August 4, 2020 Team Alchemy

Engaging Students in Creative Writing

Re-igniting the creative spark

In our modern world, it can be increasingly difficult to conserve the innate creativity that we are born with. School curriculums all around the world continue to encourage more of a STEM focus, often neglecting the skills and instincts necessary within the arts and humanities. We now know that creativity can be developed, however it must be practised regularly. In teaching students creative writing, we must encourage them to use their imagination. Unfortunately, imagination often becomes less of a focus as students progress through their schooling. This can make creative writing very difficult, particularly as students mature.

The problem of writer’s block

Generating ideas is a key aspect of writing that many students find troublesome. The planning process is pivotal to successful creative writing. Giving students a step by step process to follow, even if only in the early stages, before they become more confident, can help to minimise writer’s block. Many students work better with structured, methodical style thinking, and this is often why they find creative writing so challenging. It can seem quite overwhelming having so much freedom with minimal guidelines. Whilst we should encourage students to enjoy this freedom, they may find some step-by-step rules reassuring to begin with. In this scenario, NAPLAN-style stimulus may be useful in the early stages.

Adapting to different learning styles 

Every student will benefit from a different style of learning, whether with regards to creative writing or any other subject. As tutors, teachers or parents, if we can anticipate this in advance, we can individually tailor our approach to each child’s needs. 

Many students are visual learners, meaning that they will have a better grasp of concepts when they see related written words, pictures or videos. In creative writing, we can have visual learners draw pictures to bring their ideas to life. These learners may also find the ‘mind map’ method to be useful. This will help to organise their thoughts, visualising their ideas and using their imagination, before the writing process even commences. 

Contrastingly, some tutors may find their students achieve more clarity when they vocalise their ideas. Oral learners will gain confidence by conversing aloud, bridging the gap between their imagination and the page. Sometimes, these individuals in particular struggle with commencing the writing process. However, by simply expressing themselves aloud, sorting through their mental clutter, they can self-regulate and find the answers to their own questions.

Finally, kinesthetic learners will prefer to be left alone with their thoughts, pen and paper. This is the way they organise their thinking. In the same sense, their learning style is quite visual. By writing out all the chaotic thoughts and ideas running through their minds, they achieve clarity. It is often these kinds of learners who find writing to come more naturally, as they can avoid the detour of bridging steps that are necessary for other learning styles. 

Encouraging creativity in older students 

As students mature, particularly entering into their high school years, it can be difficult to preserve their enthusiasm towards creative writing. They are starting to leave behind the ‘make-believe’ world they have been living in, becoming more realistic, sometimes even cynical. Older students may begin to feel that fictional writing is pointless (realising that the short story about a dragon that they wrote in year three will probably never be published…). We really need to give them the opportunity to feel that they have a voice, that they are writing for a purpose. Similarly, the more we encourage reading, the more students will feel stimulated by thought-provoking material. Conversation is so important at this age; older students need to feel heard and respected aloud, in order to feel that their writing has value too.

By Gudrun Drake