Enrichment and Innovation Centre – Grand OPENING

We are excited to announce the opening of the Enrichment and Innovation Centre: A learning Space dedicated to Inquiry, 21st Century Skills, Problem solving and Self Directed Learning
Wednesday October 1: 1-4  SYSTEM OPEN HOUSE (drop-in) – All HWDSB Staff
Monday October 27: 10:00am  – 5:00pm  COMMUNITY OPEN HOUSE – Parents, students, families and community are all welcome!
Learn about what the Enrichment Centre will offer!
  • ​Ongoing support for educators and leaders in the system who are interested in enhancing programmingand support for ALL STUDENTS.​
  • Ongoing programming for students who meet the HWDSB  Gifted Criteria.
  • Regular workshops (after school) for parents, teachers and students that are interested in Enrichment and 21st Century Learning strategies.
  • An approach to learning and teaching revolving around STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, ARTS, and Mathematics
  • A location to meet, work, play and share in small groups (after 2 pm), where educators, parents and students can access resources such as laptops, tablets, smartboard, books, 3D printer, Lego Robotics and a Maker Space.


We look forward to seeing you!



The IEP and the Gifted Learner

The IEP for the Gifted Learner

IMG_8531-25xgg20-150x150As a teacher for Gifted and Enriched students, I have spent many hours working with teachers, parents and learners on developing Individual Education Plans (IEP) for Gifted and Enriched learners. The IEP has a clear purpose and its process for development is not a difficult one to grasp. Regardless of school, district, or even country,  the IEP has similar characteristics: To identify the learner’s strengths and weaknesses,  to set measurable goals and objectives, to identify the tools and resources (including people) needed, to identify the strategies needed to achieve the goals and finally, as a team, to commit. Yes, there are subtle differences in language from district to district (modification, accommodation), but the overall purpose and gist of the IEP remains the same: To set our students up for success by ensuring they are getting a fair chance at learning.

It should be easy then. However, with Gifted learners, there is much debate and discussion about the IEP.  In my school district, we use both group testing (all students in Grade Four are given the CCAT test) followed by Individual testing (WISC-IV) and students usually score within the 95th to 99th percentile on these tests in a variety of areas, including overall IQ. Only a very very small portion of children or adults would score in this range (1-2% of the population). This alone, should sound the alarm bells. These students are not in the norm and SHOULD NOT be receiving the same programing as the rest. We would say no different for students who are scoring at the other end of the scale and require significant modifications in their learning. Further, just like within the general population of learners, these students are just as likely to present with a Disability.  Sometimes, the gap between two areas is quite wide…sometimes debilitatingly so.

Strength Based Goals:

Many students who are Gifted may not display obvious areas of “Need”. There is no use in searching for areas of weakness simply so you can put it on the form.  CREATE the goal from there overall strength.  On the other hand, many students who are identified Gifted in one area, may struggle greatly in another area or may have significant learning disabilities.  It is important that the student’s IEP sets goals that are also non-academic, such as social skills, organizational skills and personal and intrapersonal skills, which are often a struggle for Gifted learners.

Student Driven IEP and the PORTFOLIO:

In another post, I shared some strategies on how to involve the students in the IEP process, Here, I emphasis the following and share examples from my own class:

1) Ask for Student Input when developing the IEP. Of course, this would depend on the age group and how you structure the questions and interviews. Around the second week of school, I handed out the IEP’s to the students and had them go through and add, edit, and comment on each of the sections.  Most of them had neither seen or heard of the “IEP” before so it took a bit of time to explain the terms (accommodations, modification, strategies, methods).

2) Meet with the students individually and go through the IEP’s with them explaining how and why this document came to be.  Help them understand their own identification and what they need to best succeed.

During the first month of school students did research on their own exceptionality. Many of the students wrote blogs about what it means to be “Gifted” or as they often see it, “Labelled”. Set aside time for students to continually develop and alter their own programs. Don’t let this be a “one off” lesson. Build this into a weekly plan. Build it around their Learning Skills.

We did this every week with tea.  We tried to discuss one area of need or learning skill. What does it mean to be responsible? How much independence should students have at what age? What is fair and equal when it comes to learning? How do we advocate and ask for feedback?

4) Provide an organized system for students to view and edit their IEP’s as needed.  Of course, since some parts of this document may be highly confidential, the template would need to be altered.

5) When updating the IEP’s each term, send home the “working copy” along with the formal copy to allow the parents and families to see how much student input is valued

This IEP development strategy takes a lot of trust and relationship building to work. Students need to feel safe and free to express their honest feelings and advocate for themselves. One students said to me after reading his IEP (prior to his input), said, “Wow, I sound like an anti-social nerd that has no friends”.

