Confratute Special Session Descriptions


Let’s Dance: Debut picture book author Valerie Bolling in Conversation with Susannah Richards

Susannah Richards, Eastern Connecticut State University, Willimantic, CT, Special Guest Valeria Bolling
Valerie's Bolling's debut picture book, Let's Dance illustrated by Maine Diaz (Boyds Mills, 2020) is a rhythmic and energetic tribute to diverse children and dances from all over the world that is the 2021 SCBWI (New England) Crystal Kite award winner. This conversation will focus on creating picture books, the role of inclusivity in picture book creation, and how an idea becomes a published book for youth.

Malka Penn Award: Using Literature for Conversations, Learning, & Supporting Human Rights for All

Susannah Richards Eastern Connecticut State University, Willimantic, CT, Special Guest Tracey Lafayette
The Malka Penn Award for Human Rights in Children's Literature is given annually to the author of an outstanding children's book addressing human rights issues or themes, such as discrimination, equity, poverty, justice, war, peace, slavery or freedom. Within these larger themes, the award committee is particularly eager to recognize stories about individuals—real or fictional, children or adults—who have been affected by social injustices, and who, by confronting them, have made a difference in their lives or the lives of others. Two members of the 2021 Awards committee will share the history and relevance of the award, the current winners, and suggestions for how teachers might integrate the Malka Penn award winners, past and present into English Language Arts, History, and/or Humanities courses. You may learn more about the Malka Penn Award at There will be a conference to celebrate this year's award winners in early November.

Solar System to Scale

Glenn Dewell, East Lyme Public Schools, Niantic, CT
This session will explain how students can use an 11" by 17" piece of paper to create an eye-opening illustration of the planets that shows size and distance to the Sun. Skills addressed in the activity include estimation and development of scale models. In addition to the paper, the only tools needed are a pencil and a metric ruler (although I always offer my students the opportunity of adding color to their creation).

Does It Float?

Glenn Dewell, East Lyme Public Schools, Niantic, CT
In this session, you will explore density, one of the most important characteristic properties of matter. You will also hypothesize about whether and how much an object floats, find out what Archimedes discovered about liquids, and find the volume of objects through displacement. This activity can be conducted with some simple kitchen tools like a measuring cup and kitchen scale, or you can use graduated cylinders and laboratory scales.

EDOK: Extended Depth of Knowledge for Gifted and Talented

Erik M. Francis, Maverik Education, Scottsdale, AZ
What is depth of knowledge? How do Webb's DOK Levels describe four different and deeper ways students can develop and demonstrate their learning? What are the EDOK Stages of Development and how can they be used to accelerate and enrich learning for gifted and talented students? Learn how depth of knowledge describes the cognitive demand of academic standards, activities, and assessments and how Webb's DOK Levels can be used with Cook's EDOK Stages to address and assess the unique strengths and skills of gifted and talented students.

Supercharging Invention and Entrepreneurship Education in K through High School

Christine Lawlor King, Connecticut Invention Convention, Hartford, CT
In this session, educators will learn about the power of invention education and creative problem solving! The session will highlight how the invention process meets the needs of all learners and allows students to take control of their learning. Invention education begins with students reflecting on their own lives and identifying problems. Once they identify a problem they are passionate about solving, their self-directed learning begins! Invention Education appeals to all students because it starts with students identifying a problem in their own lives, or the lives of family or friends, rather than being given a problem that already exists, to solve. This compelling premise then inspires students to design a solution (which is often empathetic in nature). Continued coaching can happen outside of the session as educators work with their students to be able to take an invention from inception to completion, having the ability to communicate the process to others.

A Simple Guide to Screen Printing

Vidabeth Bensen & Barbara Forshag, DODDS, Pittsboro, NC
Screen Printing is an art medium that can be taught in all classrooms using two simple methods. In this session, we will demonstrate the paper stencil and the drawing fluid/screen filler methods. We will also introduce topics such as what is Screen Printing, what supplies are necessary and how it can be used successfully in the classroom. Screen Printing is a fun medium that students of all ages can enjoy.

Social Emotional Learning is Not Just a Color Chart

Hal Eisenberg & Allison Teicher-Fahrbach, Windows of Opportunity, Inc./The Eisenberg Leadership Academy, Queens, NY
Social Emotional Learning goes beyond being the latest "buzzword" in education today. It involves creating a system of methods and protocols that allow your students and staff to explore their innate gifts and talents, and the concept of emotional intelligence. We will discuss how to infuse student choice within the Schoolwide Enrichment Model and Social Emotional Learning practices into your school culture, which will support your school's development of a holistic learning approach to education.

