ERIC Identifier: ED455659
Publication Date: 2001-06-00
Author: Smutny, Joan Franklin
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse
on Disabilities and Gifted Education Arlington VA.
Creative Strategies for Teaching Language Arts to Gifted
Students (K-8). ERIC Digest E612.
Teaching strategies that stimulate higher level and imaginative thinking are
important curriculum extensions for gifted students who have already mastered
much of the written and oral language skills required at their grade level. This
digest presents strategies and activities that, while appropriate for all
students, encourage gifted students especially to work at their own pace and
level of complexity and extend their talents in a variety of ways.
EXPLORING POETIC LANGUAGE: FREE VERSE
Poetry presents an
opportunity for gifted students to explore (1) the quality of words, (2) the
power of metaphoric language, and (3) the complexity and subtlety of meaning.
When writing free verse without the constrictions of a rhyme scheme, students
can focus on imagery and point of view, and experiment with different writing
a group poem.
Creating a free verse poem with all the students before they work on their
own can demonstrate the different ways to write free verse. Start by presenting
a poster or picture on any topic, such as nature. Encourage the students to
think about the atmosphere of the picture-the color, the feeling they get, and
what certain images mean to them. Ask questions like:
* If you were to think of the people (or animals) in this picture as colors,
what colors would they be?
* If you were to think of them as music or sound, what would you hear?
* If they had texture, temperature (such as cold, smooth, warm, liquid, etc.)
what might they be?
As the students contribute words, phrases, or parts of sentences, write them
on a blackboard so that students can build on one another's contributions to
create a poem. Once the students have shared their ideas, read the whole poem
with respect and appreciation and talk about the images conveyed.
Using creative catalysts, students can enter new worlds and create images of
their imaginary experience and analytic thought. Teachers can provide a wide
range of creative catalysts (e.g., posters, pictures, paintings, films, musical
recordings, books, games, puzzles, etc.) and guide students in deciding which
catalyst they want to use. Try to stimulate original thinking through focused
questions and directions:
* Notice this photo of Jane Goodall.
* What is she staring at?
* What exists outside the lines of the painting?
* What does her expression tell you?
* What do you imagine has just happened before this picture was taken?
Freed from the need to make words rhyme, many gifted writers produce verse
with extraordinarily sensitive and vivid imagery:
waves of unhappiness through her veins
upward to plant a kiss on a frowning thought
to change the color of Mother Sky to a rich healthy sapphire blue
that will burn away her black cape of troubles
Melt them down to tiny drops
Letting them fall away to cool the Earth
Then thank her fellow trees
invite them up her stairway for tea, as an honor for their kindness
Kendall, grade 5
EXPLORING THE ELEMENTS OF FICTION
Exploring the elements of fiction can be exciting if students are asked to
improvise and think divergently about the stories. All students can benefit from
the critical thinking that this strategy demands, and the teacher can adapt it
to more difficult content, depending on the ability and grade level of the
students. Begin with fundamental questions: If you could change this, what would
you change it to? How? Why? Then break down the different elements of a
composition and discuss how specific changes would change the whole effect.
fractured fairy tales to explore fiction.
Fractured fairy tales are designed to be humorous by changing a familiar
story in an unexpected way, such as altering the plot, a character, or setting.
One student might decide to make Little Red Riding Hood a tough, strong girl,
completely unafraid of the wolf and able to save her grandmother. Another
student may select a fictional superhero and create a humorous flaw that causes
problems when he/she has to save the day. When the teacher presents a fractured
fairy tale, asking a series of questions helps the children think through the
changes and what they mean. Examples include:
* What characters in this story differ from the original and how?
* Which events occur in the new one that don't in the original?
* How do the changes in characters and plot in the second one change the
meaning and/or the way you feel about the characters?
* How does this change the overall effect?
* What do you think the writer is trying to say in this new version?
When students are asked to change the nature of even a few characters in a
fairytale, they will discover that the smallest change can affect plot. If their
changes remove the conflict and suspense from the story, the teacher can take
them back to the original story. What moment in the story held the most tension
for them? What kept them riveted to the story? Re-examining their own ideas,
gifted students can then identify the areas where the conflict and suspense have
gone and can brainstorm ways to create new conflicts. This process can apply to
the simplest stories as well as to the most advanced novels and plays. For
gifted students, the possibilities are limitless and the problems presented by
the process endlessly fascinating. The key is to discuss the relationships
across story elements and to examine what is gained or lost with each change.
A STUDY OF PERSPECTIVE: BIOGRAPHICAL AND HISTORICAL
Biographies and histories provide rich material for gifted students
to re-imagine actual events from new, even unusual points of view. Gifted
students rarely accept anything on face value and enjoy debating points in
politics and history based on their own alternate readings of the events.
Writing biographical and historical fiction enables them to capitalize on this
talent and use it to explore different perspectives both critically and
Begin by exposing the students to the life experiences of prominent men and
women through books, magazines, and short films, and through pictures, drawings,
or images of their work. Ask them what influences in these individuals' young
lives affected their development, how they overcame the obstacles or challenges
that stood in their way, and what their most significant contributions were.
When they write this information down in paragraph form or as a series of notes
and also jot down any questions they have about the person's life, many gifted
students find themselves continually going back to do more research as the story
develops in more detail. This is one of the great values of biographical (and
historical) fiction: It inspires deeper research and a more critical analysis of
issues that appear in their story.
a point of view.
Choose a person (or animal or object) in a prominent person's life and
describe an event from this perspective. It could be the person's brother,
sister, friend, dog, or even his/her favorite pen. As students begin to tell
their stories, they discover how individual points of view create a different
focus and perspective than the more "objective" biographies that synthesize
information from multiple sources.
Historical fiction works in a similar way. For example, the class may study
the Civil War period. After the students acquire a detailed understanding of the
issues and conflicts between the north and south and events that finally drove
the two sides to war, ask them to create a character from this period. The
students create a personal history for their imaginary character and write a
story or anecdote that could have occurred in the life of this person in this
place in this time.
Gifted students who use biography and history as a source for creating
fiction begin to see history-and non-fiction generally-in a different light.
Within a news report or a historical event are many individual lives, each with
a slightly different perspective. Perhaps in no other form do critical and
creative thinking work so closely. Gifted writers who love history discover a
limitless source of material-the stories of many civilizations around the
world-that can become the world of their characters, the cause of conflicts, the
most suspenseful moments of their own stories. These activities lead to a
reflective understanding of how the stories of history are told and how bias can
impact the representation of events.
Language arts instruction for gifted must
provide students with the techniques and sources that fully engage their
analytical minds and imaginative talents. Gifted readers and writers can expand
their experience of literature when they respond to it through their own
original work-creative writing, designing, composing and dramatizing.
Higher-level thinking skills of analysis, interpretation, and evaluation are
inherent to the creative processes described in this digest. When used as a
curriculum extension, the strategies are especially for gifted students, and may
also be used to teach critical thinking skills to all children.
Internet resources cited in this document were
current at the time of publication. Please note that Web addresses are subject
Smutny, J. F. (Ed.) (1998). The Young Gifted Child: Potential and Promise, An
Anthology. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.
Smutny, J. F., Walker, S. Y., and Meckstroth, E. A. (1997). Teaching Young
Gifted Children in the Regular Classroom: Identifying, Nuturing, and Challenging
Ages 4-9. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Publishing Inc.
sites for fractured fairy tales: