2e Newsletter writes about my session at World Conference

The 2e: Twice-Exceptional Newsletter wrote an article about my session at the World Gifted Conference this pat summer. I wanted to share it with you and encourage you to visit their web site and subscribe to 2e: Twice-Exceptional Newsletter.

From August 10 to 14, 2013, over 500 people from around the world with an interest in gifted learners gathered in Louisville, Kentucky. The event was the 20th Biennial World Conference of the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children. This conference offered educators, parents, and others interested in gifted education the opportunity to share research findings, best practices, and other information with an international community. The following is coverage of one of the sessions offered at the World Conference.

Creating and Facilitating Discussion Groups for Gifted Students

Presented by Terry Bradley, M.Ed.

It was her background as an a elementary school teacher and her role as a parent of gifted children that led Terry Bradley to see a need at her kids’ school and find a way to meet it. As Bradley explained it, her own experiences led her to strongly agree with the idea that gifted children not only think differently, they feel differently; and she wanted others — children as well as teachers — to understand that. This desire to “heighten awareness in others” led Bradley to devise a plan to conduct discussion groups in the school that would provide gifted students with a place to, as she stated, “help them feel normal for the first time.”

Carrying out this plan was a multi-step process that Bradley has refined into what she refers to as the Bradley Method, a model that she believes others can follow to get justification to do what she did. Some crucial steps in the model are gaining support from the administration, teachers, parents, and students. Bradley gave an overview of how she does this.

A way to enlist administrators’ support is to find what Bradley calls a “foothold.” In her case, it was a school improvement team goal, to “enhance the GT program.” She positioned the discussion group as a way to meet this goal. “Everyone’s ‘foothold,’” Bradley stated, “will be different.”

A way to get the support of the teachers, the presenter explained, is to give a brief summary of your intent at a faculty meeting and to ask the teachers to identify students who might benefit from such a group. Bradley emphasized the need for teachers to look beyond grades, and instead to consider the students who are bright but stand apart from the rest — for example, those who ask probing questions, who are highly creative and imaginative, or those who are “quirky.”

Holding an informal meeting with parents and answering their questions is a way to get their buy-in. To help parents feel comfortable with the topics the discussion group will cover and with her as the group facilitator, Bradley sends out an invitation letter explaining who she is and giving a brief explanation of how the group will work and topics they might address. This approach, she explained, is most appropriate for elementary and middle school; not so much for high school, where parents tend to be less directly involved and students tend to make more of their own decisions.

Bradley’s advice for getting student support is to schedule an information meeting that’s “lighthearted and fun — with food.” Then, she recommends, get the group going as quickly as possible afterward, before they lose interest. The first order of business is to build trust, so that members trust one another and trust the facilitator.

Discussion group meetings, she said, should ideally take place 8 to 10 times a semester. According to Bradley, lunchtime often works well. It may be necessary to enlist the help of teachers to excuse the members for 15 to 20 minutes of class before or after lunch in order to provide the 45 minutes of meeting time that seems to be the best length for discussions.

When the group is new, the facilitator should ask members to fill out a card stating what they want to talk about and distribute the results to members so that they can agree on topics to address. Then the facilitator should step aside and let the students do the talking. Other suggestions that Bradley gave for conducting successful meetings included:
• Show respect.
• Use humor.
• Meet students where they are.
• Use selective ignoring (that is, let some things pass).
• Set a rule that no teacher’s names will be used during the discussions.
• Encourage confidentiality.

The presenter pointed out that not all meetings have to be serious. Some meetings can just be games and fun activities. “That’s valuable, too,” she stated. It’s also beneficial to do group-building activities. One example she gave is taking the temperature of each
member of the group, asking them to tell the group where they fall within a range of emotions and why.

Bradley emphasized that “you don’t have to be a counselor to do this.” It’s affective education, not counseling, she explained. The goal is “not to fix kids, just to normalize who they are and how they’re feeling.” While some students may need counseling, the discussion groups are not for that purpose.

Bradley found the discussion groups for gifted students to be so successful and rewarding that she kept leading them after her children were no longer involved. In an effort to increase her understanding of the affective needs of the gifted, Bradley returned to school to earn a master’s degree in gifted education and is now the Talented and Gifted Advisor at a high school in Colorado. There she continues to run discussion groups for the school’s large gifted population and work as an education consultant.

Popular Topics for Discussion Groups

Here are some of the topics that Terry Bradley has found popular in her discussion groups:
• Perfectionism
• Stress
• Friendships
• Relationships
• Image/popularity
• Sensitivity
• Introversion/extroversion
• Values
• Sadness/depression.

Written by and reprinted with permission from the September/October, 2013 issue of 2e: Twice-Exceptional Newsletter. Copyright © 2013 Glen Ellyn Media. For more information about the newsletter, see www.2enewsletter.com.

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