Session Descriptions and Instructor Information

Center for Gifted Education Language Arts Curriculum

Mary Ann Yedinak

 This workshop demonstrates the usefulness of the tools of the Center for Gifted Education’s teaching models and how they are interwoven throughout the Center’s language arts units. The framework of the language arts curriculum units for high-ability learners produced by the Center allows teachers to tailor thematic lessons that best support students’ developing minds at any age. The carefully crafted goals of the language arts units are to develop students’ skills in literary analysis and interpretation, persuasive writing, linguistic competency, and oral communication, as well as to strengthen students’ reasoning skills and understanding of overarching concepts. The units feature advanced reading selections that have been chosen for their complexity, depth, relevance to societal issues, and capacity to elicit interpretive responses while cultivating contemplative thought. Informational texts and challenging works of literature from myriad eras and cultures, as well as a variety of genres, were specifically chosen to encourage students to reflect on the readings through writing and discussion. Embedded in the units are multiple opportunities to hone critical thinking skills and explore interdisciplinary connections with the language arts.

The session will provide an overview of the teaching models, as well as including some structured time for participants to examine, work, question, interact, and plan using their individual language arts units. Jot down those questions, insights, hints, and challenges that you would like to explore or address and bring them with you. By the workshop’s end, you will be on your way to being a master craftsman, able to provide the better delivery and instruction with the best curriculum units available for high-ability learners. Participants are encouraged to bring their own copies of their William and Mary Language Arts teacher editions, student readings, and laptops to the workshop. Please note: This workshop is designed primarily for those instructors with little to no training or experience with the Center models and units.

 Mary Ann Yedinak chose to pair English and mathematics during her undergraduate work. While teaching in Germany, a mentor challenged her to use her skills to develop seminars in writing, drama, and leadership for gifted students. Additionally, she obtained her EdM from Boston University and then returned to Indiana to complete her endorsement in gifted education at Purdue University. A summer seminar that Mary Ann attended introduced her to the curriculum framework developed by the Center for Gifted Education, sparking her to revise, revamp, and rewrite her entire curriculum using the framework with growing attention paid to 21st Century Literacy Skills and later the Common Core State Standards. Knowing that the research behind the teaching models is sound, Mary Ann hopes to mentor instructors and coordinators as they choose these language arts units, for she sees the growth and depth students make when they are given these tools and the time and opportunity to practice them. Mary Ann has written the following units: Courage: Connections and Reflections (Grades 7–8), The Pursuit of Justice (Grades 7–8; 2015 NAGC Curriculum Network Curriculum Award), Utopia (Grades 7–9; 2012 NAGC Curriculum Network Curriculum Award), and The American Dream (Grades 9–10).

Challenging Secondary Gifted Students: Developing a Sense of Self Through English Language Arts

Christopher Krejci, Ph.D.

  Although local, regional, statewide, and national standards for English language arts (ELA) are intended to promote rigorous student engagement in discipline-specific content, they are not sufficient in and of themselves for the development of curriculum, instruction, and assessment for gifted learners. Gifted learners in secondary ELA classrooms require opportunities for advanced study in the discipline, guided practice in higher order thinking skills, and individualized research opportunities. Instruction that promotes self-awareness is especially important in secondary grades, as adolescent gifted students may struggle to form a positive self-concept. ELA lessons that challenge gifted adolescents to approach reading, writing, and analysis as a process of self-discovery can increase student motivation, self-efficacy, and success. This hands-on session will focus on instructional strategies that encourage learners to better understand themselves through the close and careful study of literary and informational texts.

