Teaching Writing to Gifted High Schoolers
Writing is something I’ve enjoyed all my life, but I am glad that I never had to teach a writing class. When assignments of any length are given to students in high school, one of three things often happens:
- The paper is full of discouraging correction marks.
- The paper has few comments that are really helpful.
- The assignment is never returned to the student.
Learning to write well is a very personal experience and, to be helpful, teachers need to offer specific feedback while still providing encouragement. Praise needs to be both sincere and specific
. There’s nothing I hate more than having someone praise me in general terms. The words feel empty and dishonest. I do, however, appreciate it if someone provides me with very specific positive or negative feedback in a kind and caring manner. That is helpful!!
The problem is that it takes a great deal of time for a teacher to give adequate attention to each student when evaluating writing assignments. This is why I am glad that it was never my task. I knew that if I had to give each student the time needed, I would have no life outside of school. It just takes too much. I also believe that only giving written feedback is not enough. To really help a writer develop, a verbal discussion needs to take place.
Publishing adults who are already good writers often belong to writers’ groups where everyone in the group reads one another’s work and comments over and over until each piece is polished. Even good writers continue to learn.
When teachers are responsible for critiquing the writing assignments of large numbers of students, the task becomes impossible.
So, is there a solution? I do have some suggestions. While your student should still do and hand in assignments and look carefully at comments written by the teachers, this is not enough. The student needs to
- Write often. Write letters, emails, keep a journal, etc. It is important to become comfortable with writing by producing.
- Buy a copy of The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White. Originally written in 1957, this book has been revised. It remains the bible for writers. Read and study it.
- Read books by writers about how they write. A few that come to mind are On Writing, by Stephen King; How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author, by Janet Evanovich; and Zen in the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury.
- Find an adult who you know is a good writer and ask that person to read and critique your writing. This person can be a parent if the student will listen with an open mind.
- Find an adult writers’ group and sit in on discussions. You may be able to find a group by searching online and adding the name of your city. Your local public librarian may also know about groups.
- Consider taking an online writing course from EPGY (Education Program for Gifted Youth), the Stanford University EPGY Online High School, or a junior college.
Writing is such an important skill. It will open doors of opportunity in many areas as a student matures. In addition, it’s just plain fun!!!
GeekDad--Ideas for Parenting Gifted Kids
I am constantly amazed at the growing resources on the Internet. Some of the resources are created by universities or large companies, but others are created by parents (i.e., last week’s blog entry on homeschooling and traveling with gifted kids).
Today I want to tell you about a blog titled GeekDad
. It is put together by a team of writers and each entry contains information and ideas about working with children—all from a dad’s perspective. Some recent entries include finding answers to kids’ unanticipated questions, creative cooking with youngsters, making digital movies, simple computer programming, constructive ways to use YouTube
, turning your photographs into wallpaper for a room, treasure hunts using a GPS
, a discussion of what it means to be a geek, online games, and the top 10 reasons geeks make good fathers. There are many ideas for activities in the areas of science, technology, research, and field trips.
You’ll want to check this site often, as there are frequent postings. Also, if a particular subject interests you, click on “View Comments” at the end of that posting. Readers have often added even more information that will be helpful.
Homeschooling and Traveling With Gifted Kids
Bright Kids at Home
bills itself as “a practical website geared towards homeschooling and traveling with gifted and talented students.” It is for parents who want to or already are homeschooling for academic reasons. For seven years, the author of this site has been homeschooling her highly gifted child because she was not satisfied with the solutions their neighborhood school offered. The family takes an eclectic approach to school and blends together humor, travel, photography, reading, writing, math, science, and one rather large Guinea pig.
Lots of information is offered at the site about home education, gifted students, and resources. She explains how their homeschooling techniques have evolved over the years, into what worked and what didn’t, and also provides opportunities to ask questions. An overview of study topics is provided, beginning with third grade.
