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October 16, 2009

Gifted-and-talented conference for Maryland teachers

Today I sat in on an annual conference for gifted-and-talented educators at Randallstown High School, which drew teachers from throughout the state.  There were a variety of sessions on ways to inspire creativity and critical thinking among students in math, science, reading and other areas - led by teachers from various area school systems. 

The keynote speaker was Dr. Bertie Kingore, a longtime gifted-and-talented educator who also held a session on books and teaching tools.

I thought I'd share some very interesting tips/tidbits from her session and another I attended - some of which could certainly apply to all types of students (or so this non-educator thinks).

A sample of Dr. Kingore's recommended children's books that promote higher-level thinking:

  • First the Egg, Courage and If the World Were a Village for abstract and critical thinking
  • My Dog is as Smelly as Dirty Socks, If... and The Dot for art, visual and spatial concepts
  • Marianthe's Story: Painted Words and Spoken Memories and Winston the Book Wolf for inference
  • If You Hopped Like a Frog, A Place for Zero and Sir Cumference Series for math concepts and terminology
  • The Boy Who Loved Words, Once Upon 1001 Stories, Around the House the Fox Chased the Mouse and Mom and Dad Are Palindromes for oral and written language
  • I Wanna Iguana and Joyful Noise for the concept of point of view
  • Dear Deer (an exercise in homophones) and Pig in the Spigot for skills and written conventions

Kingore emphasized the importance of teachers documenting what they are doing - showing how they are covering the requirements (testing standards) even as they implement more creative strategies.

She also repeatedly reminded teachers to take Saturdays off.

After the reading workshop, I headed over to one whose title grabbed my attention - and evidently, that of the many teachers who crowded into the classroom: "The Singing Math Teacher."

Howard County teacher Marian Dingle showed her peers the art of teaching math concepts to song - and not just your typical "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."

A self-described lover of music, Dingle has called on the likes of Stevie Wonder, James Brown and the Jackson Five to help teach fractions, times tables and geometry. She demonstrated the idea by singing the seven times table, set to Brown's "I Feel Good." While kids usually have a hard time with that particular table, they remember the song - and master the math while also associating it with fun, Dingle said.

Here's Dingle's "Elevens Song," to Ray Charles' "Hit the Road Jack":

Elevens, we'll be fooled by them
No more, no more, no more, no more
Elevens, we'll be fooled by them no more
What you say?
11, 22, 33, 44
55, 66, 77, 88
99, 110
121, 132
(Back to verse)

This, of course, does not do justice to the idea - which Dingle actually demonstrated, singing along to the music. I imagine she'd be willing to take questions or do another demo if you asked; she teaches at Guilford Elementary.

The best part, however, was when she turned things over to her class of teachers, who, in a matter of minutes, came up with clever songs about exponents (to "Silent Night"), area and perimeter ("Farmer in the Dell") and - my personal favorite - geometric shapes (to Beyonce's "Single Ladies"..."A circle is just a great big o, oh-oh, oh, oh-oh, oh, oh-oh-oh...").

Truly creative and entertaining. Wouldn't something like that stick in your head?

Posted by Arin Gencer at 5:26 PM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Around the Region, Baltimore County, Teaching


I'm all about singing in the math classroom - although maybe more like a rapping/cheering math teacher. Many of my kids know all the words to my signature rap, McKennalicious, which is to the tune of Fergilicious (I be up on the calculator working on statistics, dotplots and inference, histograms and boxplots, and kids be lining down the block just to learn the math I got). In addition, my kids KNOW that same side interior angles are supplementary because I do an incredibly obnoxious cheer about it - complete with arm movements and sometimes a kick. Finally, I'm planning on doing this dance: with my kids soon to review how to solve equations.

I honestly have the best job in the world - who else gets to make up silly songs?

GT education is a huge debate... surprised you don't address that here more.

I'm all for tracking (to an extent) in most schools, even at early ages. I think having been in a classroom, it's clear to see how important tracking can be.

However, the thought of this "GT teachers workshop" and the like makes me feel gross. I hate it when I hear from teachers, parents, administrators, etc that certain students "aren't up for that kind of work."

Differentiating instruction is not just taking opportunities away. Lower-level learners should still be presented with opportunities to write, debate, discuss, simulate, etc. But all too often I hear that they aren't ready, there isn't time, etc etc.

If anything, lower level learners need those activities and opportunities more. Yes, they need different instruction and assistance and maybe a restructuring of certain lessons, but they need the opportunities to engage the material as much as anyone.

This has become a bit of a rant. But why are GT teachers having their own special conference? To learn all the things we want to keep away from the 'normal' kids and their teachers? All teachers need to be taught (and reminded) how to engage learners in a variety of ways at all levels. Even in AP classes I've taught there have been struggles with comprehension, writing and, of course, behavior. But I guess the GTers and APers are just special and deserve special lessons.

