The Teacher-Writer's Guide to Creative Writing
“Look into your heart and write. ”
- Writing starts a fire: it can forge a burning passion in our students. Writing is the one time they can be real and true to themselves. Let's embrace it!
- Writing brings us home: the thing I love most about writing is totally untested in assessment, writing makes us feel more at home with ourselves and the world we live in.
I am hoping this little place of calm will become your one-stop shop for all things creative writing. It is my ‘daydream’ to fire up teachers for writing again.
Throw away the rubrics. Bin the checklists.
Light a fire in your heart... and write on!
Keep reading for some of my fave writing tips!
Writing tip #1
Visual prompts are a fantastic way to engage students in quick writing activities. Regular writing is key to develop deep confidence and enjoyment in the writing process.
Do you have students who spend most of their writing time 'thinking'? This is because they haven't yet learnt to write to the point of automacy. Now, I am not saying the creative writing is ever automatic. But regular writing develops familiarity. It creates an ease that isn't there for students who only write every other week.
So grab some great images - there are some fabulous opensource image website out there - and let your imagination run riot!
Writing tip #2
Make techniques optional.
I can't say this enough! Make techniques optional.
Now I know that we have standards to meet and success criteria to use, but not every great piece of writing is laden with literary flourishes.
So yes, we need to teach techniques and we need to see our students use them and use them well. But there is a balance to be found and our learning writers will only find it if we show them.
So give them a writing task and tell them they can only use one technique. Just ONE! It has to be well chosen, beautifully crafted, and it needs to turn their writing from something ordinary, into something that shines.
Writing tip #3
Focus on the detail. Anytime I do feedback on creative writing, I find myself talking about detail.
So what do I mean by detail. Look at the image above, when I ask students to tell me what is in this image - they say "leaves" and "a squirrel". Imagine if I started that class session by asking my students to visualize "leaves and a squirrel". How many of them do you think would have imagined an image like this one?
It is the detail in our creative writing that transforms a setting from spring (green lush leaves) to fall (crisp yellow leaves) to winter (brown mulch on the ground). Let's get stuck into the detail.
Writing tip #4
So I talked about giving students freedom to choose when and when not to use techniques. I am also a HUGE believer in giving students choice about what they write as well.
If someone plonked a sheet in front of me telling me to "write a short story about a bus journey". I would probably freeze. It's too open. Now if you gave me the choice between "write a short story about a bus journey" and "write a short story about a sweet shop", my mind starts working straight away. I want to write about sweet shop. Not just any sweet shop - I am imagining a Georgian sweet shop in Bath and Elizabeth and Darcy visit just after their wedding. And guess what? They arguing.
Choices trigger more ideas, not less.