Although there is lots of free information, the author of the Web site does sell items to help keep it all financially afloat. These items for the most part are, however, ones that other parents may find quite helpful.
This homeschooled family blends travel with learning as much as possible and details their travel experiences. The mom makes a good point when she says that, although everyone may not be able to travel, there are plenty of ways to enjoy imaginative experiences close by and she offers specific suggestions
Whether you are interested in homeschooling your student or not, I think you will find many valuable ideas and links here that you can incorporate into your family’s learning experiences.
Fostering Musical Talent
When I was a child, I was forced to take piano lessons. Although I loved all things academic, I really hated the piano. My mother said over and over again, “You’ll thank us when you’re older.” The lessons were in classical music, and classical music was never played in my house. It was totally foreign to me. Believe me; it took until I was quite a bit older to thank my parents. Now I play the piano every day because it is my choice. As an adult, I listened to more and more classical music and discovered how much I enjoy it. The piano is now my favorite instrument and, though I am not very good at it, I take pleasure in playing to work on my skills and also for pure recreation.
A young person does not have to be gifted musically to reap the many benefits of lessons and exposure to music. However, if a young person has the potential to be musically talented, he will never be able to develop that talent if the exposure is not there. Many studies have been done to link the benefits of music to improving academics, creativity, organizational skills, and more. Although many of these links may be substantiated by these studies, I don’t think we need to find reasons to develop musical ability outside of the pure pleasure of music.
In Musical Talent: Innate or Learned?
by Julie A. Wojcik, we learn that children may be born with an appreciation for music and the ability to demonstrate it. They may also be able to develop musical ability through early exposure and structured practice. Development of this talent may be accomplished in a variety of ways. Even in the inner city, where resources many not be readily available, young people are often identified in religious organizations, where they participate in choirs and are encouraged to express themselves musically.
Significant factors in determining a child’s full realization of a musical gift include self-motivation, extensive support from family members, mentors, teachers, appropriate resources (instruments, lessons, and exposure to musical activities) and rigorous practice.
Parents can help develop musical talent in children by exposing them from birth to a broad range of music, reaching far beyond their own preferences. Some specific guidelines include:
Ages 3-5: Encourage youngsters to sing along to music and engage in rhythmic activities, such as clapping, swinging, dancing, tapping, marching, and using percussion-type instruments.
Ages 4-5: Encourage children to accompany singing with melodic instruments, such as the xylophone, autoharp, and bells.
Brent Hugh in Teaching Children to Be Musical: The Practical Application
believes strongly in the importance of exposing children to a wide variety of music from an early age. He cautions not to expose children exclusively to the parents’ preferences for music, but to include all types. He also offers suggestions for weaving music into the daily routine.
David Shenk includes the beginnings of his research on musical talent in his blog entry On Musical Talent.
He divides his findings into the following categories:
Primitive musicality is, without question, built into our DNA.
Beyond primitive ability, even basic musical development requires some modicum of encouragement and teaching.
Advanced musicianship requires methodical training and "deliberate practice."
Musical training physically alters the brain. Accomplished musicians have key differences in their brains—not from birth but as a direct result of training.
For additional resources, go to the Family Education Web site and search for “music” for an extensive list of links to all kinds of articles and tips for parents on fostering musical ability.
End-of-School Clearance Sale on Gifted Education Books
Books on Sale for 99¢–$1.99!
As many of you know, once a year, I need to clear out some of our oldest or overstocked titles to make room for our exciting new releases.
Each May, we offer a selection of titles at drastically reduced prices. The books I have placed on clearance are in perfect condition. Many of these wonderful titles have been quite popular over the years, but I simply have too many in inventory, and I want to sell them while they are still great tools for the classroom.
Save money on exciting classroom materials during Prufrock's year-end inventory clearance.
Order before May 31 and receive these books for 99¢–$1.99! Supplies are limited, so please act quickly.
Click here to visit our "Web-Only Clearance" sale.
School and School District Purchase Orders Accepted Online
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