SIG eNewsletter: The Gifted Student

December 2014

Sponsored by the Carmel Hill Fund

In this issue:

SIG is a program of NSGT, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization

From the President's Desk

A letter from Barbara Swicord, President of SIG:

December is here at last – a month that we traditionally equate with giving, and a month where many people take some time off from their regular schedules to spend time with family and friends and gear up for another year. We at SIG and NSGT want to take this opportunity to wish everyone a festive and healthy holiday season and hope that the season will bring to you all that you desire.

As students and families have time to spend together, we also hope such opportunity will afford both with time to be creative in the giving spirit. Of course, we hope that families will consider the National Society for the Gifted in their charitable contributions, and we also think this is a great time of year to get into the volunteer spirit through activities that challenge as well as give students a sense of emotional satisfaction.

There are a couple of ideas I would like to suggest in which giving can be intellectually stimulating for students while still satisfying young people’s deep ethical concerns and values. First, the Community Problem Solving component of the Future Problem Solving Program is a great model for helping students identify problems in their own community that they would like to solve. Being part of solutions helps to empower students to be change agents at a young age and gives them confidence in their ability to cope with future situations they might face. (See While this activity can be done in a competitive format, students can also use it  as a personal model   with friends and family to impact a problem of particular interest to them. The process can be used to tackle large or small-scale problems.

Another model that provides an avenue for structuring an investigation that could be designed to give back to others is through Renzulli’s Enrichment Triad Model.  During Type III enrichment activities within this model, the learner assumes the role of a first-hand inquirer: thinking, feeling, and acting like a practicing professional, with activity endeavored at a level as advanced or professional as possible. What better way to approach a problem or area of concern for the purpose of helping others than as a practicing professional!

So far I have given the reader three ways to engage in the giving spirit this month that we associate with our advocacy mission for gifted and talented students. There are, no doubt, countless other ways as well that you can think of. Further in this newsletter we also highlight our end-of-year giving campaign to support underprivileged youth as they strive to improve their futures through participation in challenging summer programs.

This holiday season, celebrate and appreciate the gifts of life and children through all that you do. We’ll be back in touch next year! And summer will be here before you know it!

Barbara Swicord
President, Summer Institute for the Gifted

Kevin's Korner

Hello again!

I hope you are enjoying the remaining days of fall, and warmly preparing for winter. As I write from our offices in Stamford, temperatures are beginning to drop, and a growing chill is in the air.

With winter vacation fast approaching, parents will have the opportunity to have many conversations with their children regarding school. Naturally, some of these will revolve around what they have learned and how they were taught. As such, we thought it appropriate to explore briefly several promising practices and considerations for teaching the gifted.

One critical first step for differentiating curriculum to best challenge gifted students is to use a variety of pre-assessments. There are relatively simple, useful ways to help differentiate through pre-assessment. Teachers may want to provide an “end-of-unit” test prior to each unit. Students scoring above a certain level, perhaps 90 percent, might then receive more challenging topic-related opportunities such as independent projects or other experiences meeting, and extending upon, assignment objectives. To take this process one step further, for certain subjects one might administer “end-of-year” tests during school’s opening week. Those scoring 90 percent or higher can be provided advanced curriculum throughout the year, helping avoid unnecessary repetition.

Acceleration is another effective strategy for challenging gifted learners. Educational acceleration has traditionally been used to match highly-developed students with appropriate learning activities, allowing teachers to adjust instructional pace, helping avoid unnecessary repetition for advanced learners. Acceleration permits students to experience their education more quickly, particularly those who are prepared and motivated. One frequently-employed best practice involves acceleration in content areas through examination, including AP and honors courses at the high school level. For a great overview of the disparity between the research on acceleration and often contrary belief systems, please see A Nation Deceived, freely downloadable at

An excellent, and increasingly popular, area to explore is online education. The choices available to teachers and parents in this area have exploded in the past several years. Distance learning opportunities have dramatically increased options for meeting the needs of gifted students, providing challenging, self-paced, and project-based instruction. Programs such as SIG Online, as well as online high school and college courses, including online AP classes, are a great way to substitute challenging curriculum for students who demonstrate proficiency with grade level material.

Just as there are promising practices and considerations for teaching the gifted, there are a host of well-meaning ineffective strategies, including asking gifted students to tutor struggling students to keep bright students occupied. Gifted children often think and learn differently than other students. Asking them to serve as tutors can be a frustrating experience for all involved, and is unfair to gifted students who would best be served extending their learning instead of repeating, and re-immersing, themselves in previously mastered knowledge.

Likewise, it is commonplace to provide students with additional work, similar to that already completed, when finishing assignments early. Often such students complete assignments early because the tasks are not challenging. Additional high-quality assignments are obviously fine, as long as they are challenging and targeting appropriate areas of development and interest. The key to providing extension activities for the gifted, and all students for that matter, is appropriate levels of challenge, not quantity.

