In conversations with several teachers this week I have observed the same scene repeated. They have highly verbal gifted students in their classrooms who, when asked to write, produce minimal output. Their first draft is often their only draft, and the process seems excruciating.
We speculate (admittedly without any direct evidence or research) that for these students, the mechanics of writing get in the way, slowing down the process to the point that the student’s thoughts race ahead of the pencil. In fear of losing the ideas that flow so readily, the students give up rather than try to keep up.
With some experimentation, we have created an approach which seems to be working well to get these students putting out written work which matches their verbal abilities. We have installed Audacity, a free open-source sound recording and editing program, onto several classroom computers. The students have the option for each assignment to begin the writing process verbally instead of on paper. They simply record what they want to say, save the file, then later can go back and transcribe their words onto paper or into a word processor.
The results have been wonderful. Even some students who didn’t seem to have particularly strong verbal skills have asked to use the program and are producing some of their best work this way. Teachers have caught me in the hallway or pulled me aside in the classroom to tell me excitedly that they are seeing great results already, and that students who were formerly reluctant to write are now eager to get to their next writing project.
The experiment is still in fairly early stages, and I’m sure we will run into glitches along the way, but so far, it seems to be a win-win!