Author Archives: arisutton

About arisutton

Graphic Designer Writer Editor Illustrator Brand Identity Development/Support

Reflections on the Morning the Students Return to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

I had some tears in my eyes this morning on my drive into work while listening to some children being interviewed on the morning they return to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Here are some thoughts that have been going through my head.

First, I want people to know that–despite interviewers suggesting that there would be no teaching today–teachers don’t just teach about math, English, history, science, and the elective subjects. Social-emotional learning is perhaps the most important aspect of teaching. I can’t imagine what my peers at that school will say to their students this morning, but you can be sure that teaching and learning will be happening whether or not common core or Florida core content is ever mentioned all day. Additionally, teaching and learning is not a linear path from teachers to students. Teachers learn a lot from their students every day, and I am sure that today will not be an exception.

To the Florida Legislature who voted to arm teachers, I want to say that I will never own a gun nor carry a concealed weapon at school. It is precisely because I love my students that I will not be a part of introducing more guns into the school environment. If gun-free zones are less safe than places that allow or encourage concealed guns, then why are law-abiding citizens not allowed to bring them into government buildings? Better get rid of those metal detectors that are making our government officials less safe. Legend has it that even Joe Gallo, the mobster from the Colombo crime family, understood that guns don’t make kids safer. Bob Dylan wrote of Gallo, “It was true that in the later years, he would not carry a gun. ‘I’m around too many children,’ he’d say. ‘They should never know of one.” Unfortunately, our children know all too well about guns today, and I don’t want to contribute to that area of knowledge.

While on the topic of loving students, I want to say that I am offended by the suggestion that police and sheriff officers, who work in the schools, don’t love or care about the students. At our school, the sheriff’s deputy interacts with all our students and goes out of his way every single day to let students know that he cares. He consistently demonstrates a high level of love and caring for the entire school, and he is one of the most valuable members of our community. While we have a very loving staff, it is safe to say that no teacher here loves our students more than he does. It turns out that deputies are like other people, including teachers. Some love, care, and support students in every way, while others don’t. It is unfair to suggest that because someone is a teacher that s/he is more likely to love the students than anyone else who interacts with and supports them.

One last thought, I am encouraged by the strength and courage shown by today’s students. While people expend a lot of effort criticizing the youth and young adults of today, I find them to be the kind of people that will help bring the change that is so badly needed in our society. Kurt Vonnegut once said that true fear is waking up one day and learning that the people you went to school with are now running the country. With this generation, instead of fear, I welcome the day that they are ready take over.


Leave a comment

Posted by on February 28, 2018 in Uncategorized


Using Phonological and Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, and Prosodic Reading in Art Classes

Once again, this was written for a reading endorsement class. I am posting my thoughts for anyone who is looking to support reading from he art classroom.


It seems that phonological awareness and phonemic awareness differ mostly in their degree of specificity. Phonological awareness is acknowledging in general that words are made up of sounds, which can be manipulated to form other words. It happens in listening, not reading. Pence-Turnbull & Justice (Pence Turnbull & Justice, 2012) write, “Phonological Awareness is an individual’s ability to attend to the phonological unites of speech through implicit or explicit analysis. We can examine an individual’s phonological awareness using a variety of simple tasks (which are typically presented orally, so that a person must listen to the phonological unties and not read them)” (p.80). Similarly, our reading suggests, “Phonological awareness is the ability to identify, think about, and manipulate sounds in spoken language without using text” (Phonics and Phonological Awareness Article.pdf, p. 1). The key to understanding phonology seems to be that the person can hear and use sound differences without necessarily identifying them as individual phonemes of a particular language.

Conversely, “Phonemic awareness involves the understanding that words are made up of individual sounds, or phonemes, and the ability to manipulate these phonemes either by segmenting, blending, or changing individual phonemes within words to create new words” (Phonics and Phonological Awareness Article.pdf, p. 1). “When an individual is able to attend explicitly to the individual phonemes in words…he or she is said to have phonemic awareness” (Pence Turnbull & Justice, 2012, pp. 80–81). Hence, while both phonological and phonemic awareness are about understanding that words are made up of sounds, phonemic awareness is more specific in that one with phonemic awareness can identify and manipulate specific phonemes within words.

Two ideas/plans

As an art teacher, I try to help support reading and other content area needs throughout my curriculum. I currently teach grades 2–5 and three middle school electives. The first plan will describe using phonics and phonemes into a grade 3 lesson, which is when children are transitioning from learning-to-read to reading-to-learn. The second plan will support middle school students who are reading-to-learn, but still need support in developing thier phonemic awareness and literacy skills.

Plan 1 for Grade 3 lesson: During one of my third-grade lessons that was originally designed to support North American history across the third-grade level, the students learn about the influence that the Europeans had on making pottery in the part of the continent now known as Mexico. I introduce the terms pre-Columbian art and post-Columbian art along with some other challenging vocabulary words for this project. Phonics education is designed to make connections between letter sequences and phonemes. For the purpose of developing the students’ phonological awareness, I say the words before putting them up on the projector to be read. While I say them, I stress the sounds that make up the words. I have the students repeat the sounds so that when I put up the slide, they will already be aware of the sounds, and they can start connecting them to the letters they see on the projector. In this lesson, I go beyond phonemic awareness and ask the students if they can identify the morphemes—the roots and affixes that make up the vocabulary terms—to see whether they can derive meaning by which they can begin decoding the words. For pre- and post-Columbian art, I often get responses about Columbia rather than about Columbus. This lexicon error gives me an opportunity to talk more about the geography and historical development of the region. Conversely, the students usually recognize the pre- and post- prefixes. Therefore, once they understand that Columbian refers to Christopher Columbus, they can generally derive the meaning of the terms.

