Summer Learning Opportunity -Project Based Learning


JMU’s 2019 Content Teaching Academy sessions begin at 8:30 Monday, June 24 and concludes at noon on Friday, June 28.

This year’s topic:

Introduction to Project-Based Learning: The What, Why and How! Open to grades K-12 and administrators

Do you want give students the opportunity to learn core content in a more engaging way?

  • Do you want students to become real-world problem solvers who can adapt those skills to any situation?
  • Do you want to expose students to real world roles and inspire future careers and possibilities?
  • Do you want to easily teach and assess meaningful 21st century skills?
  • Do you want to re-energize your classroom—for both the teacher and student?

Authentic Project-Based Learning will ensure all of this in your classroom!
In this session, participants will explore the delivery model of Project-Based Learning and why it is getting so much attention in the educational world! Participants will learn PBL by engaging in the creative process of developing their own project, step by step, with collaborative support from the instructors and their peers. Along the way, they will learn PBL delivery, management and assessment techniques that will ensure 21st Century skills are being taught along-side their core curriculum. Successful examples from other teachers will be shared and broken down. All participants will receive resources for building future units.  CLICK HERE FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Twice Exceptional (Special Education & Gifted) Conference Offered in July for Resource Teachers

The Virginia Department of Education’s (VDOE) Office of Special Education Instructional Services, in partnership with the Office of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) will sponsor a collaborative special education-gifted education conference on “Twice-Exceptional Learners: Understand Me.” The conference will occur July 18, 2019, at the Westin Richmond in Richmond, Virginia. This conference addresses socio-emotional issues and strategies for understanding and working with twice-exceptional learners.

The conference will only be available to school division personnel. Gifted education and special education resource teachers, counselors, and administrators who provide services to twice-exceptional students are the primary target audience. The conference can accommodate 150 individuals.

The conference will include a keynote speaker, Dr. Claire Hughes-Lynch. Dr. Hughes-Lynch is well known in the field of gifted education for her expertise with twice-exceptional leaners. Her keynote address, “A Story of Happiness and Hope,” will provide insights into understanding twice-exceptional learners. In addition, Dr. Hughes-Lynch will conduct breakout sessions.

There will be a total of four different breakout sessions. Attendees will be able to attend all four of the sessions. Topics will include:

  • Examining biographies and videos as a means to understanding twice exceptional learners
  • Promoting Self-Determination/Self-Advocacy Skills
  • Strategies for Supporting Positive Behaviors that lead to Positive Learner Outcomes
  • Understanding twice-exceptional students learners behaviors as a form of Communication: Find the Root, Solve the Problem

The Virginia Department of Education will assume the cost of registration and lunch the day of the conference. Lodging will be provided July 17 for those traveling more than 120 miles one way as measured from their assigned place of work. Lodging reservations will be made for those traveling more than 120 miles one way to the conference site and if lodging need has been indicated during registration. School divisions are strongly encouraged to cover travel expenses for those who do not meet the threshold as described above as this cost is not assumed by the Department; however, this is not a requirement of the program.


Space is limited and offered on a first-come, first-served basis with consideration given to achieve equity across school divisions until all participant spaces are filled.

Please complete the registration linked below. Acceptance notifications will be sent via email no later than June 7, 2019.

Twice Exceptional Learners Registration

If you have additional questions about the program, please contact Dr. Teresa Lee, Instructional Specialist, Office of Special Education and Instructional Services, at or at (804) 371-8283, or Dr. Donna Poland, Specialist, Governor’s Schools and Gifted Education, at or at (804) 225-2884.

Summer 2019 Conferences Have Been Posted

June 24-25   William and Mary Summer Institute –Williamsburg, VA

Summer Institute is designed for gifted program coordinators, other district and building-level administrators, teachers of the gifted, and all teachers who want to enhance their ability to differentiate appropriately for their gifted and advanced learners.

CLICK HERE to learn more.


June 24-28  Children’s Literature Conference For the Love of an Author—Shenandoah University, Winchester, VA.  .  Participants may receive graduate, undergraduate credits in reading or writing coursework.  Sessions may be audited.   Daily Passes are available for a fee, if you do not want to participate in the entire week.

CLICK HERE to learn more.


July 7-12 Confratute –University of Connecticut –The conference is geared toward providing educators with research-based practical strategies for engagement and enrichment learning for all students, as well as meeting the needs of gifted and talented students.  CLICK HERE to learn more.


July 24-28  World of Possibilities, Gifts, Talents, & Potential, the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children will hold its 23rd conference in Nashville, TN  CLICK HERE to learn more.


July 25-26   Literacy Conference,  Longwood University, Farmville, VA  (graduate credits are available) Focus on Children’s Literature .  CLICK HERE to learn more.

