For a week this past July, nine Laurel Mountain Elementary teachers had the opportunity to join hundreds of educators from across the United States and world at Confratute. Confratute is a week-long program at the University of Connecticut that provides educators with research-based practical strategies for engagement and enrichment learning for all students. For the past 39 years, The University of Connecticut has attracted educators worldwide for this highly acclaimed, enrichment-based program sponsored by the Neag Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development. It blends educators interested in gifted education, differentiation of instruction and curriculum, and creativity and innovation in education.
Thanks to our parents’ and community’s generous donations to the Excellence Fund, Laurel Mountain has been able to send staff members for six different summers to Confratute. Attending this summer was:
Mrs. Kim Clements, 1st grade teacher
Ms. Chelsie Douglas, 1st grade teacher
Mrs. Cheryl Fox, 2nd grade teacher
Mr. David Jurecka, Librarian
Ms. Rachel Kothmann, 4th grade teacher
Mrs. Debbie Kownacki, 2nd grade teacher
Mrs. Nicole Levitan, Enrichment Coordinator
Mrs. Lien Nguyen, 2nd grade teacher
Mrs. Marci Shrull, TAG teacher
Confratute started in 1978, when Dr. Joseph Renzulli and Dr. Sally Reis decided to host a summer conference focused on Enrichment Teaching and Learning. They didn't want it to be just any conference, though. They wanted to combine the best qualities of a CONference with a summer instiTUTE and add a whole lot of FRAternity in between. Confratute was born and focuses on the 3 E’s, enjoyment, engagement and enthusiasm for learning.
Through exposure to differentiation, talent development and enriching learning experiences, the communities of adult learners at Confratute are able to share similar interests, as well as foster professional growth. Our staff members returned home energized, excited and ready to enrich the lives of our students at Laurel Mountain Elementary. Teaching from a strength-based model is the best way to educate our children. Confratute enforces our mission at Laurel Mountain to develop world-class talent.
Below are reflections from the nine Laurel Mountain staff members who attended.
I was privileged to attend Confratute with 9 other LME staff members this summer. Many of the keynote speakers, strands and wisdom from Dr.Renzulli himself, confirmed the value and importance that our school puts on knowing our students as individuals, and helping them develop and discover the talents and interest that truly engage their minds. Two strands in particular caught my interest and gave me strategies and skills that I'm bringing back to share with our staff and the students in my classroom. The first was the 2E, twice exceptional, seminar led by Dr. Susan Baum. As a classroom teacher and teacher representative on our SST team, I will be taking an even closer look at students' talents and learning styles as we work to develop the intellectual environment that best fits each student. The SEM-R reading seminar, led by Dr. Rebecca Eckert, inspired me to put a new spin on Daily 5. With book hooks during my mini-lessons, a continued emphasis on student choice for independent reading and a first try at the phase 3 interests and choice component of SEM-R, I'm ready to dive into literacy with renewed excitement and challenge. Confratute also allowed me to attend strands on other topics of interest such as STEM and CSI. The choices and opportunities for learning were endless. It was a wonderful week of learning, fun and collaboration with colleagues from schools in our district, our state, our country and around the world.
Attending Confratute this summer was a great experience. I am so grateful for the opportunity to attend Confratute with my colleagues. It was amazing to learn from experts in education and SEM. There were so many great topics and experienced presenters to choose from. It was definitely hard to narrow it down to just a few a day! Being around such knowledgeable educators was so powerful. I enjoyed spending time with my colleagues and meeting other educators from around the country. I am looking forward to implementing what I learned at Confratute into my classroom.
I am bringing back a whole new way to approach lessons across the curriculum using CSI. I cannot wait to see the fun and excitement in the students as we incorporate these engaging lessons that are absolutely packed with problem solving!
Confratute was a great experience for me. It was an amazing opportunity to refresh my brain with new insights and ideas for the coming school year.
Here are five takeaways that I will be using in my library:
- The importance of modeling learning during my library lessons...especially research skills.
- New ways to use my iPads to blend learning with student interests.
- New tech education products like Arduino boards to share with my ITS.