Here are a few  case examples created by Beth Carey and Zoe Branigan-Pipe (although there are many many many more, since the IEP should reflect each individual child). These examples are only meant to provide a starting point to help when creating a “Gifted” IEP.

Student Profile/Achievement: Student has strong academics in all area’s (All 95% or above); in the 99th percentile of  testing. Motivated to learn and always seeking out opportunities, rarely feeling challenged by school. Proficient in reading (more than 3 grades above) and proficient at Math and Science. Strong abilities in Music and Languages.

Annual Goal: Student will use higher order thinking skills to enrich the depth and breadth of grade level learning expectations.

Learning expectation:Student will use divergent thinking skills during classroom learning activities, independent activities and home learning; Student will use convergent thinking skills (bringing together a range of ideas and resources to support a central topic or idea); Student will use critical thinking and questioning skills to enhance depth of thinking

Teaching strategy: Provide opportunities for student to learn what it means to think divergently (research/inquiry project, TedX videos..); Provide a schedule/contract for student (allow, encourage accountability, growth); Support student’s ability to ask questions to/with peers and teachers that encourage others to think deeper about a topic,especially one that focuses on current, local and global issues; Encourage home learning opportunities (use of Khan academy for skill mastery, use of blog, community activism – writing and co-created blogs); Encourage and demonstrate use of mind mapping

Assessment: Student will demonstrate a variety ways to express a skill, concept or idea that is presented to the whole class and will add 2 items in the portfolio each month (self-evaluation); During formal assessments, student  will provide more than one answer, with justification – even when there is a question with a specific answer; Teacher will provide a comment/feedback to student during scheduled teacher conference;  Student will bring home portfolio for parent feedback; Allow students to share the answer orally

Student Profile/Achievement: 

Student consistently exceeds grade expectations in literacy based subjects and has demonstrates strong verbal abilities and expression (99%tile in oral language abilities and verbal comprehension)

Annual GoalStudents will further develop higher-level oral communication skills.

Learning Expectation: Student will use real world topics (shared through portfolio and monitored with teacher) and current events to apply verbal/oral language tools as a way to share and demonstrate learning; Student will investigate, listen  and analyze podcasts of interest (one per month); Student will will use oral language to demonstrate learning, discuss ideas and brainstorm using inquiry based strategies

Student Profile/Achievement: 

Student excels at reading, both fiction (in particular Fantasy Genre)  and non-fiction. Tests indicate strong perceptual reasoning, processing speed and working memory.  Student will read as often as possible and enjoys discussing or debating the content.  Student demonstrates strong comprehension skills and can recall information and facts with ease.

Annual Goal: Students will develop analytical skills in reading using more challenging literature; Student will apply reading strengths to increasing writing (finding new vocabulary and structures)

Learning Expectation: Student will analyze texts by identifying many elements that give the text depth or meaning and will maintain a blog or journal of these elements;  Student will be able to draw conclusion about the author’s work through in-depth analysis, ongoing discussions and comparisons and will maintain a blog or journal of these elements

Student Profile/Achievement: 

Student writes descriptively and uses figurative language expertly as well as above grade level vocabulary and grammar. Report card grades reflect exceptional written assessment. Gifted Assessment report indicates student is in the very superior range in all cognitive areas.

Annual Learning Goal: Student will write in a variety of genres using a blog format and will submit at least 4 publications throughout the year to a pre-approved magazine or blog (provide a real world opportunity); Student will pick 10 new vocabulary words per week and keep a journal of new words.

Learning Expectations: Student  will use poetry and prose to write essays, narratives, and poems and will include figurative language; Student will keep apoetry journal updated weekly; Students will communicate to a wider audience and use reflective and communication skills to respond to others in writing

Student Profile/Achievement: 

Student demonstrates strong abilities in mathematical reasoning, computation and problem solving. Student has strong processing and working memory skills. Gifted Testing and Report Card grades are consistent in demonstrating that student exceeds above grade level in all mathematical subjects which require modification in the depth and breadth of the content.

Annual Learning Goal: Student will complete several projects related to Math (timelines and content determined in a co-created portfolio); Student will complete a self-monitored Math course (using MOOC, or COURSERA); Student will create a Math Blog that highlights interesting Math problems and discoveries that impact the world around him/her

Learning Expectations: Student will blog weekly about math related content; Student will be self-directed in his/her math learning by seeking out problems and investigations that related to a specific area (as determined by student and teacher)

 Student Profile/Achievement: 

Student is disorganized at school and home and frequently does not turn in homework and classroom assignments. Student is easily distracted and has trouble staying on task for more than 10 minutes. Student is easily disengaged at school and often complains of being bored. Student has low processing skills and working memory and needs specific accommodations.