The Triad Model and Enrichment Infusion

Allison Teicher-Fahrbach, Windows of Opportunity, Inc./The Eisenberg Leadership Academy, Queens, NY
Creating an exciting and academically-challenging classroom environment can be quite a challenge. It is crucial that students receive differentiated instruction and learning activities that spark their innate passions, whether we are learning online or in-person. This workshop will address how to infuse enrichment activities within the curriculum, through unit and lesson planning, and rubric-based assessment, as well as incorporate different access points to the curriculum through the Triad Model.

Culture in Context

Hal Eisenberg & Allison Teicher-Fahrbach, Windows of Opportunity, Inc./The Eisenberg Leadership Academy, Queens, NY
Within our ever-changing landscape of education, there is always one constant that remains: we are empowering youth to become leaders within the global landscape. As such, it is crucial to develop culturally responsive activities and lessons that support your students' various perspectives, experiences, and act as entry points to student choice and student voice. Through the Schoolwide Enrichment Model, there are countless possibilities to support students with self-advocacy and cultural identity, and this session will provide a toolkit to infuse choice, voice, and gifts and talents into the school culture.

Empowerment Through Authorship

Allison Teicher-Fahrbach, Windows of Opportunity, Inc./The Eisenberg Leadership Academy, Queens, NY
Life is a series of experiences that show us who we are and what we are capable of. In creating a space for student choice and student voice, it is crucial to allow time for students to explore who they are and who they will become. The art of authorship allows for students to craft and strengthen their respective voices, and opens the space for educators and administrators alike to discover what students are going through, thinking, and how students can develop a sense of self-empowerment. We will go step-by-step and discuss how to develop authorship-based Schoolwide Enrichment Projects that have the potential to be published. Above all, your story is your story, and nothing can take that away from you.

From Adversity Comes Progress: How Virtual Learning is Working Well for Gifted and 2e Students

MaryGrace Stewart & Yvonne de St. Croix, IDEAL4Gifted & MA Assoc. for Gifted Ed., Longmeadow, MA
This session shares how one online program for gifted and 2e students born out of the pandemic, has risen to become a means of educating our students in ways that synthesize prominent theories and best practices in gifted education into an exceptionally functional and meaningful gifted education program. The session describes how the program provides highly engaging and significant learning for its students and how it has found ways to build community, social interaction, and support through virtual learning systems for very low cost. The program is currently active across several states. Students can be full-time or part-time, and it is totally focused on their learning needs. Parents and students alike have been thrilled with the program and say that through it they have found new ways to learn, to connect, and find meaning like never before, and the teachers love being a part of it, too. This program helps students who are underserved, often in places where gifted education is not available, and where students cannot get to those services that might be available. If you have questions regarding this presentation, please contact the presenters at dr.stewart@ideal4gifted or dr.destcroix@ideal4gifted.

How to Support and Empower Parents of Gifted Children

Denise S. Fleith, Renata Muniz Prado, & Daniela Vilarinho-Pereira, University of Brasilia, Brasilia, Brazil & Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
Family environment and the quality of parent-child relationships have a significant impact on the adjustment of gifted children. Parents of gifted children may feel isolated and have little support about how to deal with their children's unique characteristics and accomplishments. A need exists for special attention about parenting these students. A preventive intervention for gifted children and their families can help to recognize and address some issues, such as their unique attributes, their learning needs, and the social and emotional impact of their giftedness, especially on the family. This presentation will describe a counseling program for parents of gifted children implemented in a Brazilian university, whose main purpose was to provide parents an opportunity to express concerns and difficulties they face in raising a gifted child, as well as to discuss strategies to be applied in the family context to enhance and cultivate children's talent development. We will also present the results of parents' evaluation of the program with respect to parental needs and practices and family-school relationships.

Resilience and Talent Development in Online Classrooms: Practical Modeling Tools From Sports

Luis Orione de Figueiredo Ferreira, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT
Resilience is important for developing gifted students' talents and enabling them to face the hardships of contemporary life. Researchers suggest the use of specific self-regulating strategies through modeling (imitating the behaviors of inspiring and relevant individuals). These powerful tools can help gifted and talented students to achieve more positive outcomes and increase their sense of self-control across different areas and in different contexts. Modeling self-regulated behaviors can enable teachers to discuss various self-regulated learning tools in their classrooms. Sometimes, smart students need to understand the different ways that highly successful peers study for challenging tests. These students also need to understand how to handle constructive criticism of their work. Teachers have a special role in supporting students to achieve at high levels and using successful models is one way to support talented students in developing abilities to deal with stressful situations, eventually developing better self-regulation and resilience. This presentation introduces teaching practices that focus on fostering high potential in the classroom, using self-modeling tools such as mental imaging that are often used in sports and that may help students to become more resilient.