I believe everyoone would agree (including Dan) that providing the most appropriate level of rigor and challenge for all students (providing the optimal match) is a mutual goal of all educators. There is really no "debate" about that. Teachers that attended the state gifted education conference found the opportunity to hear from leading experts in the field of gifted education, extremely beneficial.

Educators seeking certificaton and graduate degrees in a particular field of education (i.e. Special Education, Gifted and Talented Education, Physical Education) recognize the fact that the instructional needs of students span a very broad spectrum. In this era of minimal standards and 'on grade level' assessments, educators also recognize the importance of making sure that instruction for advanced learners is not marginalized and does not regress to the mean. We must do whatever it takes to develop the talents and nurture the gifts of all of our children.

The MD State GT Conference provides a professional forum for educators to collaborate and share methods for accelerating and enriching curriculum and instruction. Likewise, conferences for Special Education provide the same type of professional collaboration for teachers that specialize in meeting the needs of students that have learning challenges and disabilities.

I find myself wondering what Dan's rant is really all about. I do not believe that "GTers and APers are just special and deserve special lessons". However, I do believe that all students 'at potential' for high levels of achievement and those with learning disabilities deserve instruction that is differentiated to meet their needs.

I envision a day when everyone will support the development of Varsity scholars with the same level of enthusiasm and verve we currently show for the development of Varsity athletes.

My son is a student of Mrs. Dingle and he sings the songs ALL the time when doing his homework. This has been a GREAT way to teach and he loves it!

Most GT student won't need "Sir Cumference" or singing times tables to learn. They are avid learners who are generally many grades ahead of their peers. Did the conference address what to do with a 4th grader who reads at a 12th grade level? True GT education allows GT students to learn at their true grade level not just "creatively" relearn somethihg they already know. Most Maryland schools ( and especially here in Harford County) have no idea what gifted education is all about.

Dismantled in the BCPSS Post @ Gifted-and-Talented conference for Maryland teachers

In the Baltimore City Public School System starting this year(SY)2009-2010 in BCPSS we are without a Gifted-and-Talented central office team of specialist and again back to a one person shop Ms. Bertha Knight.

Nothing to celebrate in our school district about that. We are moving in the opposite direction.

@Dan -
Having kids on both ends of the spectrum (G&T/Magnet as well as special needs/IEP) I would love to see every classroom serving a diverse set of kids where all are welcomed and challenged.

The problem that I've seen is that in many schools teachers, peers and administrators do not value these "different" kids. This leads to bullying from peers and general bad attitudes from teachers and administrators. When that happens, as a parent who cares about my kids, I try to see if I can get things to change - although I've never had any success. At some point you just need to get your kid out of the situation. G&T / magnet programs do that for kids on one end of the spectrum. Laws about FAPE (free and appropriate public education) and IDEA are the way to get changes when kids are on the other end of the spectrum.

My real goal is finding schools that value different kids, from the administration, through the teachers and to the kids who won't tolerate bullies. Schools like that are gems in my opinion.

visit Thomas Jefferson Elementary/Middle, an IB Primary Years Program. I am a teacher there and it is an amazing program.When i have my wn kids, they will go here if possible!

Post @ GT from teacher at Thomas Jefferson Elementary/Middle, an IB Primary Years Program.

Great school enrichment model SEM acknowledgement post from a teacher Ms. Elizabeth McCormick @ Thomas Jefferson Elementary/Middle


I appreciate your response. I wasn't trying to say that GT students don't deserve differentiated curricula or instruction, they certainly do.

But in my experiences both teaching and learning, I have seen 'differentiation' used as an excuse as to why certain students are not allowed to participate in certain activities.

And I'm not even talking about between GT and special needs - of course special needs teachers receive their own training and assistance. I'm simply talking about the differences between GT and the general student population.

As a student, I was in the AP/GT grouping for my entire student career. I loved the challenges and experiences my teachers were able to provide me. And yes, some the instruction and materials may have been too advanced for other students not in our programs.

But as a teacher, I have seen 'on level' students outperform 'advanced' students in many activities when given the chance. When I ask my students to debate and discuss, the advanced students are all to eager to agree with me - while my on-level students are more than happy to really think and push their limits.

Again, certainly differentiation is needed. But too often I hear from other educators that "they don't have time" to use the best activities with their lower- or on-level learners. And I simply don't believe that. The on-level learners need, more than anyone, to be engaged in as many different ways as possible.

@ Smallest Twine: I'm a little late responding, but after checking out that video link...I *really* think you need to record your class doing this dance - and then share it with the rest of us.
Audio of McKennalicious would also be good.

Conference is good thinking for sharing your ideas to other teachers.From that the teachers of Maryland can share openion about student's to other techer.

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