To the Parents: What is Twice-Exceptional?

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To the Parents: What is Twice-Exceptional?

By Dr. Paula Tinnin

Parents need all the encouragement they can get these days; so, parents this blog is for you!  If you have a child who is identified as Gifted and who also has a disability, chances are you are constantly seeking advice so that you can parent well. First, let’s define Twice-Exceptional.


Twice-exceptional students are:
  1. Students who are identified as gifted and talented in one or more areas of exceptionality (specific academics, general intellectual ability, creativity, leadership, visual or performing arts); and identified with:


  1. A disability defined by Federal/State eligibility criteria: specific learning disability, significant identifiable emotional disability, physical disabilities, sensory disabilities, autism, or ADHD.  The disability qualifies the student for an Individual Educational Plan (IEP) or a 504 Plan.

What we know about this curious mix of gifts is that the combination of these two sets of traits in young people can be frustrating for students, parents, and teachers alike.


  • Does your child have inconsistent academic performance?
  • Is your child easily frustrated in school?
  • Does your child have a lack of organization and study skills?
  • Does your child have difficulty with social interactions?
  • Is your child highly sensitive to criticism?
  • Is your child struggling with written expression?
  • Is your child often argumentative, opinionated, and stubborn?


  • Does your child have advanced ideas and opinions?
  • Does your child have a special talent or consuming interest?
  • Does your child have a superior vocabulary?
  • Does your child exhibit excellent problem-solving abilities?
  • Is your child highly creative and resourceful?
  • Is your child imaginative and curious?
  • Does your child have a sophisticated sense of humor?
  • Does your child have a wide range of interests?



These characteristics are just a sampling of the many typical indicators of giftedness and cognitive/affective problems. These are not traits that ALL children possess because the 2e children do not form a simple, homogeneous group; they are a highly diverse group of learners.


It is important to know that Gifted students with disabilities are at-risk because their educational and social needs often go undetected.  Be aware that under the mask of the gifted ability may be a learning disability. In other words, talents may be hidden behind the behaviors of the disability and never noticed or developed. In some schools, behavior plans become the focus of the interventions, so that the behaviors are managed, but the underlying learning disability is never addressed. School can be a very difficult experience for struggling Twice-Exceptional students.


What Can Parents Do?
  1. Learn your child’s strengths and interests, then nurture these talents and hobbies at home.
  2. Create a supportive environment at home where studying homework can be completed at a designated time and place.
  3. Help your child learn skills needed to be successful in school. Help with homework, but do not assume responsibility.
  4. Encourage your child to develop the skills to be an independent, life-long learner.


It is important for parents to understand that learning problems connected with a learning disability tend to be somewhat permanent through life.  Simply correcting weaknesses may not be effective for Twice-Exceptional children, therefore, compensation strategies are considered in favor of remedial strategies in some cases. Overcoming learning difficulties are not insurmountable when teachers and parents team together to address the unique needs of the Twice-Exceptional learner.  Gifted education specialists and Learning specialists are skilled at and purposeful in attending to the gifts and strengths of each 2e student.

NEW YEAR – Using Your Phone To Get Organized for School

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NEW YEAR – Using Your Phone

To Get Organized for School

Written by Stefan Melynk

At the beginning of every school year a lot of us get a new assignment notebook, thinking we’ll stick to it religiously and keep careful track of our schoolwork in it every day. But as the second half of the school year begins, I think a lot of students are looking in their notebooks and realizing they haven’t been sticking to it as closely as they intended. That’s okay! Really, it is! But we still have to keep track of due dates and test dates somehow, and it turns out that you can do it just as easily (if not more easily) with something that you probably already carry around with you wherever you go: your phone.


A smartphone, even a very basic one, can be an incredibly useful tool for getting your study schedule on-track, and you don’t even have to spend any extra money to do it! For example, there are plenty of free apps out there, from myHomework to Wunderlist, that can help you get your ducks in a row, and Google Calendar comes pre-loaded on a lot of phones as well as being available for both Android and iPhone. Whichever app you choose, here are some ways to make sure you get the most out of it and stay organized!



