Teaching Creative Writing
Creative writing is imaginative writing distinguished from technical or journalistic writing, and includes autobiography, fiction, poetry, screenwriting and drama. The skill plays a valuable lifelong role and provides therapeutic self-expression, offers an enjoyable artistic outlet, and can produce entertaining reading for others. Creative writing teachers help students engage their imaginations, develop ideas, and relate these ideas in written form according to accepted grammar and stylistic norms. Students learn how to establish the theme or subject of a composition, and develop characters, plots, and endings. Teachers can use writing prompts, modeling, journaling, freewriting and storytelling to develop creative writing projects.
Keywords Autobiography; Character Development; Creative Writing; Freewriting; Journaling; Modeling; Plot Development; Revising; Rough Draft; Writing Conference; Writing Prompts
Creative writing is imaginative writing distinguished from technical or journalistic writing, and includes autobiography, fiction, poetry, screenwriting and drama. The skill plays a valuable lifelong role and provides therapeutic self-expression, offers an enjoyable artistic outlet, and can produce entertaining reading for others. Educators believe that children can begin learning to write creatively as early as they learn to write.
Teaching creative writing addresses the ability to engage the imagination, develop ideas and relate them in written form according to accepted grammar and stylistic norms. These teaching areas include establishing the theme or subject of the composition, character development, plot development, and the ending. Techniques such as providing writing prompts, modeling, journaling, freewriting and storytelling can be effectively used in teaching how to develop a creative writing project.
Understanding the mechanics of writing (proper grammar, spelling, punctuation and sentence structure) is a necessary foundation for writing a good story. Language arts educators use a variety of teaching techniques to help stimulate students' creative thinking for the origination of story ideas.
Creative writing is a difficult subject to teach because it requires the seemingly paradoxical task of encouraging the free flow of ideas while containing amorphous ideas within the framework and structure of written language. Preliminary guidelines regarding the topic or subject for students' writing assignments help to jumpstart the creative writing process. Adequate structure allows students to express themselves and enhances the process of expression by providing a starting point for the imaginative exercise.
Aspects of Writing
An important element in creative writing is learning how to develop characters. Character development is the combination of details, dialog, speech and actions of a character through which a storyteller informs the audience about the character's personality and motivation. Middle school and secondary language arts students can learn that characters move the story along through their dialog and point of view. They can be protagonists, antagonists, or minor characters. Through careful prompting, a teacher can ask questions that will direct a student to develop a character with depth, personality, and interest. Aspects of characters that writers should address include body language, gestures, the way they move, mannerisms and the way they speak to include unique dialects and methods of speech.
For the middle and secondary level, next comes teaching students to develop a plot. Plot development is organizing the story elements to create a casual sequence that draws the reader into the characters' lives and provides a story conflict. Teachers can help students with plot development by leading a discussion on the types of obstacles and difficult situations the story's character might face. Other points of instruction include the pace of the story and how fast or slow the story moves.
Language arts educators in all levels also address how to write compelling endings to students' stories-the part of the story that readers are most likely to remember. By asking questions, the teacher can direct student writers to create endings that are satisfying.
Writing autobiographies is a powerful and effective tool in learning creative writing, as a student's life experiences are a familiar, passionate source of ideas. An autobiography is a personal history with information about one's life written by that person. In the elementary classroom, students would be asked to write autobiographical sketches about shorter spans of time, such as what they did last night, or over the weekend, or what exciting thing happened over their vacation. For the middle school and secondary student, reading and discussing autobiographies of others enriches the students' understanding and writing of their own autobiographies. An instructor in the elementary, middle, or secondary language arts class, can further enhance the students' understanding by modeling his/her own autobiography to demonstrate the process of adding details and interesting anecdotes to make the story unique.
Teachers in the middle and secondary language arts programs can help their students focus on the stories they want to tell in their autobiographies with prewriting activities (Novelli, 2006). A helpful exercise is to brainstorm writing ideas. Talk about the categories of real-life stories together, such as school adventures, siblings or friends, summer camps, scary moments, or places they've lived.
Teachers of inner city students have helped them to write by tapping into a genre that these students find familiar, that of oral storytelling. According to retired elementary teacher, Judy Wolfman, in "Passing on the Art of Story," (cited in Merina, 2002) many of her students in the inner city schools of York, Pennsylvania, came from an oral storytelling background. Teachers in the inner city can effectively use the familiar territory of oral storytelling as a launching point to help their students compose autobiographies or craft a story about a fictional character.
Creating a Writing Assignment
The first step in a lesson on creative writing in elementary, middle, and secondary language arts classes is for the instructor to define the topic of the writing assignment. Once the topic to be written about is identified, students enrich their creative writing by exploring further avenues of thought in the subject area. The process begins with drawing upon the experiences and information students bring to the writing assignment.
Teachers have discovered and successfully utilized various techniques to encourage creative thinking. In the elementary classroom, teachers may pose questions to prompt writing, such as "What I would do with a red wagon." In the middle school and secondary language arts classes, reading and discussing novels, short stories, plays and poems provides additional insights and examples for student writing assignments. Class discussion in the form of brainstorming adds to the bank of ideas to help students to write creatively.
Students learn to write by putting their pens to paper or their fingers on the computer keyboard-and writing. Teachers model writing as an effective teaching technique in elementary writing classes. Modeling is a teaching technique whereby the instructor demonstrates the writing process to the class in real time. Using an overhead projector, the teacher writes a first sentence or two to a story. Then, as the teacher asks questions to guide class participation and contributions to the story, the class helps to develop the story. In an even more unconventional exercise in teaching creative writing on the...
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