Check out the title of this article. Is this just my experience, or is it yours, too? Have you discovered that gifted kids (at least many of them) hate to write? While most of them can and will easily talk for hours (or days) about topics of interest to them, ask them to write, and it’s as though brain-freeze, pencil-avoidance, keyboard-trauma, or just plain stubbornness sets in.
I have often wondered about this dread of writing, and what we can do about it to help our gifted kids. Of the many things I have tried over the years, I seem to have overlooked the obvious -- and that is to make writing more interesting AND MORE challenging (because many gifted kids thrive on challenge). This may sound counterintuitive, but it is worth a try.
The idea came from an article in NYMetroparents entitled Why Do So Many Gifted and Talented Children Hate to Write? In this article by Tobi J. Phillips, Headmaster and Founder of Village East Gifted, suggests that talking about a subject of great interest is relatively easy for gifted kids. They are vast storehouses of knowledge, and when talking, they don’t have to worry about conventions (grammar and spelling), word choice, flow of ideas, transitions, etc. -- all of the things that make good writing beautiful and perfect. Coincidentally, perfection is exactly what cripples many of our gifted kids when they write. If, instead, they were encouraged to write using a creative format, a challenge, if you will, they may focus on the challenge, and the writing will flow. Their natural knowledge of the subject will shine through, and their writing will also begin to look like more mature writing, worthy of the great ideas already in their mind.
Specifically, here is what Phillips suggests:
Give your child/ren a white board with red, blue and green markers (no paper allowed). Next, have children choose an exotic setting, an interesting character or characters, and some things that must be included in the story (example, a parrot, skis, an old shoe). Explain that the story must have a beginning, middle and end.Then apply these rules:
Sentence #2: six words
Sentence #3: seven words
Sentence #4: eight words
Sentence #5: nine words
Sentence #6: ten words
Sentence #7: ten words
9. The entire story must be told by the last word of the last sentence.
After your child has finished the challenge, celebrate and take a picture of your child -- you have taken a first step toward more complex writing. Hopefully, you are both smiling.
A couple of additional tips might be to have a Thesaurus and Dictionary app handy, a word bank of descriptive words (I call them 50 cent and dollar words), and some small treats. Writing well takes energy!
As always, I hope this foray into ideas that may help develop the talents of gifted and talented students helps you in your parenting or teaching.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Past President, WATG
Many times during my teaching career, (and now as an instructional and transformational coach), I find myself talking with educators, parents, and students about alternative ways to allow students to show what they know -- ways that differ vastly from the (often boring) traditional pencil and paper mode that many of us are accustomed to. 21st Century learning and tools afford us so many more interesting, creative, and fully descriptive and engaging ways to demonstrate knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, evaluation, and synthesis (Dr. Benjamin Bloom) of our learning.
When coaching, it also comes as no surprise when a teacher, parent, or student says, “Wow! I never thought of using THAT as a way to show learning!” as I suggest alternative products. The research on voice and choice in learning is very clear -- when students are given both, they are much more vested in their learning. And yet, we don’t always have a list of possible alternative products at our fingertips, so we may miss opportunities to differentiate.
Recently in my reading, I came across this outstanding blog and graphic that is filled with alternative product ideas, and I’d like to share it here with you: 101 Creative Ways to Show What You Know.
The implications for all kids are tremendous, particularly for those whose gifts and talents are in creativity, the visual and performing arts, leadership, or other non-traditional areas, because schools generally pay much closer attention to gifts and talents in the intellectual and academic areas.
Imagine that you are a highly creative student. What if you could demonstrate your knowledge through a comedy routine, a soap opera, a cartoon or comic strip?
Imagine that you are a visual or performing artist. What if you could demonstrate your knowledge by dancing, or singing, or creating a pop-up book, or a rap, or a photo?
Imagine that your talent lies in the area of leadership. What if you could demonstrate your knowledge by creating an advertisement or commercial, a speech, an interview, a debate, or a persuasive argument?
Imagine that you are gifted in the use of technology. What if you could demonstrate your knowledge by creating a voki, a sportscast, a podcast, or a powerpoint or prezi?
The possibilities are endless, and the payoff is very real.
So, as a teacher, a parent, or a student, I challenge you. Download the graphic from the linked article and post it somewhere prominent. Use it often. Can you think of different ways to demonstrate learning? Which ones appeal to you, and why? Which ones would appeal to a specific student or students, and why? What does this tell you about teaching and learning? How can you advocate for differentiated products? How can you evaluate differing products? And, most of all, WHY is this important for talent development?
As always, I hope that this foray into other ideas, and then linking them to the gifted perspective, has made you think. I welcome hearing from you!
Past President, WATG
Gifted in Perspective
A column designed to link the gifted perspective to other perspectives, and to make you think