It’s easy to write down an assignment on the day it was given, but that only really works well for homework that’s due the next day. You need to use a different system to make sure you remember not only those short-term assignments, but the longer-term ones as well.

Fortunately, the solution is simple: write down the assignment info in the space for the day it’s due, not on the day it was handed out. Fortunately, calendar apps make it super easy to do this, and they display your agenda in different formats over different periods of time so that you always know what’s coming up!



Similarly, tests are often announced well in advance of when they will actually be given, so it’s important to keep those dates recorded in your calendar as well. Always knowing when you have a test coming up is a crucial step in making sure that you’ve given yourself enough time to study for it!



Getting notifications from your calendar app can be super annoying, but instead of just turning them off you should try to find a way to make them work for you. Sure, it’s not helpful to be notified of a test when you’re just about to take it, but try changing a few settings. Let’s say you like to give yourself two days to study for a test – just set the notification to warn you about the test two days in advance, and you’ll never forget to start studying!



After a long week of school, it’s tempting to just veg out and try not to think about your responsibilities. I mean, that’s basically what Friday nights are for. But on weeknights and the weekend, there’s a lot of free time and you’re probably being given a lot of homework to fill it with. Especially if you already have your schedule for school in your calendar app, why not make a schedule for your homework time? In addition to making sure that you remember to do your homework, it can help you get the homework done quicker. That, in turn, means more free time for you after you’re done!


Your phone can be a distraction, sure, but it can also be a wonderful tool to help you get organized! Just remember: the point of a schedule is to know what’s coming. Good luck!

How to Make Your Study Guide for Finals

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How to Make

Your Study Guide for Finals

By Stefan Melnyk


We’re going into the last weekend before finals, and we all know how scary studying for them can be! Luckily, you have a secret weapon: the study guide.

You’ve probably used a study guide before, but the real value of a study guide isn’t in having one – the real value is in making one. The process of constructing your own study guide is an excellent way to study for a test.


Why is that?

Well, if you’re just reading your notes over and over again to study, you’re not really thinking about the information and concepts involved. Writing things down means thinking about them more than you would by just reading them. In fact, if you are having trouble with spelling specific words in the material, it can be helpful to “write” them in the air as you practice spelling them to get different parts of your brain involved with the process! Writing out the ideas for yourself and thinking about whether or not to put them on the study guide will do you so much good!


But what about the format?

It’s worth experimenting to find what works best for you. Different students learn best in different ways, and the way visual learners should build a study guide is very different from that of verbal learners. There are lots of different formats that people have come up with to help different types of learners.


Here are two favorites:


For verbal learners, the two-column note system is one that can help you not only with your study guide but with your reading notes in general!

Simply put, create two columns – a small left column and a wider right column.In the left column, write key terms that are important to understanding the topic. In the right-hand column, expand on those terms with the information you need to know about them.

Then mark off a section at the bottom of the notes page to contain a quick summary of the information above it (for example, think about what the top five most important points on that page were).

This method requires you not only to write the information down for yourself, but to actively think about which information is most important.



Also called a bubble or web chart, this one works best to help visual learners.

Write the main idea or topic in the center of the page and draw a bubble around it.

Then draw lines leading to other bubbles that contain the ideas related to that central topic, and then lines leading to bubbles branching off from those ideas, and so on and so forth. This method is all about remembering associations between concepts, an approach which will help you on the test as you try to remember the significance of different ideas.

There are plenty more formats and study guide ideas to be found, so feel free to keep experimenting until you find the one that’s right for you! Just remember, the most important thing about making a study guide is that you write out the information for yourself and, crucially, think hard about why that information is important.


Good luck!