Annual Learning Goals Student will complete class assignments on a timeline co-created with teacher and parent; Student will maintain an organized desk, binder (could be an online shared binder) and “to-do” list, to be checked weekly by teacher

Learning Expectations: Student will use technology tools to aid with scheduling (online calendar, online portfolio such as Onenote, Evernote, Google Drive (and can share with teacher and parent); Students self-organize and  will use to do lists each day; Student will “check-in” with teacher each day to guide on-task work and self-monitor how much he/she has completed; Student will keep a portfolio that includes timelines, lists and checklists and will have this monitored by teacher; Student will use his/her device to take pictures of assignment outlines, homework board, etc

 Student Profile/Achievement: 

Student demonstrates strong leadership skills through on-going involvement in student leadership, clubs, and extracurricular activities. Student demonstrates a strong stance toward social justice including a desire to work in the political arena.

Annual Learning Goals: Student will lead at least TWO events, club or organizations throughout the school year (school based, online or community based); Student will maintain at a leadership blog (choice of topic)

Learning Expectations: Student will read a book about leadership development and will share the overall learning, thought and reflections of the book on his or her blog; Student will register the School as a “We Act School” and be the communication link for the school and will complete the on-line follow up focusing on local and global initiatives.

 Student Profile/Achievement: 

Student has a superb memory for facts and detailed information and has an intense focus on area of interest.  Whatever the class is working on is of no interest to the student.  He/She seems disengaged from school and does not follow classroom routines. Student is unaware of social conventions and lacks social insight.  Can be disruptive in class.  Testing demonstrates student is proficient in all areas of WISC IV.  Student does not see the need to demonstrate this.

Annual Learning Goals: Student will demonstrate knowledge in all areas of curriculum through a variety of self chosen ways; Student will share knowledge of his/her interest with class and engage in conversations about his/her topic; Student will develop  a working knowledge of social conventions and social insights.

Learning Expectations: Student will conference with the teacher to decide on ways to demonstrate knowledge of topics covered in class; Student will develop a organization and communication tool to share with teacher and parent; Student will share topic of interest with class or school through oral or visual presentations, blogs, small group lessons etc.: Student will learn a good variety of of social norms and how to understand specific social situations and feel comfortable in those situations

 Student Profile/Achievement: 

IPRC – Statement of Strengths and Needs indicate that areas of need include: Peer interaction, leadership, additional opportunities to negotiate her own learning outcomes; more stimulation and motivation from peers with similar abilities and interests.

Annual Goal: Student will become more self-aware of her needs as a gifted learner

Learning Expectation/Objective: Student will strengthen social-emotional skills within a variety of context and with a variety of people: Student will participate actively in opportunities to work in groups with like-minded peers;Student will participate in explicit relationship building opportunities using whole group circles and class meeting: Student will use blended learning tools, blogs, e-portfolio and ongoing communication with each other and with  parents.

Announcing…The new Enrichment and Innovation Centre

We are very pleased and excited to announce the opening of the Enrichment and Innovation Centre, located at Holbrook School with the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board

What will this centre offer?

  • Ongoing programming for students who meet the HWDSB  Gifted Criteria. Students in Grade 5, 6, 7, 8 will have an opportunity to attend the program once per month. Information will be sent to schools by the end of September. Click here for INFORMATION about Gifted Programs.
  • Ongoing support for teachers and leaders to aid with individual education plans, and programming ideas and support.
  • Ongoing support for educators and leaders in the system who are interested in enhancing programming and support for ALL STUDENTS.
  • Regular workshops (after school) for parents, teachers and students that are interested in Enrichment and 21st Century Learning strategies.
  • A location to meet, work, play and share in small groups (after 2 pm), where educators, parents and students can access resources such as laptops, tablets, smartboard, books, 3D printer, Lego Robotics and more.
  • A location for parents and community members to meet and share stories, ideas and strategies about how to enhance learning opportunities for their children.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Teaching Gifted in the Regular Classroom

The Do’s and Don’ts of  Teaching Gifted students in the Regular Classroom

By: Zoe Branigan-Pipe and Beth Carey

With consultation Gifted Students (especially Erika a Grade 6 Student, HWDSB)




*Do remember that FAIR and EQUAL is not the same.


* Do continue getting extra work – (but not EQAO packages) ß Many gifted students will be prepared, without the additional prep here as the regular program would be enough.


* Do continue to encourage students to choose a more challenging, classic or award- winning book or literature.


* Do continue to be respectful and kind as this is always appreciated.


* Do allow freedom to work on own thing while class is working (but please do not interrupt and ask questions without giving warning…let the student work)


* Do ask student if they already have mastered the skill or concept. Do ask student to demonstrate the skill.


* Do ask student if he/she can enhance or change the assignment or project in order to be more challenging or interesting (do this instead of giving too many add-ons)


* Do be flexible in assessments. Allow students to “tell” you the concept or skill rather then complete the worksheet or task associated (which might frustrate them and may be unnecessary.


