I recently completed a week of conferencing with the parents of my fifty students. With that many conferences, you would think I would have encountered some bumps along the way but they actually went smoothly. There was one conference however, that has given me pause for much reflection. It wasn’t a conference about a struggling student or a child with behavior issues that kept my mind churning. The conference that kept creeping into my thoughts was about a child who is achieving excellence.
I am convinced that this particular student came from the womb clenching a pencil in one hand and paper in the other. She uses dialogue tags, demonstrates appropriate usage of figurative language, is spot on with conventions, understands the importance of revision, and has a grasp of craft beyond her nine years. How can a gifted writer be a problem?
My writing toolkit is full of great tools when it comes to providing strategies for students who struggle with writing. I have plenty of ways to differentiate and scaffold learning for those who need extra support. Unfortunately, my toolkit for the exceptional writer is not nearly as full; probably because I haven’t encountered many students who are truly gifted writers.
While talking to this student’s parents, I discovered that her entire family loves to read. They shared that watching TV isn’t the norm in their home, but reading is. Her parents also stated that not only does their child read for hours on her own; she also listens to them read to her… classical favorites no less!
As a result of her immersion into literature, my student has picked up on the many ways an author can use words to engage an audience. With authors acting as her mentors, she has developed her own rhythm, voice, and desire to create meaning through words.
In the upcoming weeks, I will provide this student with strategies that will continue to help her develop her skills. By intentionally using her love of reading, my writing conferences with her will allow this young writer to stretch and take risks by moving her beyond benchmarks and grade level targets
- Author studies – Matching specific writing skills will specific authors for student at home and in school reading
- Advanced vocabulary building, including the origins of words
- Examining the use of audience, purpose, and context
- Looking at revision in new ways
- Providing books about writing such as, How to Write a Life Story and Live Writing by Ralph Fletcher
- Providing opportunities for publishing – contests, coffee shop displays, and online publishing
- Examining and studying genres beyond those used in the classroom
These strategies can be used in different degrees with all writers of course, but as they stand, they will definitely be added to my toolbox for exceptional writers.