Point of View Adds Complexity to Student Tasks


From Dull To Creative With One Simple Trick

by Ian Byrd  (as posted in a recent e-mail to his subscribers)

To me, the ultimate goal when crafting a differentiated task is something that:

  1. Scales easily, for students who struggle all the way up to our experts. (Read low floor, high ceiling for more explanation)
  2. Requires little teacher prep (of course).
  3. Works across many grades and content areas.
  4. Students do lots of thinking (and talking).
  5. Final products can be different for all students.

A simple way to meet these requirements is to ask students to think from another perspective. If you’re a user of the Depth and Complexity framework, you’ll recognize Multiple Perspectives as a prompt of complexity.

From Dull To Creative

In my presentations, I give this example of a very close-ended and very boring (but very common) question:

What is Brian, from Hatchet’s, main character trait?

  • It’s close-ended because everyone will answer with the same word: perseverance (or a handful of synonyms).
  • There’s no room for creativity or fun final products. Åt most, kids will “back it up with evidence.”
  • It’s boring because students who have mastered this already know how to do the thinking. They’ve done it since 1st grade. There’s nothing making their brain sweat.

Add A Point Of View

One simple trick:

What would Darth Vader think about Brian?

Suddenly we have a question with many right answers. Students who want to go deeper can go deep. There’s suddenly the possibility for lots of cool products (imagine a comic book, a skit, a piece of art, or a short movie), not just a one-word answer.

Bonus: switch Vader to another character (or real person) and the question reinvents itself! What would Hamlet, Susan B. Anthony, or Katniss Everdeen think about Brian?

Click below to read the rest of the post.  Additional ideas are included.  Check out the Byrdseed blog and sign up to receive frequent ideas designed to support gifted instruction.

From Dull To Creative With One Simple Trick

Sensitive and Gifted

Gifted students can show extra sensitivity in varied ways.  While they may be far above level in certain subjects or topics, they may be asynchronous in their development.  It can also be that they simply “feel” certain things more deeply,  The student may become very sad and cry with the inability to finish a task that they love – or may hold in grief at the loss of a loved one because of fear of causing extra stress to other family members.  Strategies to work through these emotions are the lifeline that gifted students need.  One such strategy comes from the following website.

Sensitivity in Gifted Kids


Help Your Students Understand Their Strengths and Interests

Students have strengths and talents in a variety of areas.   The Multiple Intelligence philosophy provides opportunities for students to explore their interests and strengths.  Based on the work of Howard Gardner, students are invited to participate in a variety of discussions and to complete a variety of tasks to help pinpoint areas of personal interest. The eight areas are verbal, mathematical, visual/spatial, bodily, musical, people smart, self smart,  and nature.

The books, Applying Differentiated Strategies Teacher’s Handbook for grades K-2 and Applying Differentiated Strategies Teacher’s Handbook for grades 3-5,  offer excellent resources.  An overview is provided in both books along with a product grid which lists a variety of student generated products.  Charts and questionnaires are provided so that students may pinpoint their areas of strongest interest.

These books may be found in the professional section of all HCPS elementary school libraries.  If your library is missing a copy, please order the book from another library.

Applying Differentiation Strategies


Do you want to try different types of differentiation such as tiered lessons, choice boards, or inquiry learning in your classrooms this year?  The books pictured below are available in the professional section of all elementary school libraries.  The purple book contains K-2 sample lessons.  The green book contains 3-5 sample lessons.  If the copy is checked out of your library, ask your librarian to borrow a copy from another school library.

Tiered Assignments

A tiered assignment has everyone working on the same skill or type of project.  However, the specific tasks vary in difficulty so that your students are all working on “just right” tasks which are not too easy nor are they too challenging.

Below is  a list of tiered lessons available in the books. The lessons are complete and require very little teacher preparation.

For grades K-2

Write Your Own Story (with tiered pre-writing guide sheets)

Schools Now and Then (which includes photographs of classrooms and two levels of reading content)  allows students to compare and contrast classrooms during two times in history.

Goods and Services—provides an opportunity for students to distinguish goods from services.

For grades 3-5

Reading Cubes—has students analyzing the plot of sequence of events from a story with differentiated activities based on Bloom’s taxonomy.

Stickers and Attributes—Students classify stickers.  Process and content are differentiated based on student readiness.

Thirteen Original Colonies—a jigsaw activity based on ability.  Students focus on researching a region of colonial America.  Text is provided for research purposes.


Teaching for High Ability Students

ASCD offers differentiating strategies for high ability students in a classroom setting.  Some of the classroom strategies mentioned to keep all students challenged and engaged are to offer the 5 most challenging problems that will be taught in an upcoming unit FIRST to see if any students pre-test out of needing to start with the basics.  Other strategies like always having enrichment activities prepared and speaking to student interests will help keep students engaged and focused leading to a better learning environment for all. Also, don’t forget high ability students will still need direction and support! Read more about implementing differentiated instruction for our high ability students here: 

Six Strategies for Challenging Gifted Learners

“Encourage high-ability students to take on challenges. Because they’re often used to getting good grades, gifted students may be risk averse” Azzam