The grapheme to phoneme correspondence and phonological awareness parts of the lesson doesn’t stop with the vocabulary words. In designing their pottery, I ask the students to build vessels using pre-Columbian methods (the techniques used in Central America before the introduction of the potter’s wheel from Europe), but to design their pots in post-Columbian style like the artworks of modern Mexico. I include the names of contemporary Mexican artists, like Mata Ortiz, with some exemplars in the lesson because the phonemes and morphemes of Mexican-Spanish language sound different than American-English phonemes. Hopefully, this helps any ELLs in my classes from Spanish-speaking countries to hear the differences in pronunciation thereby raising their phonological and phonemic awareness of the differences between Spanish and English phonemes.

One last element to this lesson that is designed to support literacy is that the students must build their name as a relief feature onto the surface of their pots or other vessels. Doing so helps support the correspondence of the phonemes that make up their names to the alphabetic symbols needed to spell them. I find that being able to manipulate the physical letters also helps the students at this grade level who are still reversing letters like “b” and “d” when they write.

Plan 2 for middle school elective: My middle school electives that most lend themselves to supporting reading are my digital art and design class, and my cartooning and caricature elective, though I include literacy in my other electives as well. This year, I used both classes to support a struggling reader, which prevented her from needing to be pulled out of electives that she enjoys for reading interventions. This plan will describe how I support reading through phonics in the cartooning and caricature elective.

For this class, my students are primarily learning about the connections between art and literature through SVS (sequential visual storytelling). While there are smaller projects along the way, the main goal of the class is for the students to write/draw their own graphic novels using SVS that follow a “Hero’s Journey” pattern as defined by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949). This being the objective of the class, we explore many stories along the way and identify the parts that reflect various portions of the hero’s journey. In each story, we also look at the historical archetypes that are present in the tale and compare then to Carl Jung’s identification of historical archetypes.

During the storytelling-based lessons, we sometimes do read aloud sessions where the students have an opportunity to read parts of the story. I try to ensure that they read with fluency, including automaticity and appropriate reading speed, when they read, and support them individually when I see them struggle. I am sensitive that some struggling readers are not comfortable reading in front of their peers, so I do not force public reading. For those, I work on reading more privately in one-on-one sessions.

I also read to them. When I read, I try to enunciate the various phonemes and point out important morphemes to promote phonological and phonemic awareness. I already make my thought processes transparent about understanding content and vocabulary; therefore, I can also illuminate my processes for decoding words and linking/manipulating sounds as I read to the students.
While reading, I also use the punctuation in exaggerated fashion to help the students develop prosodic reading, which studies have shown help support silent reading as the inflections of speech tend inform meaning.

This year, when I teach the lesson, I plan to incorporate a Reader’s Theater strategy where the students, working in small groups take a story from an existing graphic novel, turn it into a script, and act out their script during the class. During the reading, I will ask them to enunciate the phoneme blends clearly, and to read with emotion to help other students with comprehension. When writing their scripts, I will require the students to choose words and phrases that have a strong rhythmical quality and/or a strong voice. I can assist them in this area through the use of exemplars and by walking around as they work suggesting rhythmic phrases. These things are said to help with prosodic reading, phonological and phonemic awareness, and reading comprehension (Paige, Rasinski, & Magpuri-Lavell, 2012).


Paige, D. D., Rasinski, T. V., & Magpuri-Lavell, T. (2012). If fluent, expressive reading important for high school readers? . Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 56(1), 67–76.

Pence Turnbull, K., & Justice, L. (2012). Language development from theory to practice. . Boston: Pearson.

Phonics and Phonological Awareness Article.pdf. (n.d.). Retrieved from scps.instructure:


Tags: , , , , , ,

Phonology, Syntax, Semantics, and Pragmatics

This blog post is from my response to a discussion board in my reading endorsement class. It is slightly modified for my readers who don’t have the benefit of seeing the question and overview. The purpose of the discussion board was to discuss four areas of oral language development as they apply to early literacy.

Before discussing the importance of each of the four topics (phonology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics), I would like to comment about overall oral language development.

