) productive and imaginative (left & right brain)
    4) should still be belieable even with “other worlds”
    5) there is usually a separate set of rules for the other world

  13. lsanguras permalink
    December 18, 2009 2:53 pm

    I thought Dr. Davidson’s keynote was really inspiring, and I think it would be really interesting to visit the Davidson Institute for Talent Development; it’s absolutely amazing what young people can accomplish when they are in a thriving environment.
    One of the sessions I attended was “Blogs, Wikis, and Lit Trips” presented by Marie Riley and Melanie Ringman, teachers at CMSE. They offered many ideas for websites and applications to use with students. They stressed the importance of challenging students to use technology they already are familiar with, but in an academic way. It was both interesting and informative.
    I presented this year as well, in a session titled “Challenging Gifted Readers to Critical and Creative Responses to Literature.” It was quite an experience being on the other side of the podium! I had no idea I would be so nervous until the room began to fill; apparently I am much more comfortable talking to groups of teenagers than teenagers. I did receive some positive feedback and am hopeful that everyone left with at least one new idea to implement in their classrooms.
    As always, I found the TAGT conference a valuable experience and am so appreciative that I had the opportunity to attend.

  14. lsanguras permalink
    December 21, 2009 1:36 pm

    *I am much more comfortable talking to groups of teenagers than TEACHERS. Sorry, I should have proofread more carefully.

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