Writing is a very difficult subject for many kids to master. This should come as no surprise when we consider that the majority of adults have difficulty composing their thoughts and putting them down on paper.
There is just a general reluctance for most kids to work through the process of outlining, drafting, editing and creating a final copy.
This process will often keep even gifted kids well-occupied. Also, their efforts on writing assignments are often longer and more involved, so that also tends to expand the amount of work to fit the time available.
Still, you will have some early finishers even with writing activities. This can be particularly true with lower grades where they are not yet composing entire sentences or paragraphs.
Strategies for gifted students and writing
When it comes to challenging gifted students in writing, we have two basic strategies:
1. Encouraging the application of more-advanced standards
2. Working in a different genre
Let's get into details on both of them.
Push to a higher standard
Writing has plenty of incrementally additive standards, similar to math. If a student is completely understanding and applying the current lesson, then he can always be encouraged to include additional punctuation or formatting.
Depending upon the grade level, these will include such things as:
- Periods, colons, semi-colons, ellipses
- Paragraphs and indentation
- And more…
It's usually a matter of the moment to ask a gifted child to incorporate one of these elements into their writing and then point them toward an example in a book.
It will be quite likely that they will have already seen the convention that you are introducing since most gifted kids are advanced readers. Now they will apply themselves more diligently to studying its usage and incorporating it into their own writing.
Work in a different genre
Advanced writers in higher grades can be encouraged to apply the subject of your lesson (for example, theme) to a different genre than the one they have just mastered. Here's how that might work if the theme is an adventure story and your class is working on the genre of personal narrative. You could challenge a gifted writer to:
- Transform their personal narrative into a Greek myth
- Rewrite their story from an outsider’s perspective as if they were watching it happen
- Rewrite their story as a mystery
Giving a lesson the genre twist will add plenty of challenge for early-finishers. Just be warned that even gifted kids can hit their limit on writing pretty quickly, so be certain the activity is one they’ll find engaging and fun and not one that feels like punishment for getting done before the rest of the class.
Spelling and vocabulary
Spelling practice in most of the elementary grades comes down to a “rule of the week” and a list of words that match that rule. So when it comes to extending learning, we want to challenge our gifted kids to move beyond the basic words we are providing – we even want them to move beyond the “challenge” words we may incorporate each week.
Fortunately, kids love big words! Learning complicated words makes them feel smart, so it doesn’t take much encouragement to get them engaging with vocabulary at a higher level – we just have to ensure they channel this interest into the appropriate words.
We have two choices when it comes to adding challenge to spelling words:
1. You can find super-challenging words yourself that follow the pattern of the week.
2. You can put those gifted kids to work and have them find the challenge words!
Personally, I think students have a lot more fun when they have to do some word sleuthing on their own. If they are easily mastering the words of the week with just a few days practice, you can simply give them a dictionary or thesaurus (hard copy or online) and ask them to get busy.
Then of course, once they have found some words you challenge them to use them in interesting sentences!
Speaking of challenges – one year I had higher-level kids take it upon themselves to use all of the weekly spelling words in a single sentence. They actually ended up writing very ridiculous stories in order to twist the sentence around so the words made sense. Perfectly fun and perfectly engaging!
You can also harness students’ natural inclination toward big and interesting words by encouraging them to “collect” them. All it takes is a little notebook in their desk where they can write down words, sorting them according to their beginning letter just like in a dictionary.
This is fun for all students, not just gifted students, and can lead to some very interesting conversations as your budding sesquipedalians (users of large words) compare their collections.