Considering that the earliest language instruction is passive—meaning it comes from the experience of listening (hearing really) to how family and community members use language, it seems that the first important step in literacy development is oral language expression used around babies and preschool-aged children. According to the research by Hart and Risley (1995), there is a drastic difference between a child’s language opportunities and her/his family’s socioeconomic status. They write, “In 4 years of such experience, an average child in a professional family would have accumulated experience with almost 45 million words, an average child in a working-class family would have accumulated experience with 26 million words, and an average child in a welfare family would have accumulated experience with 13 million words” (p. 198). If accurate, that means that children from the highest SES families have about 32 million more quality word experiences than children born into poverty by the time they enter kindergarten. These numbers are based on two and a half years of research observing the interactions between families of youngsters between birth and school age of various economic statuses. If oral language experience and development is critical to early literacy—and Hart and Risley’s research is still valid—then educators are challenged to figure out how to make up a loss of millions quality language experiences for our students who come from lower SES families. This is food for thought about this critical stage of early literacy. I would love to hear from some of my cohort who teach children from lower SES families how they deal with early language deficits based on limited experiences. Does this factor into your decisions?

According to Language Development from Theory to Practice, phonology is the process of breaking down language into discrete sounds called phonemes. SAE (Standard American English) has 39 phonemes or sounds that combine to make about 100,000 words (Pence Turnbull & Justice, 2012, p. 22). The assigned reading states, “Children learn to talk without being consciously aware of individual phonemes…” (Oral Language Reading Selection(1).pdf: 8972_Comp1_Summer2017, p. 11). This means that it is necessary to make children phonologically aware for them to transition from learning to listen and talk to learning to read and write.

Syntax is about the rules governing how words are put together to form phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and beyond (Oral Language Reading Selection(1).pdf: 8972_Comp1_Summer2017, p. 11). Like phoneme use, syntax begins unconsciously. Children and other language learners begin forming sentences by mimicking experiences from other, more proficient, language users. This occurs before they are aware of how the rules work. In my personal and teaching experience, even children with various developmental and cognitive disabilities learn to form sentences by scripting from the language they have heard from various language experiences before they understand the rules—or even the vocabulary—necessary for developing original sentences. This explains why they sometimes express well-formed sentences that are not meaningfully related to the current situation. Or, as Pence-Turnbull and Justice (2012) write, “Consideration of Chomsky’s proposition that Colorless green ideas sleep furiously illustrates the difference between semantics and syntax, in which a sentence is devoid of meaning but conforms to sophisticated syntactic rules” (p. 24). In other words, the child misunderstands the meaning of the words or combinations of words, but still can put them in a meaningful order. Syntactic awareness takes automatic syntax and makes in useable.

Semantics is the area of literacy learning where the sentences and word phrases become meaningful. In the semantic system, meaning extends beyond individual words to include “…phrases, sentences, discourse and whole text” (Oral Language Reading Selection(1).pdf: 8972_Comp1_Summer2017, p. 11). Sometimes words have multiple meanings. Without the semantic skill of deriving meaning from the context of a sentence or phrase, it may not be possible for developing readers to comprehend what they are learning. One example that I frequently employ is the word pitch, which means different things across the many school content areas. In PE, it is a thrown ball or golf shot. In math, it means the slope of a line. In economics, a pitch is a way to sell a product or service. In engineering and science, pitch is another word for tar. In music, it represents the highness or lowness of a note. And, in art, pitch is related to value, meaning how light or dark a specific hue compares to other hues in the artwork. Without a significantly developed semantic system, it is impossible to understand the meaning of the pitch in the various contexts in which it may be used in school texts. Going back to the Chomsky sentence from above, semantical awareness also helps a child understand that there is something wrong with the phrase despite its correct grammatical form (Pence Turnbull & Justice, 2012).

“Pragmatics (use) pertains to the rules governing how language is used for social purposes” (Pence Turnbull & Justice, 2012, p. 24). There are three areas where understanding pragmatics is important for language learners. They must learn how to express intentions, to communicate during conversations, and use language that adheres to social conventions. Pragmatics can involve additional aspects like language register, cultural awareness and responsiveness, and even body language.

Like phoneme and syntax use, low-level pragmatics comes automatically from experiences in social situations. However, educators must not assume that students have sophisticated pragmatic systems down automatically. The reading states, “…many educators: ‘had been operating on the belief that the semantic, syntactic, and pragmatic cues were straightforward and familiar to children, and, because of this, were wholly available for use in finessing the graphophonemic system’” (Oral Language Reading Selection(1).pdf: 8972_Comp1_Summer2017, p. 12). Instead of teaching literacy under that deficient assumption, it is important to move the children from their automatic understanding of these important areas of oral reading readiness toward understanding them on a more cognitive level.

Ruby Payne, for one, recognizes this idea in her work demonstrating that different groups of children may be unaware of the language register shifts that need to take place for kids to be successful in school (Payne, n.d.). Students sometimes know when to socially switch codes from the casual register they are using with their friends to a more intimate register that they use with their mother, but they may not recognize when and where schools require formal register since schools are a place where many registers can be used correctly. Language register code changing also requires the student to make a shift in the grammatical rules from their local informal dialect to SAE. Therefore, educators need to be cognizant about the pragmatic shifts that take place in various school-related social situations, and must illuminate the rule changes for the children to apply them properly to different social and learning literacy situations.

