Teaching Gifted Students to Write Well
The ability to write well is one of the major gateways to a successful education and to career advancement later in life. It is also a tool that helps one sort through and analyze personal thoughts, express oneself effectively, and act as a stress reducer when one is faced with difficult physical and psychological issues in life.
Writing is most effectively developed when it is taught across all subjects—not just those in the field of language arts. Unfortunately, not enough teachers are sufficiently prepared to teach writing.
The National Writing Project (NWP) is one resource filled with ideas and opportunities to remedy this situation. There are currently more than 200 university-based writing project sites that provide high quality professional development and leadership opportunities to more than 100,000 K-16 educators every year. Many NWP sites offer special writing programs for children. For tips on helping children learn to write and how to support good writing instruction in schools, click on the Resources tab at the top of the NWP website. Parents, remember that you can also play an important part in teaching your children to write. You will also find many suggestions in the resources listed at the NWP website.
Mark Overmeyer is one person in the NWP network who I know and greatly respect. I have attended some of his writing workshops, which have been excellent. On Mark Overmeyer’s Blog you will see that he is an excellent writer himself. He has published two books about teaching writing and his blog entries are filled with helpful resources.
Summer Literacy Resources for Gifted Kids (and Their Parents)
Need some book recommendations for your children this summer? Excellent lists of recommended books can be found at
In addition to reading good books, children may enjoy creating their own books. There are a number of websites to help with this.
How to Create and Manage Discussion Groups for Gifted Kids
In addition to meeting the academic needs of gifted students, it is also important to address affective issues they may have. These bright kids benefit from being with others who are highly intelligent and with whom they can discuss social and emotional issues that may set them apart.
Terry Bradley is a gifted education advisor from Colorado who specializes in social and emotional needs of very bright students. For years, she has facilitated affective discussion groups with gifted middle school and high school students. In these groups, kids talk about issues they have in common and how life looks and feels through the lens of giftedness.
Bradley feels that there needs to be a balance between appropriate academic and emotional opportunities. Gifted kids often share similar characteristics such as intensity, sensitivity, heightened moral and ethical codes of behavior, and the ability to process feelings more thoroughly and deeply. Discussion groups provide a forum where students have the opportunity to express themselves as they truly are.
In her article, Beyond Academics: Discussion Groups That Nurture Affective Growth in Gifted Students, Bradley explains the difference between affective education and counseling. She also offers a step-by-step guide for adults who want to start discussion groups in their own schools. Topics include getting support, the optimum group size, frequency of meetings, choosing discussion topics, and encouraging participation. She describes specific activities that she uses as well as communication techniques. Outside resources are also included.
If you do not already have a social/emotional discussion group established at your school, consider starting one. Whether you already have a group up and running or you’re considering the idea, you will find the ideas in Bradley’s article to be helpful.
What Should We Be Teaching Gifted Kids for the 21st Century?
Dr. Judy Willis is an authority on brain research. She has a unique background, having been both a neurologist and a classroom teacher. She has written several books and writes a blog for Psychology Today
. One of her recent blog entries is Whose Children Will Get the Best Jobs in the 21st Century?
which offers an interesting perspective on what we should be doing to prepare students for today’s world.
According to Willis, the best jobs in the future will go to applicants who have the
- skillsets to analyze information as it becomes available
- flexibility to adapt when what were believed to be facts are revised
- ability to collaborate with others
- ability to articulate one's ideas
Rather than just learn a lot of facts, students need opportunities to discover the connections between isolated facts, build networks of concepts, and apply what they learn in new contexts. Critical analysis, judgment, creative problem solving, and the ability to evaluate and apply data to new situations are all vital.
Parents can prepare students by
helping children develop personal responsibility
explicitly teaching how to focus attention, study, organize, prioritize, plan, and set goals
teaching how to make the switch from memorization to mental manipulation by comparing and contrasting concepts and applying big ideas to solve new types of problems
- teaching how to evaluate sources of accurate information and then to use critical analysis to assess the veracity/bias and current/potential uses of new information
- finding out the topics children will study in the coming school months and then promoting interest by introducing things that relate to the topic, providing background knowledge and interest
Willis provides many concrete ideas for parents to teach these skills at home. I strongly urge you to read the article. The ideas provided would make a great beginning for a discussion in a parent support group.