*Math – Do allow student to demonstrate the skill. Then student may work on Individual Contract rather then extra questions.

*Do know that one demonstration question is enough.


* Do have students show understanding of a concept in all subject. If they have mastered the skill, do allow them to work on individual contract.


* Do continue to praise and give feedback. Many Gifted students have insecurities and anxieties and do need social and emotional support.


* Do continue to support ideas of using technology, even if the technology isn’t familiar to the teacher


*Do continue to work with school supports like the Gifted Itinerant teacher – Students want to be involved in this


* Do continue to provide leadership opportunities


* Do always ask student before the task or lesson if she/he is prepared to assist and ensure student has had ample time to prepare. This will avoid that last minute, “Can you help..” situation.


* Do continue to allow student to demonstrate other ways of doing a question, for example, in Math student might have a different way of showing a skill or concept that could resonate with other students.


* Do change your practice to meet the needs of the Gifted Learner. This might include not using a PAPER AGENDA, but instead  posting a schedule on the wall.


* Do give breaks between projects. This will give them time to work on an individual interest.  Often Gifted students are introverted and need time to recalibrate on their own.

* Do allow choice of projects

 * Do provide goal setting opportunities for Gifted Students like you would do with students with other Learning Needs.


* Don’t always include student in the whole class reading activity, instead allow student to work on their individual project (learning contract). Especially when reading is a strong area and student wants to engage in other material.


* Don’t insist that Gifted students complete reading or writing diagnostic tests (DRA, OWA). Many of these students already have shown strong ability in these areas and don’t require a diagnostic.


*Don’t group student with lower reading groups, unless it is pre-arranged. Gifted students don’t always need to learn the skills associated with reading in the same way.


* Instead of several extra projects (or extensions), allow student to work on Individual Project Inquiry project that is linked to the Big Idea or concept.


* Don’t assume that the student does not know skill or concept or that he/she need time practicing. When these students get a concept, it often doesn’t require time to practise


* Don’t always require a formal test or assessment for these students. If they already know it, and you know they know it, then why spend time testing?


*Math – Don’t assume because the student is Gifted that he/she knows the skill already. But, remember he/she will pick up the skill quickly.


* In Math, don’t always insist that students must show all steps to a problem. Gifted students may not need to go through every step.


* Don’t have student sit through whole class lessons (when skill is already mastered). Allow student to work on his/her own individual endeavor contract.


* Don’t assume that student wants to work with others to teach them. This may be stressful or frustrating for them.


* Don’t have student be the “Class Teacher” unless teacher is in the room and that it is pre-arranged.


* Don’t follow a project with another project. Often social life and social skills are important to Gifted students. Allow time to recalibrate and reflect.


* Don’t always feel the need to give too many projects just to ensure the student is busy or isn’t board.


* Don’t assume because they are gifted that they are organized. They need constant help with organization and should never be reprimanded for poor organization but instead nurtured in this area.

* Do not assume because they are Gifted that they do not need a MODIFIED program. Ensure their IEP’s have goals and learning expectations, not just accommodations.



Gifted Centres



Gifted Centres are for regular class students identified as Gifted in the HWDSB. As well, these students, their parent(s) and the school will receive ongoing support throughout the school year through online resources and networks, inservicing and professional development.

The purpose of the Centres:

  • To provide opportunity for Gifted students to understand themselves as learners
  • To excite students with learning extensions that go beyond the curriculum
  • To provide opportunity for students to collaborate, network and problem solve with intellectual peers
  • To learn and practice social and self-advocacy skills
  • To provide an opportunity for leadership development
  • To learn and use current technology skills including networking, assistive technologies, media skills and understanding safe online practice

Centre Overview:

Once per month (approximately), students will attend a one day Centre at a designated location. Locations and dates will be provided to the student’s school. Also, dates for the Centres as well as any changes throughout the year, will be posted at gifted.commons.hwdsb.on.ca as well as through email to the school and teacher.

Transportation to the Centres will be provided to and from the student’s home school. Students will go to their home school as normal in the morning and take their usual means of transportation from their home school in the afternoon. If parents choose to drive their child to and from the Centre, arrangements should be made in advance so that transportation (bus, taxi) can be rerouted. Parents must contact Ben at ben.nywening@hwdsb.on.ca for transportation inquiries or cancellations.

Grade Five: Da Vinci Kids
Big Idea: How has the ARTS impacted the world around us? How are we Gifted through the ARTS?

Grade Six: iTell/myVOICE
Big Idea: What is the impact of Citizen Journalism on how our past, present and future stories are told? How can 21st Century tools leverage our voice, our ideas and our interests?

Grade Seven/Eight: Design Minds

Big Idea: How does design, creativity and play environments (online and offline) enhance divergent thinking skills, social skills, critical thinking and collaboration?