To tie it all together, while these four areas are essential for language and literacy learning, without knowing that all the students in our classes have had beyond the most basic introduction to oral language literacy at home, teachers need to find ways to compensate in several ways. We must provide some additional language experiences to supplement what is missing. These experiences should be designed to help the students develop automatic phonology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. In my estimation, we can never fully make up for millions of missed language experiences that some children have lost in relation to others in our classes. However, we should not write curriculum based on the assumption that the students have all had the same opportunities either. Once the students demonstrate that they can use phonology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics automatically, there is a need to illuminate the processes for them so that the students can begin to transition from learning how to listen, talk, and converse in social situations to learning how to use these skills cognitively for learning to read and write. It involves ensuring that the children can develop phonologic and graphophonemic awareness to attach letters and other symbols to their spoken language skills.


Hart, B., & Risley, T. R. (1995). Meaningful differences in the everyday esperience of young American children. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Company.

Oral Language Reading Selection(1).pdf: 8972_Comp1_Summer2017. (n.d.). Retrieved from SCPS instructure:

Payne, R. (n.d.). Understanding and working with students and adults from poverty. Retrieved from Homepages :

Pence Turnbull, K., & Justice, L. (2012). Language development from theory to practice. . Boston: Pearson.


Tags: , , ,

Understanding the Intelligence of Black American Girls for Gifted Identification

Charles Sutton
Galileo School for Gifted Learning
Level 7 Learning

Evans-Williams (2014) wrote a journal article chronicling the specific challenges that the special population of Black American girls face for identification and retention in gifted and talented programs. Her article starts by looking at the statistics, showing that Black American girls are underrepresented by approximately 40% in current GT programs based on their numbers in the general population. That means that there were—at the time of publication—in excess of 100,000 students in this subgroup that are underserviced. Williams (2014) describes—according to the available literature—that cultural intelligences of being Black, being female, and also frequently falling into the low SES group as well are not valued in the selection process or curricular activities typically used to recognize and teach gifted and talented students. These additional intelligences as demonstrated by the subgroup include resiliency and developing a bicultural identity. This paper will explore these two kinds of intelligence, and suggest ways to raise their value in the GT selection process.

This article was chosen because it discusses three groups of students who are frequently biased against in the current system. African Americans and other Black Americans are among the lowest groups selected from regardless of gender or SES. There are a plethora of studies about the many causes of the achievement gap between Whites and Blacks in general, and that gap gets even wider when it comes to recognizing gifts and talents (U.S. Department of Education, 2009) (Carlton-Parsons, 2001) (Cavilla, 2013). Similarly, while it is popular to talk about how boys are now doing more poorly in school than girls, the truth is that any educational gains made by girls is not due to advantage or privilege built into the school community or curriculum as was the case for White boys. Rather, it is simply that, for a number of reasons, girls have raised their achievement levels (Mead, 2006). Closing a gap is not always about the group that is ahead losing skills or privilege. It can be, as in the case of overall achievement, that the lower group is making advancements. Yet, girls as a group are still underrepresented in gifted education programs. Finally, SES affects socialization, actualization, parental involvement, hierarchy of needs, and a wide variety of things that make children underperform in school (Beegle, 2003) (Payne, n.d.). Therefore, Black girls who come from low income families are battling all three biases built into the selection system (Evans-Williams, 2014). As a result, suggesting solutions to help these students will possibly have a positive affect on three underrepresented subgroups. That is why this study was selected for review.

Two areas of intelligence and talent that Evans-Williams (2014) discusses in her study are worth looking at for solutions. She cites several papers that suggest that Black American girls have superior resiliency over other subgroups. Resiliency comes from the fact that despite the cultural- and gender-related challenges they face, many go on to complete school successfully (Evans-Williams, 2014). Yet, how can one look at resiliency in terms of currently accepted identifiers for giftedness? Perhaps resiliency can be seen as a form of task commitment. According to Renzulli (n.d.) task commitment is one of three rings of giftedness that also include creativity and traditional intelligence. Typically, task commitment is about having the ability to concentrate one’s efforts to do in-depth work on a particular project. Resiliency, on the other hand, is about having the ability to make it through life. If educators begin to look at life for students as an ongoing project, then resiliency is a form of task commitment as it is responsible for meeting goals, much like the goal of completing an academic or creative project.
The other intelligence to consider is biculturalism (Evans-Williams, 2014). Accordingly, Black American girls have the ability to switch from their home and community culture to the White, middle-class, European-based, dominant culture of public schools and back again better than other subgroups. Payne (n.d.) suggests that code switching is a sign that a student understands that there are different cultural expectations in different situation. Like switching language registers when one is in different social groups, bi- or multi-cultural code switching suggests high awareness and intelligence. Therefore, as Evans-Williams (2014), it should be considered when selecting students for gifted and talented services.

Studying Black American girls is a good way to be able to untangle the weave of biases caused by being a part of two or three different underrepresented subgroups. As a result, Evans-Williams (2014) study is an important one for developing a discussion about the topic, and there should be additional studies with this group. Both resiliency and biculturalism are clearly kinds of intelligences that are not evaluated in current systems, which continues to have a White, male, European bias. Recognizing that these skills can be used for more advanced forms of intelligence and creativity, educators should add them to the more traditionally accepted educational values used in the selection and retention processes.


Beegle, D. (2003, October/November). Overcoming the silence of generational poverty. Talking Points, 15(1),


Carlton-Parsons, E. (2001, December). Using power and caring to meidate White male privilege, equality, and

      equity in an urban elementary classroom: Implications for teacher preparation. The Urban Review, 321–338.

