January 2021 Focus Newsletter

Stafford County Middle School Gifted Education

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Gifted Learners and Motivation

Motivation seems effortless when dealing with topics that are interesting, useful, and easy to master; however, it becomes more difficult when struggles arise. Most children begin learning to cope with such challenges at an early age, but this isn’t always the case for gifted learners. Since things often come easily to them, opportunities for struggle may be few and far between. With fewer chances to practice, gifted learners may not develop the skills needed to maintain motivation when grappling with ideas they find difficult or boring. This can result in underachievement, or an “unanticipated difference between accomplishment and ability” (National Association for Gifted Children, n.d.).

Gifted learners may be highly motivated to succeed when working on topics of personal interest or when they see meaning in a task. “Interest Inventories” can assist in determining activities or even careers that your child may enjoy (National Association for Gifted Children, n.d.). One example is the Career Clusters assessment available through the Stafford County Career and College Pathways website. This particular inventory may be helpful in identifying both areas of personal interest and possible career fields your child may wish to explore. Helping your child to understand the connections between required tasks and their personal goals and interests is one way to increase motivation.

Another factor that may influence motivation is mindset. Gifted children often possess the fixed mindset that all of their abilities are innate rather than something they must work hard to develop (McCoach & Siegle, 2017). This can result in a lack of motivation when things become difficult; however, grit, or the ability to persevere through challenges, can be developed (Vail, n.d.). Teaching children to reframe their struggles as opportunities is a starting point, but it’s also necessary to model how to deal with challenges (Vail, n.d.; McCoach & Siegle, 2017). Shifting one’s mindset to be more growth-oriented can be a long process that takes a great deal of practice.

Ideas and Strategies for Developing Grit (McCoach & Siegle, 2017)

  • Discuss your child’s successes and struggles with them (Ex. “Did we study the right things?” “What was on the test that we didn’t study?”)

  • Be specific and genuine when giving compliments. (Ex. “I like the colors you chose here.” “You are providing good support for your topic sentence in your first body paragraph.”)

  • Point out specific examples of how your child’s hard work contributes to their eventual success.

  • Support your child as they discuss and deal with challenges, but do not step in to solve the problem for them.

  • Point out examples of struggles and how they were overcome in your child’s role models’ lives.

It is important to be aware that there are problems separate from motivation that may impact gifted learners’ achievement. These can include social issues, psychological issues, undiagnosed learning disabilities, lack of executive functioning skills, and other factors (National Association for Gifted Children, n.d.; McCoach & Siegle, 2017). If it appears that these sorts of challenges are causing your child to underachieve, it may be necessary to seek outside assistance.

Article by Audra DeFiore, Gifted Resource Teacher, H. H. Poole Middle School


Kessler, C. (n.d.). Tips for Motivating Gifted Kids. Raising Lifelong Learners. https://raisinglifelonglearners.com/tips-for-motivating-gifted-kids/

McCoach, D. B., & Siegle, D. (2017). Do's and Don'ts for Motivating Your High-Ability Child. Parenting for High Potential. https://www.davidsongifted.org/search-database/entry/a10936

National Association for Gifted Children. (n.d.). Motivation and Learning. National Association for Gifted Children. https://www.nagc.org/resources-publications/resources-parents/motivation-and-learning

National Association for Gifted Children. (n.d.). Underachievement. National Association for Gifted Children. https://www.nagc.org/resources-publications/resources/achievement-keeping-your-child-challenged/underachievement

Vail, J. (n.d.). If at First You Don't Succeed, Quit: Gifted Kids and Grit. Raising Lifelong Learners. https://raisinglifelonglearners.com/gifted-kids-and-grit/

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance - Angela Duckworth

Grit: the power of passion and perseverance | Angela Lee Duckworth
Video posted by TED

May 9, 2013

SCPS Middle School Focus Thematic Units

SCPS Middle School Focus Students' Thoughts on Motivation

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Future Ready Student Voices

Future Ready Student Voices [FULL VIDEO]

Video posted by Achieve

July 23, 2021

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Book Talk - Mary Pruitt, Librarian, Dixon-Smith Middle School