Why the ACT English Test is Such a Big Deal

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Why the ACT English Test is Such a Big Deal

Written Dr. Ene-Kaja Chippendale

Why the English Test on the ACT is Such Big Deal!Students who look at the ACT English Test for the first time are often taken aback because they’ve never seen a test in this format before. They are confronted with a page divided into two columns:  one half of the page includes a narrative with parts underlined and the other half has numbered questions, each followed by four answer choices. Students find they have 45 minutes to answer 75 questions that relate to five passages.

The directions the ACT gives students are ponderous and complicated. On a test where timing is everything, students who stop to read the directions can waste several precious minutes being told that the test requires them to choose the answer “that best expresses the idea,” “makes the statement appropriate for standard written English,” or “is worded most consistently with the style and tone of the passage as a whole.” Huh? becomes a frequent response.

Even worse is the direction that tells test takers to “read the passage through once before you begin to answer the questions that accompany it.” This is a totally nonsensical suggestion that only wastes time.

As students begin working through the test, they tend to rely on one strategy: plug in each answer choice and hope one “speaks” to them. They have no idea what the test covers. Predictably, many students answer by the seat of their pants and pick the answer that “sounds right.” Not a good plan for a high score.

In reality, the English test is the easiest test on which to raise a score because it is totally predictable. Once students learn to read the passage as editors who are looking for mistakes in punctuation, grammar, and word choice (rhetoric), they are on their way. The ACT test writers know that many students can be easily confused: isn’t the longest answer the best? My teacher is always telling me to write longer, more complex sentences. Actually, no. On the ACT, the shortest, most succinct answer is the correct choice.

How about that punctuation? I think any sentence is improved by a comma—I don’t know why, but I’m sure that’s true. Nope. Once again, the ACT plays to students’ weaknesses. Many students still struggle to identify a sentence. Others have no idea how to use a comma, a colon, or a semicolon, never mind a dash or parentheses. When do you use “he” or “him”? Remind me, is it “who” or “whom”? And the list of predictable questions goes on…and on.

Students who review rules of punctuation and grammar and learn how to comprehend questions increase their English score significantly, more so than on any other ACT subject test.  We see that as we prep students for the ACT, and the English increase is anywhere from 2-12 points. A six-point gain is very common. That’s how predictable the English test actually is! That’s why students need to pay special attention to preparing for it. Their score increase in English lifts their composite ACT score. It’s that simple.

Common Pronoun Mistakes

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Common Pronoun Mistakes

Its/It’s – This is a really common one, but also one that’s easy to remember. The word “it” doesn’t need an apostrophe to form the possessive.


The dog wanted to get its ball back.

The time at which you’ll want to use an apostrophe is when you’re forming a contraction of “it is.” The apostrophe stands in for the missing letter “i” in “is.”

The dog whimpers to make sure you know it’s upset.

Here’s a sentence using both!

When a dog wags its tail, you know it’s happy.


Whose/Who’s – This is a really similar one. You only use the apostrophe when you’re shortening “who is” into one word.

“Don’t you know whose house this is?” she asked.

Who’s there?” she asked, hearing a knock on the door.


Your/You’re – Ditto for this one. “You’re” is short for “you are.” Otherwise, just use “your.”

Your dog is really mean,” he said.

You’re really mean,” he said.


Their/They’re/There – The difference between “their” and “they’re” is similar to above, but people also sometimes confuse “there” for both of them, in spite of it being a completely different word. Here is each of them in a sentence:

This yard belongs to the Johnsons, it’s their property.

You should knock on the Johnsons’ door to see if they’re home.

I went to the neighbor’s house and Mr. Johnson was there.


Remember: if you’re about to use a contraction, separate it out into the words it’s made up of and see whether those words make sense in the context of the sentence!

The Right ACT Prep Makes a Difference

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 The Right ACT Prep Makes a Difference

Written by Dr. Ene-Kaja Chippendale

Despite the hope of many students that colleges will abandon standardized testing scores from the ACT or SAT, their place in the college admissions process remains secure for the time being. In Missouri, where the ACT rules, both school administrators and students are nervous about students’ scores. Secondary schools’ evaluations and accreditation depend in part on their composite ACT score. At this time, the state and national averages hover around 21, and it is a badge of honor for schools to exceed that.

