Why it is Important to go to Professional Conferences

I love going to conferences. I love presenting at conferences. If you are like me these days away from the classroom, and being able to meet new people and hear some new topics is invigorating.  Getting the chance to connect with other teachers in my field doesn’t happen very often. So I try to take advantage of it when I go to a conference with other Gifted Education teachers, advocates, and parents.

It is important to go to conferences for several reasons.

  1. To connect with other educators: Sometimes it feels like you may be along. I know for me, I am the only one doing gifted education in my school. So I don’t always get the chance to connect, and share ideas with, or collaborating with.
  2. To hear new information: Many times at conferences there are those who work with state agencies, or with high level administrators at school districts and counties. Thy will share some new information that may have a direct impact on what you do.  So hearing that information and getting the chance to ask the person who is in the know is very helpful.
  3. To buy new products: I like to talk to the venders that go to conferences. They have some great stuff. Look through their booths and buy some new materials that will benefit your students.
  4. To get some teaching ideas: I like to get new teaching ideas, curriculum ideas, and instructional strategies to help me in my classroom. I try not to do the same thing year after year. So going to conferences I can get those new ideas.

This year, I made it a point to do some of the following:

  1. Connect with as many educators as possible.
  2. Went to sessions that had the latest information
  3. Went to sessions that related to my students
  4. Looked for chances to collaborate with other teachers

Social Media has made a large conference much more manageable since many are using hashtags to communicate to its attendees. At this year’s OAGC Conference the hashtag #oagc2016 was in use. If you weren’t able to make the conference go on to Twitter and check out that hashtag. A lot of information was shared using it. I would also suggest you follow the people who posted to it. You may be able to go to a conference in the future and see that person.

Below are the two presentations I was part of. The first one is one I did with Heather Cachat about the #ohiogtchat. The second one is one I did with the the OAGC Teacher Division Committee. Check them out, and let me know what you think.

To see other presentations I have done click the “Talking Points tab above.

What conferences are you planning to go to this year? What are some goals that you are setting as you attend?


The Importance of Gifted Education in Preschools

istock_000038208034_medium-20160503141924q75dx720y432u1r1ggcPreschool is not an area in which I am most familiar with so I have to refer to my wife who is an Early Childhood Education Instructor at our high school. She has taught me a lot about what is importance of early education instruction in toddlers and preschoolers, and why it is important to constantly observe children. They show you what they know.

One aspect that is important when it comes to preschool is to communicate with parents about how their child is at home, and letting parents know how their child is at school. By having that open communication teachers and parents can get a whole picture of the child.

Early Childhood Educators know what the average toddler and preschooler should be doing by every age. Some times a few children will stick out because of their talents. Here are a few characteristics that preschool teachers and parents should notice because these aspects are possible indicators of giftedness.

The child:

  • has an advanced vocabulary at an early age
  • can read words beyond the expected age
  • has rational thoughts on adult topics, or topics not normally associated with young children (examples like the meaning of life, and death)
  • can think and explain abstract concepts
  • passes developmental milestones quickly
  • has a rapid language and concept development acquisition
  •  can understand family relationships at an early age, (mommy’s mommy is grandmother; daddy’s daddy is grandfather)
  • can be very impulsive and over reactive
  • has a high level of curiosity

When parents and early childhood educators notice multiple aspects listed above there needs to be an intervention to make sure the child is put into gifted services. The best form for this is acceleration. In our schools we will quickly accelerate students who accelerate in music, the arts, and even sports. We need to be more fluid with our academic classes as well. I believe this also applies for preschool students as well as the elementary, middle, and high school students.

Research shows that the earlier children start school the better chances of these children to have an increased academic success in elementary school and it widens further in middle and high school. It also shows that if high ability students aren’t able to accelerate at the level they need to they can begin to show behavior problems. Finally, research also shows that if parents create a learning environment that is fun can make a huge difference to learning throughout the child’s life.

There are 6 things that teachers and parents can do to help find or develop high ability children.

  1. Actively look for areas of talent strength
  2. Encourage toddlers to play, invent, and pretend / Expose young children to enrichment activities like going to museums, and zoos
  3. Teach responsibility to young children.
  4. Parents and teachers should model the desired behaviors they want to see in young children
  5.  Read to children often, and everyday using a variety of books and topics
  6. Expose children to skill related skills early by doing activities that are fun and exciting

Young children need to be exposed to new and exciting learning opportunities often. The more parents and teachers do this they are making an investment for a better life for their children.

What does your school do to help find and nurture high ability preschoolers?

 I used Parenting Gifted Children book from NAGC as a resource for this post. I encourage you to check it out.

Book Review: Differentiating Instruction with Menus: Science

51ngmwuarelScience….is hands-on and can be as fun as you can make it. Science teachers work real hard to teach complicated ideas in science to you children. This book is a great resource that many of those teachers need to get. Differentiating Instruction with Menus (Science) covers Physical, Biological, and Earth Science. Laurie took some of the most important topics of each and created some great menus for them.

These menus will help to deepen student engagement, and interest in science. Everyone of us have had students who has a desire to learn everything, and wants to learn it now. Well, this book and the series, will help you with those students. By creating a choice board, a menu or tic-tac-toe board you allow students the freedom to learn multiple topics over a selective period of time. Students love the fact they can pick and choose what they will learn, and what products they will do to share their learning.