Cavilla, D. (2013). Thoughts on access, differentiation, and implementation of a multicultural curriculum. Gifted

      Education International, 30(3), 281–287.

Evans-Williams, V. E. (2014). Are Black girls not gifted? Race, gender, and resillience. Interdisciplinary Journal

      of Teaching and Learning, 22–30.

Mead, S. (2006, June). The evidence suggests otherwise. Education Sector, 1–21.

Payne, R. (n.d.). Understanding and working with students and adults from poverty. Retrieved from Homepages

Renzulli, J. (n.d.). Renzulli’s three-ring conception of giftedness. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Education. (2009). Achievement gaps: How Black and White students in public schools

      perform on the national assessment of educational progress. Washington, DC: Institute of Education Sciences.
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 13, 2016 in Education, Gifted learning


Tags: , , , , ,

Using Mediation in a Gifted Learning Program

Charles Sutton
Galileo School for Gifted Learning
Level 7 Learning

Since this class is about guidance and counseling of gifted learners, I decided to take a look at the process of mediation to determine how—if at all—it can be used to improve learning environments for gifted and talented students. This paper will start by briefly explaining the history and defining the role of a mediator in education, and then apply mediation theory to gifted education. I will also take a look at some of the relevant literature related to using mediation with gifted students.

The concept of mediation in education came about from Feuerstein’s work with students who survived the Holocaust (Rodriguez & Bellanca, 2007). Mediation is a rejection of the behaviorist ideas about learning. It builds on Piaget’s learning model where the learner is metaphorically placed between a stimulus and a response. In Piaget’s model, the lesson stimulus, whether it be auditory, visual, or kinesthetic, reaches the learner who then responds by processing the materials. However, Feuerstein noticed that this model was somewhat deficient for his special learners—the survivors. Without parents or teachers to work as intermediaries between the stimulus and the learner during their formative years, the lesson delivered via a stimulus didn’t necessarily reach the student in a way that was useful. Additionally, once the lesson reached the child, s/he did not have the skills available to ensure a learning response. Therefore, Feuerstein postulated that in early learning, every stimulus and response needs a mediator until the child learns to do that on his/her own. “This mediator is a person who captures the stimuli that bombard a learner every day, strains the stimuli, and helps the children develop their own way of filtering those stimuli that promote learning from those that distract” (Rodriguez & Bellanca, 2007, p. 17). By that definition, certainly twice-exceptional students with specific learning disabilities—for example—who are distracted by the many stimuli in a classroom could use mediators to help them process information so they can weed out the distractions from the curriculum. Then, the mediator can help the student process the stimulus into a learned response.

Smith (2002) suggests that applying CBI, cognitive-behavioral interventions, for behavior deficits exhibited by gifted students can also help them learn how to use mediation to monitor and control their own behaviors. He writes, “CBI incorporates behavior therapy…and cognitive mediation (e.g., think-alouds) to build what can be called a new ‘coping template’” (Smith, 2002, para. 3). First the mediator teaches the child to process the negative stimulus that is causing the problematic behavior, and then s/he mediates the response for the student. As the child begins to learn how to use the mediating steps himself/herself, then the mediator is no longer needed and the child can use CBI to moderate and control negative behaviors without intervention.

While Feuerstein’s method of mediated learning was exclusively used in the beginning to work with children who never

had an adult to help them mediate stimuli and responses—and that is not necessarily the problem for gifted learners—there is a place for it in working with gifted and talented students. Twice-/multi-exceptional students may be bombarded by an influx of stimuli that they cannot successfully parse without having an active mediator. Also, gifted students who have behavior issues may learn to control them by using mediation through CBI. Therefore, there is good reason to practice mediation in gifted and talented programs along with guidance and counseling.


Rodriguez, E., & Bellanca, J. (2007). What is it about me you can’t teach?: An instruction guide for the

      urban educator (Second Edition ed.). Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press.

Smith, S. W. (2002, August). Applying cognitive-behavioral techniques to social skills instruction.

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 12, 2016 in Education, Gifted learning


Tags: , , ,

Career Counseling for the Creatively Talented Student

Charles Sutton
Galileo School for Gifted Learning
Level 7 Learning

As an art and design teacher, it is important for me to consider what aspect of guidance and counseling for gifted and talented students applies most directly to my own classroom and students. While the social, emotional, and academic well-being of the students is a primary concern, career counseling may top them in that one of the important goals of—and justifications for—art and design education programs relates to career preparation. Further, counseling takes place in the present, but there are also long term goals that must be considered when working with students. Therefore, the topic of this paper is about the importance of counseling gifted and talented students about arts-related careers.

Parents and other adults often recommend that children should move their professional interests away from arts careers because they are concerned about the child being able to earn a proper living wage as an adult. In 2014, Graeme Payton, the Education Editor for The Telegraph newspaper wrote an article stating that, according to Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, “…too many teachers are… [encouraging students to make art and humanities] choices at school that ultimately holds them back for the rest of their life” (Payton, 2014). Instead, Morgan suggested that students should be pushed more toward STEM careers. Two days later, Phelps (2014) responded in an editorial, citing much information about happiness leading to success, careers in the arts, and the percentages of top CEOs with arts and humanities degrees. This has been an ongoing debate for a long time. Is it appropriate to counsel children—even those with relevant, innate talents—to pursue arts education and art-related careers? How should one counsel these creative students in terms of making career choices? This paper will endeavor to answer some of those questions. </p?