Students know that their acceptance into college as well their ability to earn scholarships depend heavily on their ACT scores. Even a one or two point rise in scores can mean thousands of dollars in scholarships. Some students start taking practice ACT tests their freshman year to assure that they earn the maximum score by the time they apply to college. For the last few years, the State of Missouri has paid for every junior to take the April ACT, and my contact with teachers and counselors indicates that this has proven very popular practice for everyone involved. The state has now pulled the funding, but many districts remain committed to continuing the free testing in April 2018.

The ACT is the single most important test a student takes in school, and ACT prep has become a multi-million dollar industry. Yet, objective evidence supporting the effectiveness of coaching is virtually nonexistent. When the cost of an ACT class can exceed $1000 and private tutoring also can run into thousands of dollars, students, teachers, administrators and especially parents should be demanding an objective evaluation of how effective a company or private tutor is in raising scores on the ACT. While we do not evaluate every course, we do gather rigorous, methodologically sound data on some. Our evaluations consistently show that our students make significant gains using our ACT program—one that is based on the most current ACT tests and uses only experienced teachers as coaches. No other ACT prep company has comparable data, nor do they use subject experts to work with the ACT. We offer the right ACT prep—and that makes all the difference.

An Invitation

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An Invitation

By Dr. Paula Tinnin

Not long after you graduate from college, adults begin their conversations with a predictable question:  WHAT DO YOU DO? Children, however, will translate that question to mean WHAT IS YOUR JOB? When I am asked how I spend my time at work, I have a lot of explaining to do.

I am a doctor, but not a medical doctor.

I am an explorer, but not on the high seas.

I am a detective, but not for the police department.

I am a discoverer, but not of artifacts.

I am a teacher, but not in a classroom.

I am a diagnostician, but not a test administrator.

I Have the Best Job… I teach kids how to read and how to read to learn. That is my job. I direct a Reading program at Focus on Learning Center where I see children and teenagers individually for one-hour sessions, once or twice per week, every day except Fridays and Sundays.

But That Is Not the Whole Story…All students come to me with a unique set of intellectual and creative abilities. Struggling readers are no different than proficient readers in that regard.  However, years of research have shown that whatever children’s innate skills, strengths, and abilities may be, it’s the attitudes and actions of teachers and other adults in their lives that really matter. (Wolter, 2017.)

Getting Ready for Work!   I ask myself many questions when I get ready to work:  How will I teach my student in his area of strength in order to overcome difficulties? How does my learner make sense of the ideas and words on a page? How can I encourage my student to develop a deeper understanding of the text and be able to ask questions that involve explanations, interpretations, applications, and self-understanding? (Wiggins & McTighe, 1998)  How will I guide my learner to analyze, generalize, and evaluate what she is reading?

As a teacher, I am eager to learn about hemispheric dominance, natural intelligences, and diversity in learning styles, and I modify my teaching practices to ensure that my student makes sense of his or her reading experience.

I resonate with author and literary consultant Deborah Wolter who recommends many “restorative literacy practices” to bridge the gap between what is good practice for fluent readers and what is common for struggling readers.  These practices help students move from struggling to proficient readers.

  1. Plenty of Books
  2. An Army of Adult Support  
  3. Choice
  4. Exploration
  5. Settling In to Read
  6. Reading Deeply and Thoughtfully
  7. Using Cognitive and Linguistic Strategies
  8. Owning Their Language
  9. Using Information in Text
  10. Honing Critical Thinking and Analytical Skills

As a Reading Specialist, I work to create opportunities for kids to make connections between what we read and their own experiences. Here at Focus on Learning Center, we provide young readers with resources and a nurturing environment to improve their reading comprehension, vocabulary and reading fluency.  Call 573-875-5187 for more information or visit us at



Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (1998). Understanding by Design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

Wolter, D. (2017). Moving readers from struggling to proficient. Phi Delta Kappan, 99 (1), 37-39.