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus Book Talk
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Winter Movie Review - Stand and Deliver (PG) featuring Characters of Giftedness

Winter is upon us! The change in weather, combined with limited social engagements due to Covid restrictions, may leave us with a touch of the winter blues. If you have already gone through the recent movie releases and tapped out on Netflix series, maybe it is time to revisit a gem from the past. An enjoyable film for parents and educators of gifted children is the award-wining, Stand and Deliver. Consider a winter night’s viewing of Best Actor nominee Edward James Olmos in this Independent Spirit Award for Best Feature Film of 1988.

As parents and educators, we have an obligation to be consistent in practice and to provide encouragement to children, especially to children with varying needs. Needs may encompass basic survival necessities such as food and shelter, or academic provisions including special or gifted education support, or a substructure of social and emotional wellness. Children who lack these basic foundations often demonstrate the affected behavior of underachievement, which is not easily reversed when the child lives with an insufficiency in consistent growth mindset confidence. Imagine being a child of these conditions, also plagued with untapped academic giftedness, living in impoverished conditions, and as a minority, overlooked and unidentified in the educational world. This is precisely the case of the true story Garfield High School students, living in East Los Angeles in the 1980s.

Written and produced by Ramon Menendez and Tom Musca, Stand and Deliver reveals the dedication of a teacher and eighteen teenage students who do not recognize their own unfulfilled aspirations due to a deficiency in emotional, academic, and even basic essential support within their homes and community. This inspirational story begins with Jaime Escalante, born in Bolivia in 1930 where he taught mathematics prior to immigrating to the United States. Escalante worked as a computer technician; however, his true talents and passion existed in the classroom with students. He left his job to fill a computer science teaching position at Garfield High School in 1982. Escalante discovered the school, located in one of the poorest sections of East L.A., did not have funding for computers. Jaime opted to fill the role of a basic math teacher, as Algebra was only for the top students and Calculus was not offered. Stand and Deliver shares the journey of this passionate educator and his pupils, and how their lives took a most unexpected turn in response to the provision of social and emotional stability, raised expectations, and recognition of academic giftedness in an under-identified population. “The detrimental effects that result from education that does not challenge gifted learners, if they do not get special services, is that they often fail to achieve at all, despite initial potential. As such, it is important to identify gifted students as soon as possible, to provide them with the necessary, appropriate instruction” (Ricciardi, Haag-Wolf, and Winsler, p 243).

The writers of the script subtly highlight the lack of identification of socioeconomically and ethnically diverse children for academic giftedness. “Children in poverty are less likely to be identified for gifted and talented education . . . limited access to resources can be more broadly conceptualized as differences in one’s opportunity to learn, based on SES [socio-economic status]” (Ricciardi, Haag-Wolf, and Winsler, p 244). Sadly, more than a quarter of a century after the film production, this problem is still very much in the forefront of gifted education concerns. Although some progress has been made, the fact that Jaime Escalante single-handedly raised the bar of expectations, balanced the fear of failure, provided social and emotional stability and a sense of belonging, and identified students with exceptional academic talents successfully, emphasizes how the identification process of gifted students may not occur on a level playing field. Many socioeconomically challenged students, English language learners, or ethnic/racial minorities continue to be under-identified in diverse populations.

In 2010, the National Association of Gifted Children (NAGC) published . . . existing

conceptions of giftedness focused too narrowly on high IQ individuals and that, current programs for gifted learners are models of service options. With this in mind, a new definition of giftedness was developed that incorporated the concept of talent development as a lifelong process (Plucker & Callahan, (2014) p 149).

A child who does not sense belonging or acceptance will often act impulsively to fit in with peers. “Gifted children need shelters; persons to whom they can go when their intellectual, social, developmental and even safety and survival needs are threatened. This shelter should include an adult . . . who understands the local economic and ethnic realities and who cares about the welfare of all children” (Rimm, Siegle, and Davis, p 276). This is precisely the safe space Jaime Escalante provides for these students as he is highly aware of each student’s personal needs. These students become motivated and want to please their dedicated teacher. Escalante takes the leadership reigns and brings awareness to his “family of students” about their special gifts and talents. With his support and guidance, all the students agree take the AP Calculus exam, a first in Garfield High School history.