First, to address Morgan’s concerns about the need for people in STEM careers, pursuing the arts is hugely helpful toward that goal. Specifically, engineers need to be able to design and innovate, and art and design skills are essential ingredients for good product development. Additionally, the main reason cited that companies hire outside consulting firms has become innovation, which is an offshoot of art and design. “The biggest single trend we’ve observed is the growing acknowledgment of innovation as a centerpiece of corporate strategies and initiatives. What’s more, we’ve noticed that the more senior the executives, the more likely they are to frame their companies’ needs in the context of innovation” (Kelley & Littman, 2001). Do they hire engineer firms or other STEM-related business for coming up with unique ideas? Sometimes, but more often the hire companies like IDEO—which is a design company—to help them think of innovative products and processes to help their companies grow. In the future, many of those innovations will come from within the company, and students with degrees in art and design will fit into those careers naturally.

This is an important concept for gifted and talented education and for those who counsel these students. Gifts and talents are great to have, but if they are not nurtured and practiced, they will not lead to lucrative careers. Arieti (1976) explains about the relationship between genius and talent. He claims that they are not the same, in fact they have an antagonistic relationship. However, the acknowledged genius—one who has superior gifts—also has talents that needs to be developed. Aritei (1976) writes, “But the genius also has talent, and the development of his talent enables him to objectify his creativity and render it permanent” (p. 341).
Similarly, Malcolm Gladwell (2008) discusses innate talent. He acknowledges its existence, but also says that it is not enough. Students with gifts and talents need to nurture and develop them in order to be successful. He cites evidence from a study conducted at Berlin’s Academy of Music that sought to determine what made the difference between talented amateur piano players and professional pianists. Regardless of gifts and talents exhibited early on, only those that put in at least 10 thousand hours of practice time were able to make the leap from sufficient to professional status. He writes

        The striking thing about Ericsson’s study is that he and his colleagues couldn’t find any “naturals,” musicians who floated effortlessly to the top while practicing a fraction of the time their peers did. Nor could they find any “grinds,” people who worked harder than everyone else, yet just didn’t have what it takes to break the top ranks. Their research suggests that once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works (Gladwell, 2008, p. 39)

Gladwell’s (2008) book cites examples over and over again from a wide range of professional fields that the difference between innate talent and professional-level skills is approximately 10 thousand hours of practice time utilizing those skills. We have students in gifted and talented programs with high IQs or extreme talents in many fields—including art and design—but if we do not counsel them to practice and perfect those skills, then their gifts may end up being squandered. Furthermore, gifted and talented students may have the task commitment that it takes to put in the 10 thousand hours of practice time, but if we do not specifically counsel them toward a profession in which their talent is useful and desired, then we may not be fully preparing them for college and career.

It is imperative that school counselors and content area teachers perform the role of career counselors as well. Mayes and Hines (2014) conducted a study about the importance of career counseling for African American girls who are identified as gifted and talented. They wrote, “…school counselors must facilitate college and career development activities and disseminate information to prepare gifted African American girls for postsecondary education” (p. 35). Their focus is specifically on African American girls because they are an underrepresented subgroup in gifted and talented programs and often ill prepared to succeed once they are selected based on biases built into the system. However, the point in their paper about counseling applies not only to the students in their study, but also to all gifted and talented students in general who need career goals in order to develop their talents into professional-level skills. The study continues about how children should be counseled to foster career development. Career assessment tools can be used to “…help students match their personalities with potential jobs, careers, college majors, etc.” (p. 37). This may be a key to understanding that aside from the few students who have overall giftedness, most students have talents in specific areas. Those who are talented in the arts and design should be identified and encouraged toward careers in that direction.

Similarly, Elijah (2011) writes about the main functions of a school counselor for gifted and talented students saying counselors should, “…monitor student academic progress and provide guidance with appropriate course selection, career planning, post-secondary educational options, and special programs and enrichment opportunities” (p. 5). Wood (2009) suggests that that career counseling may be even more important for students who are multitalented or overall gifted. These students have a richness of possibilities from which to choose. They may be drowning in career choices, and this multiplicity of choice may cause them to freeze due to the “Fear of making the ‘wrong’ decisions, not finding the ‘right’ college, fear of disappointing others, or failure to find the ‘perfect’ career [which] may create procrastination of the college and career search or the choice of a ‘safe’ college major” (p. 8). However, if Gladwell (2008) is correct, then the students need to make an early choice to get that professional level of practice and talent development. Therefore, they need to be counseled toward one of the many possible gifts and talents in order to meet their potential. There simply is not enough time to develop multiple talents to professional level, and trying may make it that none of the students gifts are adequately strengthened through practice. Alternatively, making a safe career choice in the case of gifted students is a form of underachievement; so, school professionals need to help the student understand that they have potential for much higher than making safe decisions. However, students also need to know that they may only be able to achieve professional-levels of talent if they are prepared to put in the work at an early age and to continue developing skills through college. For student’s whose strongest talents are in the arts, counselors and teachers should not shy away from making the development of those skills the focus of career training.