Regardless of which strategies teachers employ, good rules of thumb when teaching anyone are to get to know student interests and learning passions well, work to gain student trust, and develop assignments that will be as individualized as possible, meaningful, challenging, and enjoyable. Such efforts help create mutually-inquisitive, safe, and comfortable learning environments in which all can enjoy academic exploration and growth.

We hope that parent/student conversations will include discussions that highlight what the student is enjoying about his or her educational experience as well as what does not seem to be working. Using some of the above points as guidelines can assist the parent in soliciting vital information for problem solving. Parents can then follow up with teachers on any questions or suggestions that emerge from these conversations for a great continuation of the school year.

Kevin Wickersham
Academic Director
Summer Institute for the Gifted

Annual Giving Campaign: Support a Gifted Child in Need This Holiday Season

Change the Future - Sponsor a Gifted Child

Ebrahim, a Harlem resident, received a scholarship to attend a SIG summer program. It transformed his life. Ebrahim wrote that, as a result of attending SIG, he “felt that my hunger to learn was fulfilled. I could suddenly amass more understanding in the things I love to learn, read and think about.“ He also found that, at SIG, he had a positive social experience. He could talk for a long time with people who were as passionate and driven about subjects as he was. He also wrote, “Before SIG, I loved to learn and read, and I would go very deep into subjects, but no school offered me a challenge. After my experience at SIG, I knew I was up to the challenge, and that I was able to accomplish great things and start persistently pursuing excellent quality education. I also became more confident being myself, without fear of being judged based on my love for knowledge.” Ebrahim’s latest plans are to become an astrophysicist or geneticist, two topics he was exposed to at SIG. “Whatever I will become, I want to make a big impact in that field, and humbly speaking, an impact on humanity.”

What a great loss it would have been if we had not had the opportunity to address Ebrahim’s needs for learning at SIG, through a donated scholarship!

Since 1993, the National Society for the Gifted/SIG has distributed over $1 million in scholarships to our summer programs. But, we want to do more. With the current low priority status of gifted education, we are committed to providing a viable and immediate alternative through our summer enrichment programs. Each year we receive hundreds of applications for financial assistance that we are unable to fulfill. We need your help. 100% of your donations goes directly to the NSGT scholarship fund.

In 2014, we distributed over $110,000 in scholarships to deserving students to attend gifted summer programs. Our goal for 2015 is to achieve a scholarship fund goal of $300,000!

We can’t do this without your help; no matter what amount, your gift will help students of high capability a chance to maximize their potential. Here’s what your donations can do:

Sponsor a Child for a Residential Program
Sponsor a Child for a Day Program
Other suggested contribution amounts:
$ Any
Partial Program Sponsorship
Travel Expenses to a Residential Program
Full Online Learning Program Scholarship
Books and Materials
You Fill in the Blank!

Over three million students in the United States alone are considered to be gifted and, unfortunately, only a quarter of them are identified. Even when identified, the potential of these students may never be realized due to a deficiency of understanding for their needs, and the unavailability of educational or financial resources.

We truly appreciate your patronage and support in years past and hope we can count on you for a donation that will enable NSGT to continue providing opportunities, advocacy, and programs to the extraordinary gifted and talented leaders of our future.

Done to NSGT/SIG today

Campus Spotlight: Vassar College

Vassar College, founded in 1861, is a highly-selective, residential, coeducational liberal arts college. Ranked 13th in the U.S. News and World Report’s Best National Liberal Arts Colleges for 2014, Vassar is renowned for pioneering achievements in education, for its long history of curricular innovation, and for the beauty of its campus. Among the 100 buildings on campus are examples of a variety of architectural styles ranging from that of the Tuileries to Modernists.

Learn more about SIG at Vassar

Fun Facts!

  • Vassar’s buildings are an eclectic blend of architectural style, including the famous Great Window, commissioned from Louis Comfort Tiffany.
  • While visiting the campus, you can run or walk through the trails at the Vassar Farm, which is open to the public year round.
  • SIG has been on campus since 1986!

SIG offers many options for students who wish to attend this program:

  • Residential Program for students ages 9-14
    Students choosing this option will participate in the full curriculum of SIG including the 4-period academic day, evening programs, Saturday Get-Away Day and Weekend Activity Day. Students live on campus in dormitories.

  • Day Commuter Program for students ages 9-14 (8:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.)
    Commuter students participate in the full 4-period academic day, lunch and recreation period. They do not participate in any weekend or evening activities. Commuter students must be dropped off at 8:30 a.m. and picked up at 5:30 p.m.

