Gifted Program

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Purpose

The gifted program’s goals and objectives include using the revised Standards of Learning in the four content areas (i.e. English, mathematics, science, and history) as a framework to plan and implement differentiated instructional services for gifted students designed to match their individual learning needs.  The program follows the local school division’s goals and the local gifted plan for the Nelson County Public Schools.

 Identification

Referrals to the gifted program are ongoing.  School and district identification committees meet twice a year to consider nominations.  The county gifted coordinator gives the Woodcock Johnson III Achievement Test individually as needed.  Other evidence is collected including portfolio work samples, teacher and parent checklists, and test scores. Students qualify by meeting 5 of the 8 criteria by consensus of the committee. Parents are notified of decisions in December and May.  An appeal process is available.

 Program Description

Currently the program serves 150 students in grades K-12 who are identified as gifted in one or more areas of specific academic aptitude.  These specific areas are math, science, and the humanities.  The humanities include the language arts (i.e. reading, writing, & speaking), as well as the study of literature, history, and the history of art, music, & theatre.

The program is designed to offer appropriate curriculum at a moderately challenging level of instruction for students identified as gifted in each academic area.  Five teachers (one in each elementary school, two at the middle school, and one at the high school) are designated as the school gifted coordinators.  The school gifted coordinators work with the full-time county gifted coordinator to assist teachers in enriching the curriculum for all students and in making classroom accommodations for gifted students.  Some accommodations to differentiate for gifted students include flexible grouping practices, open-ended tasks, product options, research and independent study, student self-assessments, higher level thinking questions, and inquiry learning.

The program focuses on students in grades 3-6.  Teachers of gifted students at these grade levels send home reports to parents three times a year detailing the differentiated learning opportunities being provided for their children.

Teachers in the primary grades screen their students for giftedness each spring using a checklist of gifted behaviors.  The county gifted coordinator reviews the checklists and places a copy in each child’s cumulative folder.  In exceptional cases where the need for differentiation is obvious, a student in K-2 will be referred for formal identification.

Gifted students in grades 6-8 are offered opportunities for challenge.  Coordinators and teachers cooperate to match student needs to the services provided.  Students produce The Mustang, the school newsletter, and the literary magazine.  Field trips to Monticello for archaeology, to UVA for physics and astronomy, and to Hampton Roads and the James River with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation serve to extend the middle school curriculum.  Math Counts and the Stock Market Game are offered.  Talented art students (6-8) may apply to attend the Central Virginia Summer Regional Governor’s School Program for Middle School Students Gifted in the Visual Arts.

 

High school students may choose to participate in the Blue Ridge Virtual Governor’s School (grades 9-12), which includes classes in World History, Biotechnology, and Computer Programming.  Other course offerings are Advanced Placement classes in U.S. History, Government, and Calculus, Dual Enrollment classes in English and Biology, and advanced language classes in French and Spanish. Rising juniors and seniors may be nominated by teachers to apply for the Governor’s Foreign Language Academy Program, the Visual and Performing Arts School , as well as the Summer Residential Governor’s Schools, which consist of academic programs in Agriculture; Humanities; Life Sciences and Medicine; Mathematics; Science; and Technology.

Our partnership with Wintergreen Performing Arts, Inc. allows us to bring to the schools high quality performing arts programs to enrich the curriculum for all students.  This fall all sixth-graders read an abridged version of Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado About Nothing, and also studied key scenes from the original Shakespeare text, in preparation for seeing the play performed at the high school.  This high level curriculum tied to the arts benefits all students while also allowing for a concept-based curriculum that can be effectively differentiated for high ability students.

The 6th-grade study of Much Ado focused on language, the concept of “wordplay”, and the various techniques Shakespeare used to bring his characters to life and make their lines memorable.  Students used inquiry to find examples of metaphors, similes, assonance, alliteration, and antithesis in the play, allowing for many open-ended activities that provided an appropriate challenge for all students.  Following the whole class performance of a Shakespeare sonnet in a detailed, physical way that appealed to all kids, the gifted students were further challenged to compose an original sonnet.

Other enrichment opportunities offered to all students include: Young Authors Contest, the Stock Market Game, occasional field trips related to the curriculum, Destination Imagination (a coaching program in creative problem solving), museum learning kits, Jamestown-Yorktown Outreach Programs, and Williamsburg Electronic Field Trips.

 Staff Development

The program undertakes to provide annual staff development in differentiation to all “part-time teachers of the gifted”.  Several teachers attend the Virginia Association for the Gifted Conference in Williamsburg and the Summer Institute for Academic Diversity at UVA each year.  Dr. Kay Brimijoin of Sweet Briar College conducted in-service in differentiation for all elementary school teachers in 2002-03.  A teacher study group on differentiation has been created.

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