Gladwell (2008) concludes, “We are caught in the myths of the best and brightest and the self-made that we think outliers spring naturally from the earth” (p. 268). He cautions that although there is innate giftedness and talent, that if we do not recognize the need to nurture it, then it will never amount to more than it is. Success for gifted and talented students means that one needs to identify talents and potential early, and to provide means for putting in the hard work that is required to make that inborn-talent reach professional levels for the students to reach their potential. Even though many gifted students have the ability for great task commitment, they may become lost in the multiplicity of talents, or they may not see the benefits for developing talents in the creative arts. That is where school counselors and teachers can help these children realize that they need to foster and practice their talents, whatever those gifts are, if they want to become successful, professional adults.


Arieti, S. (1976). Creativity: The magic synthesis. New York: Basic Books Inc., Publishers.

Elijah, K. (2011). Meeting the guidance and counseling needs of gifted students in school settings. Journal of

      School Counseling, 9(14), 1–19.

Gladwell, M. (2008). Outliers: The story of success. New York: Back Bay Books; Little, Brown and Company.

Kelley, T., & Littman, J. (2001). The art of innovation: Lessons in creativity from IDEO, America’s leading

      design firm. New York: Doubleday.

Mayes, R. D., & Hines, E. M. (2014). College and career readiness for gifted African American girls: A call to

      school counselors. Interdisciplinary Journal of Teaching and Learning, 4(1), 31–42.

Payton, G. (2014, November 10). Nicki Morgan: Pupils ‘held back’ by overemphasis on the arts. Retrieved from

Phelps, J. (2014, November 12). Young people should pursue what they enjoy. Retrieved from The Telegraph:

Wood, S. (2009). Counseling concerns of gifted and talented adolescents: Implications for school counselors. Journal of School Counseling , 7(1), 1–47.

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 12, 2016 in art, Education, Gifted learning


Tags: , ,

Understanding the Needs of Twice-/Multi-Exceptional African American Students

Charles Sutton
Galileo School for Gifted Learning
Level 7 Learning

Over the course of studying about gifted students for the purpose of endorsement to work in a gifted environment, it became obvious that two groups were notoriously underrepresented through selection for gifted services more so than other subgroups. They include the twice- or multi-exceptional—those students who have gifts and talents, but also have one or more disability that inhibits academic performance—and students from minority cultures such as African or Hispanic Americans. The question arises: how are students who are both from a subdominant culture and also multi-exceptional affected in the process of being identified as gifted students? Additionally, are they are receiving services for both the exceptionality and giftedness once they have been selected? This paper will take a look at how one group of researchers attempted to answer these questions through a qualitative study involving eight, African American students who are also diagnosed as twice-exceptional.

In the Mayes, Hines, and Harris (2014) study, the sample students they used were all African American high school students with disabilities—ranging from specific learning disabilities to one student with a traumatic brain injury—all of whom had already been selected by their school for gifted designation based on non-academic skills and talents. That means, instead of having high testing scores or a strong record of classroom success, these adolescents had been identified based on specific talents such as visual arts, music, or dance, etc as identified by specialists in those areas within the school environment. Since they were already acknowledge as gifted, this study says little about the identification system, which is typically poor for both twice-exceptional and African American adolescents and children in general. However, the researchers were able to identify four main characteristics that this group experienced that could possibly jeopardize their success in school and into adulthood.

The first similarity is that while all of the students were identifed as gifted, seven out of eight were unaware of their gifted designation, while each knew that s/he had a disability. This is primarily due to their in school placement. Most of these students were in special education classes and none received even pull-out services for their gifts. Even though they were in a special needs class, these students felt that their teachers and tutors “…often overlooked the accommodations they needed” (p. 130). These were the accommodations for their disabilities that are written into each student’s IEP. The students were not even aware that they should have been receiving additional special services designed to encourage and enhance their gifts. Also, although each student identified at least one teacher or staff member who took special interest in them, most of the teachers in the system treated them with “…general rudeness and lack of connection…” (p. 130). These attitudes from the teachers and staff members may have contributed to a lack of services that the children received in school.

The second commonality for these students is they all experienced similar personal and social challenges. As was discussed in an earlier paper, children with disabilities tend to have low sociometric measures, which means that they are typically rejected by their classroom peers (Baydik & Bakkaloglu, 2009). The students in the study were not exceptions to the rule. The study reported, “…seven of the eight students shared that they were often bullied or teased by their peers, which in turn impacted their behavior at school” (Mayes, Hines, & Harris, 2014, p. 131). The increased negative behaviors tend to exacerbate the sociometry problem, and the problem increases (Baydik & Bakkaloglu, 2009). Additionally, many of the adolescents reported the need to try to hide their special education designation to avoid maltreatment from their peers. Furthermore, while African Americans are in the majority of students in their school’s population in this study, and these particular students also felt pride in their racial and cultural heritage, “…they also realized that they faced stereotypes both within the school and in the larger society” (Mayes, Hines, & Harris, 2014, p. 132). For example, the student with the traumatic brain injury reported that his teachers “…stereotyped him as ‘another black, lazy kid’…” because his injuries cause him to have more than average absenteeism (Mayes, Hines, & Harris, 2014, p. 132). Along with the propensity for teachers to characterize twice-exceptional children only according to their disabilities—not by their gifts—these particular students were doubly stereotyped due to racial discrimination from the teachers and staff members (Mayes, Hines, & Harris, 2014; Ford, 2010; Rizza & Morrison, 2003). This additional stereotype may account for why these studeents not only did not receive gifted enhancements to develop their talents, but they also lacked accommodations and services needed for their disabilities.