  • Extended Commuter Program for students ages 9-14 (8:30 a.m. - 9:15 p.m.)
    Extended commuter students will participate in the full 4-period academic day, lunch, recreation period, dinner and all evening activities, as well as the Saturday Get-Away Day trip. Extended commuters do not reside on campus or take part in Sunday activities.

Please call 866.303.4744 today for more information or visit our website.

Spring Online Dates Have Been Announced: Register Today!

Experience a SIG Program from home with the SIG Online Learning Program!

Dates: February 11 – April 7, 2015
Deadline to enroll: January 28, 2015

Cost: $425.00 plus $25 application fee
Returning ONLINE STUDENT discount – $25 off

SIG Online is an exciting eight-week online enrichment program for gifted and talented students. These courses offer students curriculum beyond what is offered during the school day, are wide-ranging in potential interest areas for individualized learning, and engage students in hands-on learning while applying school content through speaking, writing, researching, analyzing, reasoning, and questioning.

Courses (see course descriptions)

  • What’s the Chance? (Ages 7-8)
  • Be a Pet Vet (Ages 7-8)
  • Forces of Nature(Ages 7-8)
  • Energy Ideas Everywhere (Ages 9-10)
  • Diving into the Gene Pool (Ages 9-10)
  • Down With Disease (Ages 11-12)
  • The Proof is in the Logic (Ages 11-12)
  • Graphic Arts (Ages 9-12)

Eligibility: This program is open to students who have been identified for a gifted & talented program or who can demonstrate eligibility for any SIG program.

Additional Information

  • Students will need access to the internet on a regular basis, as well as basic word processing and presentation software (such as Word and PowerPoint). Students should have a level of comfort with creating new documents and presentations, navigating the web to conduct research (younger students will be provided select links), and saving/uploading documents; parents may need to provide assistance to students not comfortable with these tasks. 

  • Specific login times are not set, as students attend from several time zones. Assignments are posted on a weekly basis (typically Wednesday, though this posting is class dependent), and have varied due dates throughout the week. Students should expect to need to access the online course at least 3 different times during the week to accomplish all tasks on a timely basis.

  • Instructors are typically SIG summer instructors that have experience teaching in an online format. Instructors and students interact through the course learning management system (LMS); students can also email instructors for additional information. Student email addresses are not shared with other students; however, students can interact with each other via discussion posts and LMS messages.

Learn more about the SIG Spring Online Learning Program

Puzzle Corner

What number should appear next in this sequence?

2304   288   48   12   ?

Submit your answer online at The first student who submits the correct answer will receive recognition in the next issue of The Gifted Student!


Last Month's Puzzle

How many miles should it be to Georgia on this strange signpost?

A: 13. Each consonant is worth 3 and each vowel is worth 1. These are totaled to give the miles.

Congratulations to Asha from Paterson, NJ, for being the first to respond with the correct answer to last month's puzzle!

SIG Summer 2015 T-Shirt Contest!

Be creative! SIG is looking for original t-shirt designs that reflect the spirit of SIG summer camps. If we use your design, you’ll receive a t-shirt for you and two of your friends with YOUR design on it.

Submit your designs to Kristin Bernor at Deadline for entry is February 15, 2015.

Connect with SIG on Social Media!

Social media is a driving force in many of our lives. Here at the Summer Institute for the Gifted, we see it as a great way to connect with those who are just as passionate about gifted education as we are!

We often hear from parents of alumni that SIG summers were some of the best their children ever had! If you are a SIG parent, we encourage you to pass this along to your current or former student(s) so that they can stay up-to-date on SIG happenings.

Through social media outlets, SIG provides updates on everything from gifted education resources to details about our various programs, from puzzles and learning strategies to event announcements across the country. Stay connected with us throughout the entire year by following us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn!

SIG on Facebook:
SIG on Twitter:
SIG on LinkedIn:

The Summer Institute for the Gifted is a program of the National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT), a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization.

We look forward to connecting with you!

Upcoming Conferences & Events


Vanderbilt Gifted Education Institute
December 11 - 12, 2014
"Models for Developing Talent: Providing Access for Low Income Gifted Students"
Nashville, Tennessee

Indiana Association for the Gifted
December 15 - 16, 2014
Indianapolis Downtown Marriott, Indianapolis, Indiana


Hawaii International Conference on Education
January 5 - 8, 2015
Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort, Honolulu, Hawaii

TAGT Parent Conference/Summer Program Expo
January 24, 2015
Klein ISD Multipurpose Center, Houston, Texas

4th National Conference: Able, Gifted and Talented in Independent Prep Schools
January 2, 2015
Keynotes: David George, Samantha Jaspal-Steed, Julie Taplin
Moor Hall Conference Centre, Maidenhead, United Kingdom

Spread the News!

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