Creative Writing in the Classroom
My district has been pushing Toulmin writing across all grades for two years now. Once students hit 6th grade, in most of our schools, that’s the majority, if not all of the writing they do. With the curriculum we have to do, it seems like we never have time for something a little more... creative? Don’t get me wrong! I was thoroughly impressed with the things my students were creating. My mentor and I both went to the same college and recalled that we didn’t have to write a Toulmin argument until we took a class with the head of the English department. The level of work we are expecting from our students is impressive. I think it is a great idea to have them introduced to this so early; however, does this mean that we don’t have time for more creative things?
I am a firm believer that creative writing has a lot to offer kids of any age. Creative writing has a higher interest for students and can give them the same skills that will transfer to essays, arguments, speaking, and thinking. A popular creative writing topic is to have students continue a story after it’s finished. This would require students to use their critical thinking skills, and to analyze literature not only for content but for style as well. Throughout the process, students have to be able to put their thoughts on paper with good grammar, spelling, and well-flowing ideas. If you workshop a creative piece, students have to learn how to take and give constructive criticism on a piece that could mean a lot to them. They also need to use persistence to keep at it and not give up when things aren’t working like they want. Creative writing gives students confidence and pride. There are even publications that look for young writers; the chance to be published could be a source of persistence for some students, while some just love sharing with friends and classmates.
Some teachers feel that it is unnecessary. Maybe they don’t feel they have time for it with the curriculum and required essays. Some teachers feel that it has no real merit; that creative writing is mindless verbal doodling. Some have been concerned about opening the door of creative writing and what might come out. Another popular issue is trying to figure out how to grade a creative piece. I can see how these issues would concern some teachers, but with a little planning, they can be easily dealt with. A creative writing piece can have as much focus, as many constraints, as you want or need. Even stories have to follow grammar rules, spelling, and be able to get their point across. As for grading, two of the most popular choices are to focus on growth through a journal or portfolio, or to focus on specific aspects such as spelling and grammar, style, ideas; there are a multitude of creative writing rubrics accessible online.
The lack of creative writing really bothered me in my 6th grade class, especially after overhearing quite a few students talking excitedly about stories, poetry, or even movie scripts they were working on. These are things they love and I could use it to help bring aspects of writing alive for them. With our curriculum, we didn’t have much time for creative writing, so we plugged it in where we could. After finishing Ender’s Game, we had a test where one of the final questions was to write a story about what happens next. I also started alternating our bell ringer. It was always reading novels of their own choosing. It started with one day, ‘Wednesday Writing’, and became ‘Twisted Tuesday and Thursday’. Two days a week, instead of reading, students came in and picked one of the two writing prompts to write on for 15-20 minutes. I made some up, got some from Pinterest, and some from a writing book.
My 6th graders loved it! I had them keep it in a notebook that I would grade about every 2 weeks. I always added commentary to every notebook, would add suggestions and edits, and grade on length. We would occasionally share out when we had a prompt that everyone really liked. Grading them was a lot of fun, gave me more insight into my students, and it became a personal challenge for many of them. This was the most I felt that I could fit into our busy schedule, but I felt that my class became closer as a whole and I saw a lot of positive changes. With sharing their creative thoughts, even Socratic seemed to flow better. They didn’t seem as scared to share their thoughts. The quieter students were making friends because of their responses. They all looked forward to our Twisted Tuesday and Thursdays. I would like to keep it a constant.
This is just my opinion. I feel that, even if it’s a little here and there, creative writing is important for ALL students. Maybe you think creative writing should be something you get to try when a ‘creative writing’ class is offered in your high school or college. Maybe creative writing in the classroom could open doors where, once opened, you see some things you didn’t plan on dealing with. Maybe there should be more focus on creative writing. What are your thoughts on creative writing? Do you do any creative writing in your class? Is it used as a reward? Do you think there isn’t time for it in your classroom?