Socratic Inquiry: A Pedagogy to Address the Social-Emotional Needs of the Gifted in the Classroom

Rick Courtright & Laura Courtright, Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, Chapel Hill, NC
Socratic inquiry can be used not only to enhance critical thinking skills, but also may be adapted to address the social/emotional issues faced by gifted/talented students. Gifted students may experience "vulnerabilities" and encounter difficulties as they develop an understanding of self as gifted and in relationships with others. Focusing on classroom/program applications, the presenters will share strategies for conducting Socratic seminars to explore issues of concern to the students. Socratic discussions centering on the characters/persons being studied through literature or biographies can permit students to openly explore their concerns, fears and issues through civil discourse, while doing so without self-identifying.

Developing Gifted Students’ Critical Thinking Skills: An Essential Imperative

Rick Courtright, Chapel Hill, NC
Giftedness in children, as Anna Marie Roeper described, "… is a greater awareness, a greater sensitivity, and a greater ability to understand and transform perceptions into intellectual and emotional experiences." Greater, that is, than their age mates or peers. Gifted children and youth are growing and developing in an environment that is characterized by an overwhelming amount of information that comes at them from school, peers, social media and the wider society. Their greater awareness means that they perceive more of this information than the typically developing child, and process it to a greater degree. They notice and are aware of things their agemates do not and are not. Their greater sensitivity implies that processing this torrent of information is not emotionally neutral, but often is laden with intense feelings, and coping with them may be more difficult for them than for a typical child. One way for teachers, parents and others to support gifted children as they cope with making meaning of all they perceive is to assist them through instruction in critical thinking skills.

Finding Your Flow: Fostering Creativity through Maker Spaces and Loose Parts Play

Sylvan Taylor, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, Winston-Salem, NC
While gifted learners need appropriate academic challenges, in a world seeking innovators, entrepreneurs, and out-of-the-box thinkers, educators may want to look to the principles of play. This session shares the impact of open-ended "loose parts" play and the intersection of the playwork mindset, maker culture, and best practices in gifted education at a diverse SEM-inspired public magnet school. This session presents research behind play, and how it overlaps with gifted pedagogy, creativity, and the science of innovation, creating a paradigm for play in the gifted field.

Getting out of the Way of Authentic Learning: Student Led Inquiry Through a SEM Lens

Sylvan Taylor, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, Winston-Salem, NC
The presenter will share adventures in implementing the Schoolwide Enrichment Model and supporting students' interests through real-life problem solving. This session will help you consider ways to step aside as your students lead their learning, and to channel your ability to say yes to venturing into the unknown.

If You Build It, They Will Grow: Developing a Strength-Based Curriculum

Lynne Henwood, FlexSchool, Bronxville, NY
Looking for ways to harness the strengths of your gifted and 2e learners? In this session, you will learn how to identify and nurture gifts and talents so your students can build self-efficacy and begin to develop or hone talents. Using best practices from the top minds in gifted education, you will walk away with ideas for infusing creativity, choice, authentic engagement, and collaboration into your units.

Creating Inner Calm and Vitality for Optimum Teaching and Learning

Sandy Bothmer, Peaceable, Brookline, NH
Though the anxiety producing effects of Covid 19 are somewhat quieted these days, they are still present along with the everyday stressors you and your students experience. There is still a need to quiet the body/mind/emotions so that optimum teaching and learning can happen. Join Sandy Bothmer, M.Ed., author of Creating the Peaceable Classroom as she guides you in an exploration of practices that include breathing patterns, spirals and labyrinths, and hand gestures (yoga mudras). You and your students can self-regulate your state-of-being for better teaching, learning and living!

Empowering your Gifted Leaders Through Technology Integration

Bryan Kirby & Jessica Stargardter, Norwalk Public Schools, Norwalk, CT
Enhance your social justice curriculum with technology integration! Come to this session to learn how two teachers are incorporating technology into conversations, assignments, and projects about social issues. With increased access to news sources and social media, students need a place to talk about these issues now more than ever. This session will outline ways to build relationships, inspire student-led discussions, and empower future leaders through a technology-infused, social justice focused classroom.

Curriculum Design for Student Centered Learning: Practical Technology Tips and Tricks

Bryan Kirby & Jessica Stargardter, Norwalk Public Schools, Norwalk, CT
Unlock the key to student centered learning by integrating technology into your curriculum design process. Learn practical tips and tricks that you can try in your classroom this fall! Student centered learning can increase student engagement in a hybrid, remote, and in-person learning environment, while also allowing for easy, worthwhile accommodations for 2e Learners. Hear from teachers who are using these strategies to engage their gifted learners. Participants will walk away with curriculum design tips as well as tons of practical resources!