“To develop the skills, identify advanced students from underserved populations and create a learning environment that supports their needs . . . teachers and other school leaders need regular professional development that address the following: learning characteristics and behaviors of underrepresented gifted populations, awareness of cultural differences, children with multiple exceptionalities, developing positive peer culture in the classroom and school, and equitable and nonbiased assessments” (NAGC, 2020). When a teacher provides stability, positivity, and recognition for talents, anything can be accomplished.

Review by Lisa Arthur, Gifted Education Resource Teacher, Dixon-Smith Middle School


National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC). Classroom instruction and teacher training

for gifted students from diverse populations. December 2020.

Plucker, J. & Callahan, C. (2014). Critical issues and practices in gifted education – What the

Research Says. Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.

Riccardi, C., Haag-Wolf, A., and Winsler, A. (2020). Factors associated with gifted

identification for ethnically diverse children in poverty. Gifted Child Quarterly, 64(4),

2430258. DOI: 10.1177/0016986220937685

Rimm, S., Siegel, D., & Davis, G. (2018). Education of the gifted and talented, 7th edition.

Upper Saddle Ridge, NJ: Pearson Publications.

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Voices of Focus Past . . . and Present (Former SCPS Middle School Focus Students - Where Are They Now?)

We have had such a great response from our former students, we have decided to extend this opportunity for a few more weeks - please share the following link with any former SCPS Middle School Focus Students for our FEBRUARY 2021 Feature "Where Are They Now?"

https://forms.gle/1m3GdSyjcnen8biC8 - FOCUS VOICES OF THE PAST - Questionnaire

Destiny or Destination? To our Former Students - which path did you choose? Poem & Guide published by Poetry Foundation - May 27, 2016

The Road Not Taken

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Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.


Robert Frost - Realistic American Poet

https://www.biography.com/writer/robert-frost - Hyperlink

Published by Biography.com - April 27, 2017

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Educator Resources for Engaging Students

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Student Opportunities and Information

High School Program Applications are due soon!

Applications for the International Baccalaureate (IB) program and the Stafford Academy for Technology (STAT) are due Friday, January 29, 2021.

STEM Research Competition

VJAS is a statewide competition for students in grades 7-8 and 9-12 in which individuals or teams of students create a STEM project with a formal research paper. The papers are evaluated by STEM professionals and students are selected to participate in the annual Research Symposium.

Click here for more information! Students should register for the competition by January 15, 2021. (Please reach out to the Focus teacher at your child's school for assistance with the $10 registration fee if needed.) Projects are due February 24, 2021.

2021 Elie Wiesel Writing and Visual Arts Competition

2021 Elie Wiesel Writing and Visual Arts Competition
The Holocaust Commission invites middle and high school students in grades 6-12 to participate in the competition named in honor of Nobel Laureate and Holocaust Survivor, Elie Wiesel. This year, all writing and multimedia competition entries must be received by January 29 at 4 p.m. All Visual arts entries must be uploaded by February 5 at 4 p.m. More information is available from the Holocaust Commission of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater.

Calling all artists!

The Virginia Lottery’s Thank a Teacher campaign encourages Virginians to send thank you notecards to educators across the Commonwealth in conjunction with National Teacher Appreciation Week. Since its inception, the notecards have been designed by elementary, middle, and high school students.

The Virginia Lottery encourages students in grades K-12 to submit an original art piece which conveys their thanks for Virginia's teachers by February 1, 2021. The winning entries will be featured on this year's notecards and the students who create these entries will each win a $150 gift card plus $2000 for their schools. Click the image below for more information and to see last year's winning artwork.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden - Free Virtual Field Trips

The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is offering free virtual field trips designed to help students in elementary and middle school connect with nature. Click the image below for more information!

Application deadline approaching!

BLAST applications are due February 8, 2021. Click the flyer below for more information.