March 10, 2015

Beyond Giftedness 2015: A Report

I attended the Beyond Giftedness 2015 Conference at the Arvada Center of the Arts on a snowy Friday in February for the first time and attended several presentations in the Parent Mini-Conference. In addition to the mini-conference, parents were invited to register for the regular conference and attend the other conference presentations, including the keynote speeches by Dr. Joseph Renzulli and Dr. Sally Reis. Here are some conference highlights:

The Schoolwide Enrichment Model

Dr. Renzulli is a Distinguished Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Connecticut, where he also serves as director of the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented. His presentation focused on the Schoolwide Enrichment Model that has been used by 2,500 schools in the country and based on 20 years of research.

Dr. Renzulli talked about the research supporting the framework. Essentially, the model works when:

  • there is a sense of ownership by all the participants: students, teachers, administrators
  • teachers and administrators have established trusting relationships
  • energy and a school-wide culture of positive change 
  • and knowledge of the model: Triad System, Type I, II, III activities
He ended the presentation by saying that schools need to change the way we teach from traditional drill & kill activities, which are highly teacher dependent and move toward more experiential learning activities, which engage and promote self-directed learning in students.

Who am I? Why Does It Matter? 

Download the presentation.

Jenny Hecht, a licensed clinical social worker with 15 years of experience working with gifted children in St. Vrain School District, talked about how gifted students are often challenged by their hyper-awareness of the wrongs of the world around them and the desire to make positive change. Sometimes, this sensitivity converges into an existential crisis, where students wonder "What is the point of this? What is my life purpose?"

Rather than trying to come up with an answer or deflect their question, say "I don't know. What do you think?" Show your child that he or she is not alone. Help them find others who share their passions, because when they realize others share their ideas, they learn to empathize with others and form a sense of community. 

A Parent's Guide For Advocacy

Cheryl is a past president of the Colorado Association for Gifted and Talented, a statewide nonprofit organization that advocates for gifted learners and is the parent organization for Douglas County Association for Gifted and Talented. She also served as a gifted and talented coordinator for Boulder Valley School District and is currently District GT Coordinator for Adams County School District 14.

In her presentation, Cheryl gave a brief overview of the traits of the gifted and strategies for helping support your gifted in child. In terms of advocacy, local control of education is important within Colorado so parents need to join their local parent advisory board or parent advocacy groups to help voice their concerns and interests in gifted students.

Cheryl urged parents to visit the Colorado of Department of Education's website for Gifted Education and learn about the state requirements for gifted programs, then compare those standards to how they are being addressed within your school district.

She also recommended parents to learn about the types of programming options available for gifted students: acceleration, cluster grouping, as well as pull-out and push-in programs. Share these ideas with teachers because most teachers don't get enough training on how to differentiate instruction for gifted kids.

The Understanding Our Gifted Journal published an issue on differentiating instruction for gifted children in Winter 2012, which includes an article by Cheryl on differentiating instruction for twice exceptional children. Download a copy here.

Executive Function: A Complex Task

Seth Perler is the founder and owner of ShineOn Educational Solutions, an educational consulting firm that helps struggling students learn how to improve their academic performance in a holistic approach that includes a focus on developing the executive function of their brains.

Executive Function is a part of your brain that helps your perform tasks. Student who struggle with school, especially gifted and twice exceptional students, need help developing tools and techniques for organizing, prioritizing and completing tasks.

Seth created a two-page guide that he shared at his presentation. You can download it here and check out his fabulous blog,

Talented Girls and Women

Sally's work focuses on identifying the internal barriers and environmental factors that generate stereotypes, especially media depictions of women and their role in society. She believes that society needs to change the images of girl and women in the media, especially at school. 

Some books she recommends for girls include:

The Fourth Little Pig, by Teresa Celsi
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
Lives of Extraordinatry Women by Kathleen Krull, et. al

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