Teaching Talented Writers with Web 2.0 Tools
Olthouse, Jill M., Miller, Myriah Tasker, Teaching Exceptional Children
Youth with writing talent display distinguishing characteristics and those characteristics can be supported and enhanced using Web 2.0 tools. Online writing communities can help students with writing talent connect with other avid writers and can offer motivational challenges such as contests and publication opportunities. Resources are available for writers of varying ages and interests; features include moderated discussions and commenting, online and hard-copy publication options, peer models, multimedia integration, as well as collaboration.
Although many students struggle with writing, an often more challenging issue for teachers is how to deal with students who have exceptional writing talent. This population of students may exhibit skills that are often overlooked by simply focusing on gradelevel standardized assessments. Yet teachers have noted that some students are writing 50,000-word novels, specializing in composing sermons or scientific papers, writing creatively but off-topic, or demonstrating advanced skills such as extended metaphor, sometimes even in their spare time or at the elementary level (Noel & Edmunds, 2006; Olthouse, 2012b; Piirto, 1992). Just as a struggling writer deserves support to master this important life skill, these students deserve challenging assignments and constructive feedback to help them develop and nurture their unique talent for writing.
One way that exceptionally gifted writers can be challenged in today's classrooms is through online resources, which may present students who are gifted with writing experiences that align with their level of talent. According to Ng and Nicholas (2007), online writing communities offer students who are gifted a chance to explore and create a supportive peer group, whereas otherwise they might become disengaged and segregated from the general classroom curriculum. Participating in these online writing communities matches talented writers with other talented writers based on ability and interest. Through these two facets, students who are gifted become engaged and active in their own learning or writing processes. Online writing networks become a curricular differentiation vehicle limiting students only by their interests and capabilities (Sheffield, 2007).
Talented writers have specific characteristics that can be supported and enhanced with wise use of online writing tools. Teachers should keep in mind these characteristics as they encourage students to move beyond writing for another "A" to writing to be heard and make a contribution with their creative talent.
The first characteristic to look for in talented writers is they often tend to seek out intellectual peers with similar talents (Kohányi, 2005). An intellectual peer is a friend who has similar interests and intellectual abilities. Just as adults have friends of varying ages, these writers can benefit from a peer mentor who is a few years older (e.g., a junior in high school serving as a writing partner/mentor to a fourthgrader). In addition, talented writers often model their practices after expert authors, and find that they are unique, but not alone (Olthouse, 2012a). In addition, students gain intellectual humility that comes with the realization that there are many other talented young writers; they begin to judge their writing against those of their peers and role models rather than against basic curriculum goals. Challenging these exceptional writers can be accomplished by giving them the opportunity to network with other writers via web sites targeted towards young writers.
A second characteristic of talented writers is their intellectual precocity with language (Piirto, 2002). As a teacher, keep in mind talented writers often have above-average reading ability, broad reading interests, and rapid learning (Piirto, 2002). These students might be able to learn more quickly by surfing through various writing web sites than by following a predetermined curriculum sequence (Siegle, 2004). …