What Gifted Writers Need

Student at Computer

One of my writing mentors said that the best writers are the ones who give themselves the most permissions. I have been teaching gifted elementary students for the past eight of my 28 years of teaching. Gifted students, at least the ones I have taught, tend to be highly verbal. These young students come to me ready to write. They just need permission.

Today with the Common Core standards and the new testing systems (PARCC for us), teachers have become more and more fearful of creative writing. Writing is not fun anymore. It is a given on the test, so we must practice writing to a prompt using at least two texts as support. “Show text evidence” is a common critique written on my student’s reader responses.

Creativity relies on permission. I use writing workshop style. The students know the expectations; however, they are also free to roam around the room, to write in different mediums (paper and pencil or word processing), and to explore different forms.

One day I was asking my students to write a haiku poem. I introduced Laura Purdie Salas’ “Why-ku” poetry form.  Some of my boys got together and created their own form. They called it “Psyku!” Here’s how Reed explained it on our kidblog site: “This is an out -of-the-world dumb type of writing. You just make up a topic and have it crazyfied! It can be something about a dumb person or a wacky topic.” The syllable count (which actually has a pattern to it) is 5, 4, 5, 5, 5, 6, 5, 7, 5, 8.

From Nigel, an original creator of the Psyku:

I can’t see. It’s dark.
OUCH!! A brick wall.
I can’t see. It’s dark.
I know I’m not blind.
I can’t see. It’s dark.
Maybe just a long blink.
I can’t see. It’s dark.
My glasses lenses are clear.
I can’t see. It’s dark.
Hold on. I just found the light switch.

I posted this wild and wacky poetry form on Poetry Friday and had seven poets respond with a Psyku! See the post and comments here.  My students were elated. Their confidence was boosted sky high, and other students wanted to invent their own poetry forms as well.

From Michelle Heidenrich Barnes (who is no stranger to poetry challenges. She hosts a ditty challenge each month on her blog.)

Any questions?

Above is below.
Calm is uptight.
Inside is outside.
And wrong’s always right.
High-fives? Unheard of!
They’re now low-fives instead.
And all underwear
should be worn over the head.
We end at the start.
The start is the end. I’m hungry.

Trying on the forms of other writers gives students freedom to be creative. On Michelle’s site, Today’s Little Ditty, I read about J. Patrick Lewis’s poetry form called the zeno.  I introduced this form to my students, and they came back to it again and again. Writing about murmurations, Emily chose this form and used Animoto to further express her thoughts in video form.

My students come into my class with amazing abilities. They have minds full of imaginative ideas. I open up the door and allow them to let go, to try on new words and forms, to experiment with technology, and to be inventive. I believe that creativity is the lacking ingredient in the standards and standardized testing. And creativity will be the savior of our society. All a gifted writer needs is permission. After that, they will amaze you.

Margaret Simon lives on the Bayou Teche in New Iberia, Louisiana.  Margaret has a Masters degree in Gifted Education and certification by the National Boards for Professional Teaching Standards. She received the Donald Graves Award for teaching writing from NCTE in 2014. Her young readers novel, Blessen, was published by Border Press in April, 2012.  She blogs regularly at http://reflectionsontheteche.wordpress.com.