Next-level School Makerspaces: Igniting Social Activism

Lou Lahana, PS/MS 188, The Island School, New York, NY
Taking Makerspaces to the next-level means departing from its STEAM-for-fun roots and blossoming into a space that ignites students' passion for creating positive change in their worlds. Through compelling student artifacts, interviews, and new approaches to project-based work, Dr. Lahana will provide educators with a blueprint for implementing "Making" for social activism. Integrated into this presentation will be a moving series of videos illustrating their social activism on issues including: Islamophobia, Catcalling, homelessness, and plastic straws.

Equity in Social Emotion Learning amid Covid-19

Shanette Covington, CDMA Business Model, Washington, DC
The Pandemic has led to Equity Shifts in Education. Revealing bias within the Academic Community and largely disproportionate opportunities sparked the need to have Courageous Conversations with the American Federation of Teachers. In this session, we will learn how to Empower Educators and transcend the learning experience through CDMA Business Model proven innovative instructional practices.

Enriching the Writing Process Through an Online Writing Exchange

Jennifer Troester, O'Neill Public Schools, O'Neill, NE
During this session, we will explore how peer review through an online writing exchange between eighth grade student writers and college preservice English teachers influences and enriches the writing process. Too many students enter the school year with limited writing experience and a vague understanding of the writing process. When students participate in this online writing exchange, it assures that they will have a better understanding of the writing process, and more confidence in analyzing their own writing and in themselves as writers. It also makes these students more conscientious of the writing they share with peers because they have a wider audience than just their teacher, motivating them to improve their writing.

Mind Mapping with Minecraft: Digital Research Products

Vanessa Brower, Ector County ISD, LBJ Elementary, Odessa, TX
In this session, we will explore digital research projects incorporating biography studies, notetaking with Mind-Mapping, and using Minecraft Education Edition to produce student video projects.

Gifted with ADHD: A Difficult Intersection

Elizabeth Coyle, Future Problem Solving Program International, Melbourne, FL
Gifted students with ADHD are more likely to become overwhelmed and frustrated when faced with a complex problem than their neurotypical peers. Particularly for students who do not fit the "typical" mold of a student with ADHD, this frustration may present itself as work refusal, outbursts, or underperformance in and out of the classroom. Providing twice-exceptional students with structures and strategies to address overwhelm, and modeling them in your classroom and/or home, gives them the confidence to effectively break down and solve problems while reducing anxiety and overwhelm. In this session, you will learn the physiological, psychological, and societal reasons that students with ADHD experience overwhelm, as well as the results of this chronic stressor both now and in the future. Discover methods to apply effective structure for these students while giving them confidence in their abilities. You will have the opportunity to explore strategies to improve these students' responses to complex problems, and methods that they can use throughout their lives to manage stimuli and face challenges. By teaching students with ADHD these effective tools, they can see that their neurodivergence comes with many strengths and a different perspective from their peers. They will be better equipped to create brighter and more positive futures for themselves and the world around them.

Instantly Play a Rock & Roll Rhythm on a Drum Set and a Home Cooked Drumming Adventure

Bob Bloom, Storrs, CT
Music-making is a captivating activity that builds kids' agility for collaboration and communication. These 10- and 12-minute videos illustrate: If you can say it, you can play it. By using common household items as percussion instruments, and by playing a drum set along with a joyous song, kids' confidence, self-esteem, and innovation skills are enhanced. The sessions include inspiration for kids to make music together with their peers and family members. For more music resources and videos from Bob visit: At the header, click on "Programs."

Tackling Tough Topics – An Arts Integrated Experience

Heather vonOesen Dean, Creative Across the Curriculum LLC, Madison, WI
Tackling Tough Topics – An Arts Integrated Experience—Using an arts-integrated approach to enhance the quality of conversations, reduce barriers, this workshop will highlight ideas and varied voices to use when discussing difficult topics such as wellness, diversity, equity, and inclusion.

To Nurture Creative Problem Solvers: Applying Creative Problem Solving (CPS) Model in the Classroom

LiHong Xie, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT
In this session, we'll explore what creative problem solving (CPS) is, and we'll look at its key steps, using a three-stage creative-problem-solving model as a framework. We'll also provide a set of ideation tools that you can use to help generate creative solutions and facilitate the development of creative thinking.

Not Just for Students: Increasing Competencies for Practitioners Through the Renzulli Learning System

Connie Phelps, Emporia, Emporia, KS
The pandemic required educators worldwide to adopt innovative teaching and learning practices, both in P-12 classroom settings and university teacher preparation programs. With free access to the Renzulli Learning System, P-12 educators and university professionals expanded evidence-based practices through the online interactive enrichment environment. This session describes strategies to increase competencies for P-12 practitioners through the Renzulli Learning Certified Educator course, Profiler, Enrichment Activities, and Flower Design Game in the Renzulli Learning System.