November 2020 - Focus Newsletter


Gifted Learners and Leadership

Psychologist Robert Sternberg describes leadership as the interaction between intelligence, wisdom, and creativity (Conrad, 2018). As gifted learners tend to possess these characteristics, they are often looked to by adults to be leaders among their peers. However, emotional intelligence is also essential in order to be an effective leader (Chan, 2007, as cited in Johnsen et al., 2010). While gifted learners’ intellectual abilities develop more rapidly than their same-age peers’, this isn’t necessarily the case for their emotions, which can result in struggles when gifted learners are looked to for leadership.

Researchers suggest that leadership skills should be explicitly taught and practiced (Johnsen et al., 2010). Communication and organizational skills are common focuses of classroom instruction. Teachers may also provide opportunities for critical thinking and creative problem-solving which give gifted learners chances to stretch themselves, practice persistence and take intellectual risks.

While some leadership skills are commonly practiced in the classroom, others are more difficult to incorporate. In order to be highly effective leaders, gifted learners need to understand the value of ethical behavior and how to motivate their teammates (Conrad, 2018). Cultivating a growth mindset helps gifted learners to learn the value of mistakes and empathize so they can support their team members through opportunities for growth, two extremely important competencies for modern leaders (Giles, 2016).

There are many ways gifted students can learn about leadership characteristics and practice them in their daily lives. Some ideas to try at home include:

  • Read and discuss biographies of great leaders (Conrad, 2018)

  • Participate in extracurricular activities involving groups or teams (Conrad, 2018)

  • Present moral dilemmas and discuss how they might be addressed (Mitchell Hutton, 2012)

  • Role-play scenarios requiring group interaction (Mitchell Hutton, 2012)

  • Discuss how fictional characters approach different situations; focus on understanding different perspectives (Mitchell Hutton, 2012; Johnsen et al., 2010)

  • Point out the ways in which people who are not perceived to be leaders help to move a group closer to its goal (Mitchell Hutton, 2012)

  • Interview leaders in your community (Johnsen et al., 2010)

Audra DeFiore

Resource Teacher for Gifted Education

H.H. Poole Middle School


Conrad, L. (2018, October 7). Building intentional leadership in gifted learners. Global #gtchat. Retrieved October 15, 2020, from

Giles, S. (2016, March 15). The most important leadership competencies, according to leaders around the world. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved October 28, 2020, from

Johnsen, S., Qiu, X., & Frederick, K. (2010, Winter). What does the research say about leadership development of gifted students? TEMPO, XXX(1), 9-18.

Mitchell Hutton, B. (2012, September 24). Developing leadership goals for gifted learners. University of Colorado. Retrieved October 15, 2020, from

Focus Monthly Thematic Units

Leadership - In the Words of Focus Students

Encouraging WRITING in November

Looking for a way to keep your gifted child WRITING throughout autumn? Try offering a Prompt or Journal Starter since "getting started" is often the hardest part. Be creative. Write suggestions on popsicle sticks from which your child can randomly select. Have your child respond to the prompt in a special journal/notebook . . . OR . . . on a displayed white board on which other family members can interact with his/her response.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started!

Questions to Consider:

  • How does it feel to be thanked?
  • Are there certain words or actions that you feel should be appreciated and thanked? Which ones and why?
  • When you want someone to know you appreciate something said or done that helped you, how do you show that you are grateful?
  • The last time you thanked someone, how did you go about doing it?
  • Describe a way in which you feel fortunate and why.

Sentence Starters:

  • In my life, I have someone I am especially happy to know. This person . . .
  • Friendship means…
  • Being thankful means…
  • I am grateful for my ability to…

Story Starters:

  • This November and December, I plan to show my appreciation by…
  • If we lived in a society where people did not say “thank you,” it would be…
  • I recall a time when I did not show my appreciation for _____, and this is what happened…
  • In my family, one way we say "Thank you" is . . .
  • An interesting way to show someone gratitude without saying the words “thank you” is…

Not All Journaling is the Same . . . Finding Your Journaling Niche

At Home Routines and Online Etiquette Refresher

Learning at home . . . Working from home . . . Maintaining a home . . . all while trying to reduce stress for children and adults alike. How can we establish an organized environment for success and still promote a peaceful home? Establishing online routines and revisiting some basics of online etiquette can help lower anxiety and stressors of this combined work/learn/live environment.