- Confratute strands and my visit to Jeff Kinney's An Unlikely Story bookstore filled me with ideas for my library refresh and how to make an inviting space while integrating maker spaces and enrichment clusters into the design.
- Presentations from Caldecott honor author Aaron Becker (Journey) and Karen Romano Young (Doodlebug) shared new ideas about how to get kids excited about reading!
Confratute 2016 was a journey through mathematics in which I discovered creative ways to understand basic math concepts by using games and everyday math manipulatives in a new way. Place value was used to connect the four basic operations to algebraic thinking in a course led by the famous Ms. Math, Dr. Rachel McAnallen, which I was thrilled to attend. I learned a variety of ways to incorporate Project Based Learning Activities into mathematics so that students are thinking and reasoning at high levels in a course titled "Mentoring Mathematical Mind." Differentiation of math instruction was targeted in yet another course I attended, in which I learned how to use pattern blocks to teach students how to add and subtract fractions that do not have common denominators. Central to each math course I attended was math modeling, which is used to target visual, spacial, tactile, kinesthetic, right-brained learners. This new approach to mathematics is the exact opposite of the traditional way of doing and teaching math, which is why historically only left-brained learners have succeeded in math. Confratute 2016 taught me how to make math fun for everyone!
This year I had the pleasure of attending Confratute in Hartford, Connecticut for the first time. Confratute is a conference where educators from around the world come together to share ideas and strategies to spark interest and passion in education. Having the opportunity to attend classes given by some of the top leaders in the field was inspiring and motivating. I was able to get fresh perspectives and ideas to implement the Schoolwide Enrichment Model into my classroom.
The class I attended on CSI taught observation, attention to details, using critical thinking and problem solving in a fun and exciting way to capture the interest of students. The atmosphere of camaraderie and unity sparked and renewed excitement and passion for education for everyone who attended.
This was my fifth time attending Confratute! I am surprised by how energized and excited I get by the experience. Confratute validates everything that we do with our students at Laurel Mountain. It is powerful to be surrounded by professional educators from all over the United States and the world who have the same educational beliefs as we do at Laurel Mountain. We believe in the importance of teaching from a strength based model, which provides our students with an education like no other in Round Rock. It was also amazing to continue to learn and explore with the experts in education and the Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM). It is an awesome experience to participate in week long classes about SEM-Reading and Addressing Underachievement and Motivation in Students taught by the people who wrote the books on those subjects. Marci Shrull and I presented one night to teachers who are new to the Schoolwide Enrichment Model. We were able to talk about what we do at LME that works and help them feel comfortable bringing in SEM to their schools acorss the country. I am positive that we are on the correct path and journey with the Schoolwide Enrichment Model at Laurel Mountain. This is something that I am VERY proud of. I can’t wait to get into the classrooms and share what I learned with the students and teachers.
This summer, I had the pleasure of attending the SEM conference in Connecticut. I have gathered many new ideas and practices that have given me a renewed and refreshed perspective about school-wide enrichment. I come back not only ready to help students identify and develop their talents but to also be aware of their learning styles while creating an environment where they feel safe to express their gifts. I also want to help students be able to envision where their talent(s) beyond the classroom. Do you like to draw? Well, you can become an architect, fashion designer, multi-media graphic designer, cartoonist, book illustrator, advertisement, and the list goes on. I am so excited to implement these ideas and to take the school-wide enrichment method to the next level. This will be a fabulous year!
I very much enjoyed my time in Connecticut at Confratute and am so grateful to have attended. I thank the district, LME administration and the LME parents for making this possible. One of the intangible things I received while at Confratute was the improvement of the strong friendships I already had with my coworkers. I am so lucky to work with people I consider my close friends. Another intangible thing I received was the inspiration and excitement from not only the VIPs of the industry, but also from my counterparts across the world. Most of my classmates work directly with gifted kids and all of my teachers work with gifted kids. Hearing their thoughts, struggles and methods was very valuable. One of the intangible things I learned was how to lead a Socratic Seminar in reading. I very much look forward to doing this with all grades that I work with this year. Another intangible was more math games involving fractions. I will alter those games so they can work for all grades as well. Again, I thank you for the opportunity. Confratute was amazing!