Christopher Krejci, Ph.D., has 14 years of experience in education and 7 years of experience teaching gifted and talented students across age ranges and grade levels. He has been a Board of Regents Fellow and Instructor at Louisiana State, where he earned a doctorate in theatre history and dramatic literature and completed coursework in gifted education. He holds a Master of Liberal Arts degree with a specialization in English from St. Edward’s. He has taught at Baton Rogue Community College and on K–12 campuses in Zachary, Louisiana’s highest-ranked district. While in Zachary, he also wrote ELA curriculum and led faculty development workshops. Dr. Krejci has presented at regional/national conferences and is a member of the Dramatist Guild. His plays have been performed in Los Angeles, New York, Austin, and across Louisiana. In 2015, Dr. Krejci joined the English Department at Temple College, where he teaches dual credit courses in composition and literature.

Designing Challenging Math Activities for the CCSS Elementary Classroom

Molly Bryan Talbot and Jess McKowen Patti

 In mathematics, gifted students should have opportunities to explore topics in the regular curriculum at substantially greater depth and to engage in activities not ordinarily taught to all students. This session will explore guidelines and strategies for designing mathematics activities that exemplify characteristics of good curriculum for gifted learners. The presenters will share classroom-tested ideas and activities for providing highly able students with challenging enrichment activities in mathematics. Information about addressing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and related assessments will also be included.

 Molly Bryan Talbot is currently a teacher of third- and fourth-grade gifted students at Zachary Elementary School in the Zachary Community School District in Louisiana. Molly attended Louisiana State University, where she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in elementary education, grades pre-K–5, through the LSU Holmes Program. She then returned to LSU to earn her education specialist degree in gifted education.

 Jess McKowen Patti is currently a third- and fourth-grade teacher of gifted students at Zachary Elementary School in Louisiana, where she recently received the Zachary Community School District Teacher of the Year. Formerly, Jess taught second and fifth grade. She attended Southeastern Louisiana University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education, grades first through fifth. Jess then returned to Southeastern Louisiana University, where she obtained her master’s degree in special education: gifted. 



Developing Assessments for Highly Able Students Using Standards

Yara Farah, Ph.D.

 The words standards and assessment bombard teachers daily. But how can we develop assessments for high-ability students using standards? This interactive workshop will focus on the process of using standards to develop assessments for highly able students with the purpose of (a) determining, evaluating, and documenting students’ strengths and weaknesses and (b) planning and enhancing instruction. Through a working example, the presenter will demonstrate and guide attendees step by step. Participants will have a graphic organizer by the end of the session to take with them and use in their own planning. The content of the workshop is oriented toward elementary and lower middle school grades (K–6).

 Yara N. Farah, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Center for Gifted Education at William & Mary, where she provides research support for gifted and talented curriculum effectiveness studies. She also is the chair of the membership committee for The Association for the Gifted, a division of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC-TAG). She received her doctorate in educational psychology from Baylor University. Her emphasis areas of study are gifted and talented education and measurement. Her research interest relate to gifted education, mathematics enrichment and instructional practices in inclusive classrooms, and twice-exceptional students. Previously, she worked as a special education teacher for students in grades 3 and 4. She also worked for one year as a paraprofessional in a fully inclusive classroom. She has a master’s degree in special education, mild to moderate, from California State University Northridge (CSUN) and a bachelor degree in elementary education, with a minor in psychology and a minor in philosophy, as well as a Diploma in Special Education from the American University of Beirut (AUB).

Increasing Opportunities for Innovation and Creativity: Engaging Advanced Learners in STEM

Debbie Dailey, Ed.D.

To increase opportunities for innovation and creativity in STEM subjects, curriculum for advanced learners should promote understanding of content and concepts through active engagement in problem solving. Specifically in science, students should demonstrate their understanding of the content and concepts by using the practices of science and engineering to develop solutions to meaningful problems. Through these actions, students are given ample opportunities to practice creative and critical thinking skills as they develop into real-world investigators. Participants in this workshop will actively engage in science and engineering practices as they work to develop solutions to real-world problems. Through this process, participants will explore ways to integrate engineering design into their science lessons while addressing math and literacy standards. As an example, using fiction stories, participants will discover problems that can be answered through the engineering design process, science that can be investigated, and technology that can be used to present solutions to the problems. Participants will also engage in strategies to promote creative and critical thinking and incorporate these strategies in problem- or project-based learning lessons.