Scheduling is a blessing and a curse! While some people prefer an unscheduled lifestyle, this time of sharing our work and home space may require a bit more structure. Set a maintainable schedule to create a normal routine. Block times strictly for productive learning or work and also for refreshing breaks.

Create separate work and relax spaces. Be able to "walk away" from the place where most learning and work occurs. Select a cozy reading area, an outside relaxation station for good weather days, and an area for eating away from the workspace.

Organize bins for courses or for X/Y days. Make it easy to find the needed materials for each day. Check that all is ready the night before and make this step part of your daily schedule.

Enjoy that lunch break! Refuel and step away for a much-needed mental refresher.

Clear out the learning space of distractions. Reduce background noise and put away cell phones during learning time.

Schedule time each day to read and clean out email, check Canvas calendars and assignments, and check Studentvue and Parentvue. By making this a part of each day, those assignments do not sneak up on anyone.

Two birds and one stone . . . reminders of online etiquette can take place while checking those daily emails and Canvas discussion boards. If acronyms have slipped into online responses, discuss formal versus informal language. While TTYL is fine for a text to a friend, it may not be the most appropriate response between student and teacher.

Good manners go a long way. Refreshers on "raising hands" to speak, using proper names, avoiding typing in all capital letters (considered shouting online), and saying "please" and "thank you" go a long way in the courtesy department.

Be on time for class or meetings. This is a challenging learning platform and having to repeat instruction multiple times can eat up valuable time.

Focus! Focus on the classroom conversation and activities. Take notes as would normally occur in class or in meetings. Avoid distracting sidebar conversations.

And most importantly . . . encourage each other to assume that posts from students and teachers are done with good intentions. It is challenging to interpret without seeing facial expressions or hearing tone, which makes determining if someone is being funny or sarcastic difficult. Suggest rereading messages before hitting "send" and recognize that what may appear to be a short or abrupt response from another person, may simply be someone trying to multi-task or someone who is not confident in keyboarding skills yet.

Although this may seem like a lot to process, making these tips part of a normal routine will benefit everyone in the long run. With practice and patience, your home-office-school will become an environment of success and harmony.

Lisa Arthur

Resource Teacher for Gifted Education

Dixon-Smith Middle School

Opportunities for Interested Students and Families

Career & College Pathways

Click the flyer below to be taken to the website.

Computer Science in Your Neighborhood Competition

The Virginia Department of Education and Code Virginia are hosting a competition open to all Virginia students! Students may enter on their own or as a group by creating a product of their choice (ex. drawing, story, essay, video, program, 3D model, website, dance routine, magic trick, etc.) in response to the prompt "Planning for your Virtual Future-What would you create using computer science?"

Winners will be announced at the CS Ed Week Launch Event on Dec. 7th and receive a laptop or classroom set of robots made possible by Facebook.

Click on the flyer below for the entry form and additional information. Entries must be submitted by 5:00 PM on Monday, November 23, 2020.

Free STEM Opportunity for Current 8th and 9th Graders

BLAST participants spend three days over the summer on the campus of UVA, Virginia Tech, or ODU learning about and participating in science, technology, engineering, and math-related activities. Check out the video below to see students participating at the UVA site in 2019.

The application opens Friday, November 13, 2020, and closes Monday, February 8, 2021.


Parent Resources

Parents: Supporting Learning During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Click here to access the resource from the IRIS Center at Vanderbilt University.

PARENTS: Decreasing Anxiety in Gifted Children During Covid-19

SCPS Focus Program is currently asynchronously formatted to an online learning platform due to Covid-19. While some students and teachers have easily adjusted to this environment, others are struggling with our new norms including face coverings, social distancing, and a sense of isolation. Click on the attached link for further information on helping your gifted child decrease anxiety from the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC).

NAGC TIP Sheet-Self Advocacy

Click here to access the National Association for Gifted Children's TIP sheet on helping gifted children speak up for themselves.

The Inside Scoop on College Admissions

Click here to access the article from Advise Magazine, a publication of the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

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