I would encourage all teachers and home school parents to check this book out along with the whole series. These books contain so much information to help you not only use the menu, but you can use the information to make your own menus.

Book Review: Differentiating Instruction with Menus: Social Studies

e5383Social Studies is one of my favorite subjects to teach in every grade that I have been assigned to. I feel that this subject area is one of the most versatile subject areas because it is so diverse. This book, Differentiating Instruction with Menus: Social Studies, is a great resource you teachers and home school families to have. It aligns with the State curriculum, and is chalked full of ideas to use in the classroom.

What i really like about this series is the fact that each of Laurie’s books is written the same way. She includes a lot of different menus based on history, geography, U.S. documents, and people. All of these are major aspects of Social Studies. She has included several different menus to help bring out the creativity of your students, and to help deepen their knowledge of Social Studies.

I would recommend this book and the whole series to every teacher, and home school parent. I have used this series often in my gifted classroom, and I will continue to do so. They are written so well, and they have so many ideas you can use, or you can use as a starting off points.

Book Review: Differentiating Instruction with Menus: Language Arts

258_fcvAs I have stated before, Differentiating Instruction with Menus is one of my favorite book series. I have found that my students really enjoy the opportunity to have some choice in their work. Giving students ownership in their learning is a great aspect of Education.

What I love about this book, is the fact that it has menus for different types of literature including fiction and nonfiction. Each section has a treasure trove of ideas teachers can use to enhance their language arts classes for their gifted students, and their regular education students. Each section has discusses ways to use menus for genres of literature, and different types of books.

One aspect of this book that I really enjoy is the fact Laurie includes some rubrics. There are all purpose rubrics for students to use, along with rubrics for student taught lessons. I love rubrics just for the fact it gives students the expectations starting off. It allows teachers to quickly grade projects and presentations. There are also scales that can be used by both teachers and students to help rate their performance on projects and presentations.

Overall, this is book that I recommend to teachers, and home school parents to help their students to succeed in language arts. Using this book you can use the ideas in it just as they are written, or you can take the idea and change it to fit your own situation.


Mentoring Gifted Children


As the school year starts, one thing that my school does is a very good program called “Little Spartans, Big Spartans.” This program is designed after the Little Brothers, Big Brothers program. I really this program for the fact that it gives our high school students the chance to volunteer their time during the school day and work with children in middle and elementary school.

As this program gets rolling it out I started to think about the type of mentorships that would be successful for gifted children. Before you can begin to set up mentorships for gifted children we have to make sure the child is mature enough. The student should be an independent learner, a  diligent worker, and have a passion to learn more about a subject matter that is beyond the school walls. The student must have the temperament to understand that the person mentoring them is a profession in the field they are interested in and go in wanting to learn from them as much as possible. When the student takes this into view the mentorship will be successful.

The benefits of being in a mentor / mentee relationship are many, but here are a few that I feel are most important:

Benefits for the Mentee:

  • Student gets real world experience
  • Students get an increased knowledge base of the topic or subject
  • Students can get an increased passion for the topic or subject
  • Student gets a role model
  • Student can show growth in an area of giftedness (academic, leadership, creativity, visual arts, and / or performing arts)

Benefits for the Menor:

  • Mentor can have the opportunity to share their passion for their area or interest
  • Mentor can have the satisfaction of helping another who may be interested in going into the same field as them, which makes someone’s life better
  • Mentor gets the chance the chance to have a 1- on-1 relationship with a young person
  • Mentor gets the chance to mold a young person’s perception of their area or passion

To have a successful mentor program, students and mentors just can’t be thrown together. There must be set goals, and objectives that must be met so success can be measured. Communication must be open between mentor and mentee.

Mentorships can be a very successful program within your school or community. It has to be done carefully, purposefully, and with the utmost importance. It needs to be gotten tight the first time.


Working Through the Middle School Years

I have been a middle school teacher now for 16 years. It is a population group that I enjoy being with, and teaching. For the past few years I have been mentoring new teachers in our district. I try to share my knowledge and expertise with new teachers in the hopes that they would not make some of the same mistakes that I have made in the past.

One aspect that I feel that I have to continue to educate new teachers on is how to work with middle school gifted children. There are a few things that I stress to new teachers that I feel they need to know.

New teachers need to understand that there are parts of gifted children’s personalities that are not like theirs. Gifted children, like all children, have various personalities. Some are unorganized, some are perfectionists, and some fall somewhere on in the middle. For teachers when you see a student who is unorganized and messy, and your classroom is meticulously organized please don’t stress over it. Let them be who they are. Give students expectations and stick to them, but also let them be who they are. 

Focus on the positives when it comes to gifted children. Some gifted children may come across as crass, especially when they point out a mistake made by you. Don’t let that get to you. It may be just who they are. Instead, focus on the positives. Look for the good in each and every student you have. That will keep you from being a “negative nelly”. 

Allow gifted students to struggle a little bit. Don’t rush in to save the day. Allow them to work through their frustration. By doing that you making them rely on themselves more and you less. If you are continuously helping them too much too fast they won’t have the opportunity to feel the stress and frustration that goes along with building a good work ethic.

Finally, design lessons that have stretch included. This gives my gifted students a chance to grow. If you always plan your lessons with the middle students in mind those gifted students will become discipline problems. They get bored, and you will have to rush to find something for them to do. That ends up being more busy work, and they will still be come a discipline problem.

Navigate the middle years carefully. They will be rocky filled with ups and downs, but they are definitely worth it.