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Joel McIntosh

Joel McIntosh
I'm the publisher at Prufrock Press. I've been involved with education for more than 20 years and hold a masters degree in gifted education. I've been a classroom teacher and a parent (still am that). In addition to this blog, you can follow me on Twitter. Feel free to contact me by e-mail if you have any questions about this blog or Prufrock Press.

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Creative Projects for Gifted Students

Saturday, July 02, 2005 - by JMcIntosh - Category: Teaching Gifted Children
In Carol Fertig's newest blog entry titled, Publishing for Gifted Students, Carol addresses the topic of how and why we should encourage gifted and talented students to publish their writing.

Gifted and talented students find a passion for learning for a lot of reasons, and I suspect those are as varied as the students. As a teacher, I found that one of the most effective tools for motivating kids to learn was to ask them to produce a creative "product" for a real audience that demonstrated what they had learned.

"Product" is a funny word for what I'm talking about. It generally refers to any creative ... well ... creation that a child might ... (well, shoot) ... create that demonstrates their learning. This can include all kinds of things: video documentaries, speeches, short stories, scale models, or science experiments. However, to make these kinds of projects really valuable they need real audiences. A product created just for a grade includes only a teacher as the audience. Think about it; as adults, we seldom make something creative only to have it stamped with a grade and handed back. We typically produce a product for some kind of audience.

Sometimes, in the classroom, the product and audience are simulated. This approach is easier for teachers because they can come-up with "simulated" products and audiences that align with the concepts and skills they are teaching. For example, a teacher might ask students to script and film a 60-second advertisement (edited in Apple Computer's iMovie) that models persuasive writing techniques being taught. While this kind of simulated product has solid advantages including streamlined curriculum alignment, it's not as powerful for motivating students as products for real audiences.

The Power of Real-world Audiences for Gifted and Talented Student Products

Gifted students who know that they are preparing a work for a real audience are more likely to take the project seriously and learn more from the development process as a result.

For example, in his blog titled, A History Teacher, San Diego teacher Dan McDowell asks his students to use the Internet as their publishing media as they create interactive, branching Web-based simulations on the Jewish Holocaust. In his blog Dan explains, "Basically [my students] are creating a branching simulation (think "choose your own adventure [story]") about a family in the Holocaust. They have to come up with realistic decision points, describe the pros and cons, address the consequences of each decision, and fill it in with a narrative that reflects their research on the Holocaust." The finished simulations are published on the Web and available to other students or anyone seeking information about the Holocaust on the web. Dan offers an overview of this project in a special section of his blog.

Of course, products can be designed for audiences outside of the school. For teenagers, there are several magazines that publish their work. One of my favorites is Merlyn's Pen. This magazine does a great job of publishing high quality works by adolescent writers.

Many of you know that Prufrock Press publishes Creative Kids, a great magazine by and for kids, ages 8-14. Creative Kids focuses on written works that represent the interests of kids in upper elementary and middle school. It also publishes art, games, puzzles, and jokes created by kids.

High school students talented in conducting historical studies may wish to submit their essays to The Concord Review, a history journal that is the only quarterly journal in the world to publish the academic work of secondary students.

In her blog, Carol Fertig lists several more good places for young writers to submit their work.

Product Development Resources for Teachers of Gifted Kids

If you are interested in finding out more about this topic, I have two recommendations. The first is Prufrock Press' best selling, Ultimate Guide for Student Product Development & Evaluation. This book offers a step-by-step introduction to using creative projects in your classroom confidently. The authors give ideas for integrating projects into your existing curriculum, ways to help students plan and create their projects, and easy, effective evaluation strategies.

For those of you focused on teaching student writing and helping students get their writing published, I think the best resource available is A Teens' Guide to Getting Published. This book is the only resource for teen writers from the viewpoint of two successful, nationally published teen writers. Covering everything from getting organized to working with editors, this is a no-nonsense resource to help young people see their writing published.

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