 Debbie Dailey, Ed.D., is an Assistant Professor of Teaching and Learning at the University of Central Arkansas where she is the Coordinator for the Gifted and Talented Program. Formerly, Debbie served as the Curriculum Coordinator and Peer Coach of a Javits-funded program, STEM Starters, which focused on improving science instruction in the elementary grades. Through this program, Debbie worked with elementary teachers implementing problem-based learning science units in their classroom. Prior to moving to higher education, Debbie was a high school science teacher and gifted education teacher for 20 years.

 Personalizing Curriculum for Gifted Students With Blended Learning

Lauren Angelone, Ph.D.

 Blended learning is generally described as the utilization of online learning within a more traditional face-to-face school environment. The most distinguishing feature of a blended classroom is the core of online content, created or curated by the teacher, which allows for student control or time, place, path, or pace. That core of online content provides a framework for possibilities beyond what is practical with a single human instructor. For the gifted student, this sort of personalization allows for choice, deeper learning, and creativity within the curriculum. In this session, the literature around blended learning will be explored alongside developing models and content options. Teachers will then have the opportunity to create a blended module for use in their classrooms. 

 Lauren Angelone has a Ph.D. in cultural foundations, technology, and qualitative inquiry from The Ohio State University. She is currently working as an independent blended learning consultant with public school districts in Cincinnati, OH, as an online learning coach for Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development, as an adjunct professor of Educational Technology at the University of Findlay, and has just started work on a Javits grant through the state of Ohio, Northwestern University, and William & Mary. She is a former middle school science teacher and eLearning coach and has also worked for Gifted Services at the Ohio Department of Education. She believes that mediated interactions aren’t more or less human than face-to-face interactions; they are simply different experiences with different benefits and consequences.

 Navigating the Information Highway: Strategies for Teaching Informational Text in the Content Areas for Gifted Students

Magdalena Fitzsimmons

 This session explores a variety of strategies for implementing instruction and developing performance tasks that incorporate informational text in the high ability classroom. During this session, participants will explore the benefits of infusing divergent thinking, collaborative behaviors, and critical thinking to build a deeper understanding of informational text for today’s diverse group of high-ability learners. They will also discover how instructional approaches such as arts integration, problem-based learning, online discussion groups, and technology integration support the needs of high-ability learners, and align with desired learning outcomes. Attendees will learn how to identify informational text resources in a variety of content areas that are appropriately complex and serve a variety of instructional purposes. They will participate in learning tasks that demonstrate how active, learner-centered approaches promote a deeper engagement with and understanding of informational text. Lesson plans, materials, and resources will be provided. Attendees are asked to bring their favorite electronic device.

 Magdalena Fitzsimmons is currently an instructional coach at Carver Center for Arts and Technology as part of the Baltimore County Public Schools S.T.A.T. Program in Baltimore, MD. She is a graduate of the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, the City University of New York, Brooklyn College, and the University of Calgary, Canada. Ms. Fitzsimmons has presented at numerous national and state conferences, including the National Association for Gifted Children, Council for Exceptional Children, Magnet Schools of America, Maryland Educators of Gifted Students and the Maryland State Educators of Technology, on the topics of arts integration, problem-based learning, curriculum for gifted students, creativity, and technology integration. She received the 2011 Teacher as Leader Citation and Award from the Maryland State Advisory Council on Gifted and Talented Education and the 2005 National Music Foundation Lois Bailey Glenn Award for Teaching Excellence, a Certificate of Recognition for Outstanding Contributions to the Baltimore County Public Schools, and is a three-time winner of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts in performance and recording. Ms. Fitzsimmons has also written and edited reading language arts curriculum for gifted and talented students for Baltimore County Public Schools and for the Maryland State Department of Education.