The next commonality between these students is that poor self-concept led them to worry about their future. While a number of these students mentioned that specific teachers encouraged them to take advantage of their gifts and talents through post-secondary education and training opportunities, the students lacked the self-confidence to believe that they could succeed in those programs. One student reported that despite his best efforts, he cannot read. Another stated that she was “…gravely concerned about her ability to be successful in community college. She was concerned that the professors would theink she was ‘dumb’ and that they wouldn’t accommodate her needs” (Mayes, Hines, & Harris, 2014, p. 132). Perhaps the stereotypes that these adolescents experienced due to their cultural and ability differences negatively affected their self-efficacy and self-concept to the point that it has nearly made it impossible for them to move on without significant intervention. Counseling could, perhaps, help with this problem.

The last similarity between the study subjects was that they all had “…limited interactions with their school counselors” (Mayes, Hines, & Harris, 2014, p. 133). The seniors had more contact with guidance than those in the lower grades simply due to the fact that the counselors were attempting to ensure that the students meet their requirements for graduation. However, one student reported that in her opinion “…her school counselor hindered her progress towards graduation due to lack of communication” (Mayes, Hines, & Harris, 2014, p. 133). She reported late responses and miscommunications that led to a lowing of her GPA.

Since this is a paper about curriculum, an attempt will be made to tie in possible curriculuar fixes that may help students like these become more successful. First, using a model of curriculum that is provided for the whole school may help teachers identify more of the students who lack the testing ability and/or are in traditionally under-identified groups, as is the case with these students. Therefore, using Renzulli’s Schoolwide Enhancement Model might be effective toward the goal of illuminating the skills of students with gifts that are not otherwise seen (Renzulli & Reis, n.d.). Additionally, this model has proven to be effective for both gifted and non-gifted students alike, so whether or not the students are identified, they will have curricular opportunities for enhancement and compacting (Van Tassel-Baska & Brown, 2007). By using tier II and tier III enhancements to enduce academic growth and successes, this curriculum may also help the study group’s self-concept and self-efficacy issues. While no curriculum will take away the stereotypes and prejudices that influence teacher and staff judgement or treatment by society at large, perhaps adopting a multicultural, responsive classroom model would also help reinforce that cultural difference based on deep cultural experiences are all equally valid. In doing so, perhaps the students will not develop defecit thinking that says that their own culture is inferior to the dominant American culture (Ford, 2010). If they can learn this from the curriculum, then they may be able to avoid some of the self-doubt that inhibits their success and the use their academic and creative gifts and talents by which to build a career.

Based on this study—which is very unique as I could not find another like it—there is clearly a need to do more research on how to use counseling and curriculum to help twice-exceptional students who are also not a part of the dominant culture. While these students have strong gifts, either academically or creatively, and tend to have good task commitment, they are frequently blocked from success due to a double experience of prejudice and stereotyping. Teachers need to do two things to help. First, we must build a culturally responsive class where every student can show his/her abilities in ways that are valid in that culture. Also, we need to provide the proper accommodations for the students’ disabilities so that the challenges do not mask the students gifts and talents. Additionally, counselors and giudance professionals should become more accessible and responsive to the special needs of these students for both accommodations and gifted services (Mayes, Hines, & Harris, 2014). If those things can happen, there is a much higher chance that twice- or multi-exceptional students from subdominant cultures will meet their potential.


Baydik, B., & Bakkaloglu, H. (2009). Predictors of sociometric status for

      low socioeconomic stutus elementary mainstreamed students with and without special needs. Educational Sciences/Theory & Practice, 435–442.

Ford, D. Y. (2010). Underrepresentation of culturally different students in

      gifted education: Reflections about current problems and recommendations for the future. Gifted Child Today, 33(3), 31–35.

Mayes, R. D., Hines, E. M., & Harris, P. C. (2014). Working with twice-

      exceptional African American students: Information for school counselors. Interdisciplinary Journal of Teaching and Learning, 4(2), 125–139.

Renzulli, J. S., & Reis, S. M. (n.d.). The schoolwide enrichment model:

Rizza, M. G., & Morrison, W. F. (2003). Uncovering stereotypes and

      identifying characteristics of gifted students and students with emotional/behavioral disabilities. Roeper Review, 25(2), 73–77.

Van Tassel-Baska, J., & Brown, E. F. (2007, January). Toward best practice:

      An analysis of the efficacy of curriculum models in gifted education. Gifted Child Quarterly, 51(4), 342–358.
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 11, 2016 in Education, Gifted learning


Tags: , , ,