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Growing Gifted in the Sunshine State


It’s that time of year again! The annual NAGC (National Association for Gifted Children) convention is soon approaching, this year to be held in Tampa, Florida, from October 29th through November 2nd. Given that the temperature at my house was all of 4 degrees when I left for last year’s NAGC convention, I’m particularly excited for my first trip to Florida and a wee little escape from clouds, snow, and cold :o)

I’m posting about the convention today because the early registration deadline is quickly approaching – this Friday, September 19th, as a matter of fact. You can certainly still register after that date, but it will cost you a little more. (I myself still need to get in gear and register!)

Wednesday will feature “Academies,” which are full-day, in-depth sessions on a given topic. Options include “Choosing and Using Appropriate Literature for Young Gifted Readers,” “Understanding and Assessing Gifted Students in the Middle Grades,” “Practical and Effective Strategies and Systems for Identifying and Developing Talent and Potential in Gifted English Language Learners,” and “Current Issues in Secondary Gifted Education: Practical Strategies for in Classroom.” One reason I haven’t registered yet is I still can’t decide which option should be my first choice!

Thursday features “Board Institutes” and “Action Labs.” Board Institutes are half-day sessions (you would pick one for the morning and another for the afternoon) presented by NAGC Board members. A sampling of the Board Institutes includes “Honoring the Social and Emotional Lives of Gifted Youth,” “Appropriate Use of Alternative Assessment Measures for Identification and Documentation of Gifted Student Growth,” “The Having of Wonderful Ideas: Engaging Students in Long-Term Investigations,” and “Making Sense of Underachievement.” Once again – I can’t decide! The good news, given so many fascinating topics, is I know I’ll be pleased with whichever options I do choose.

The “Action Labs” on Thursday are essentially “field trips” to local educational or historical sites. A couple of this year’s intriguing offerings are “World of Physics: Energy and Waves/Disney’s Wild by Nature,” “Pine View School – Public School for the Gifted,” and “Macfarlane Park International Baccalaureate Elementary Magnet School for International Studies.” The Action Labs are a great opportunity to see excellence and excellent ideas in action.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday feature a more typical conference format and schedule, including keynotes, breakout sessions, and networking events. To pique your interest, a few of the keynote titles include “Surviving Neglect: High Expectations for Low-Income, High-Ability Students,” “The Top Five Fundamentals in Gifted Education—What are They?,” and “Assessment—A Big Idea with Multiple Perspectives.” In particular, don’t miss Sunday’s Closing General Session keynote with Rafe Esquith, author of “Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire.” Many of you, like me, have probably seen the PBS documentary that was done on him a few years back.

If you're looking for something inspiring to do on the Saturday night of the convention, come watch the next in NAGC's series of "Legacy" tapings, "Portraits in Gifted Education: A Conversation with Joe Renzulli." It will take place Saturday, November 1st from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m. in Ballroom B. The "Legacy" series is the Conceptual Foundations Network's efforts to capture and document insights of and interviews with many of the great contributors in the field of gifted education. Joe is a fascinating man, one of my mentors, and certainly a great contributor in the field.

And let’s not forget the convention’s Exhibit Hall, once again featuring hundreds of stellar vendors and their thousands of inspiring, practical, thought-provoking, engaging, and enlightening wares. Many of my favorites will be there, including MindWare, Zanca, ThinkFun, SENG, Prufrock Press, Free Spirit Publishing, Creative Learning Press, and of course Great Potential Press (who published my book).

To help organize your week in Tampa, look for the “Plan Your Itinerary Now!” box and click the link. It will take you to an online system that allows for searching through the whole conference program (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) for specific topics, presenters, or categories. You can even create, save, and then print your own personal itinerary, giving you an easier reference point when figuring out “where do I go next” than the ½-inch thick book listing every last session… all thousand+ of them. (I love the book, though… I always take it back to show my students because it helps give them some idea of where I was and why I was gone, plus they like looking through the session descriptions to see what teachers are learning about when it comes to students like them.)

So for all of you who have been looking for an opportunity to learn more about these different learners, this is one excellent option! If you are close to Florida (or, like me, would love a dose of sunshine in winter), I encourage you to check it out! I’ve been to a few NAGC conventions in recent years and I have never been disappointed. There is much to learn, and it’s so refreshing to meet and interact with other people in the field. Feel free to share your NAGC convention experiences here.

I’m off to my second of four Open House events for the year…! And then I need to carve out time to register for TAMPA!



I wish I could go this year. :-( I really enjoyed your presentation with Karen Isaacson last year in Minneapolis, which is much closer to home for me. Have a great time!

An inquiry: Are the arts yet a part of your recognition and inclusion in the gifted? They should be an equal status, however, in Iowa, my home state, they are not. Is your organization lobbying for their inclusion in schools Gifted programs? If not, you need to become aware of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills document called: Learning for the 21st Century and the report: Tough Choices, Tough Times from the new Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce through the National Center on Educaiton and the Economy. They both say the skills of creativity and innovation found in arts education can make the competitive our students need in the global economy.

I have never met you but in trying to reach you I met a wonderful teacher Echo Allison! She's been a great help to us at ThinkFun.
I am the Director of Education Programs at ThinkFun and I have read your blogs about how much you admire our product.

I will be at this NAGC conference and would love to meet you! I am at our ThinkFun booth 525 and I'm doing a presentation 10:30-11:30 am on Friday October 31st in workshop space C in the exhibit hall! I would love if we could meet!

We are developing a really dynamic program that is all about engaging students to learn intentional thinking strategies and use problem solving techniques.

Please come by!
Tanya Thompson
Director, Education Programs
ThinkFun, Inc.

Tamara - I am just teaching Gifted and Talented kids this year. We're actually doing a rotation where each of the 4 8th grade teachers is a "content specialist" and the kids rotate between us to learn the four units of study we have.

So - I will start teaching poetry to the TAG kids on the 13th and I could really, really use some advice on how to engage them, provide stimulating and challenging work, utilize effetive classroom management skills... et al.

I'm going to start to take G & T courses for an endorsement in TAG in the spring (already have a grad course now in writing). But, since I have the kids before then, I could really use your input - or referrals to resource sites, etc.

Thank you.

Jennifer Sekella

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