Everyone has to teach writing, but as soon as someone tacks on the term "CREATIVE," I think there is an assumption that it is a process students must discover completely on their own or that it is solely subjective. We forget that we can still coach creativity, and assist in the planning process. Yes, students need to tap into their own imaginative well, but isn't it okay to lead them there? So here's my steps to coaching creative writing. By all means, they aren't THE way but they are A way...
READ WITH THEM
Students need to experience creativity in order to tap into their own. It's important to expose kids to creative pieces of writing in order for them to internalize what they like and don't like. What was interesting and what wasn't, and even what kind of story telling they appreciate. Exposure is definitely step one! My new favourite: Awful End By Philip Ardagh! Such great narrating and sarcasm! I love it's Monty Python feel! Check it out HERE!
PRACTICE THROUGH IMITATION
We model most things for students but very few times do we actually model creativity. One way to practice is by allowing students to parody their favourite pieces. Teachers have been using fractured fairy tales for years, and I think it's a fantastic way to let students practice retelling stories through their own creative voices. A colleague of mine introduced me to this amazing website that walks students through the fractured fairy tale by READ WRITE THINK check'r out HERE!
This is an obvious step but it is something that I personally need to practice. Often I find I tell students to brainstorm, they come up with one or two ideas, and pick one that seems right. Maybe we should be teaching to pursue multiple ideas, figure out their details, develop them further and then decide. It's okay to put effort into the brainstorming process.
TAKE TIME TO TEACH THE STORY ELEMENTS
Walking through the setting, characters, conflicts and resolutions of familiar stories helps students see the layout. Putting names to them helps cover curriculum, but more importantly when you categorize these things it gives the students a chance to organize their creative thoughts. They can ask themselves, do I have a conflict? Did I resolve it in the end? This way students are writing with a purpose. It seems silly but if you take the time to review these elements before writing the quality of their pieces is significantly improved.
THE OLD SCHOOL PLOT GRAPH
Now, I have a love hate relationship with plot graphs. My hate is that most stories don't actually fit the traditional plot graph, and I mean most stories that I enjoy. There can be multiple rise and falls in a story, not just one, but for an introduction to creative writing I think plot graphs are a great way to map out a students imagination. Whether a student has no ideas and nowhere to go, or too many ideas and no focus, a plot graph can assist. I usually have students map out their story in a few sentences and let them know it is okay to stray from your plan. The point is to have a direction of some sort to start from. Check out another great source here from READ WRITE THINK PLOT GRAPHS!
SHOW DON'T TELL/ ROUGH DRAFTING
This is my ABSOLUTE favourite thing to teach. Telling stories isn't enough, you need to teach how to SHOW what you envision. The lesson I love to do is with all five senses. Have students test each of their senses: Sight, Taste, Smell, Touch, Hearing and write a description for someone who does not have that sense. I usually do one at a time and make it a game. For sight I pick a scene and have students describe it in their writing. I like to time them to add extra focus. For sound I have them close their eyes and play any sort of music (usually of the meditation variety). For touch, I like to blindfold students and give them something like dough, a plastic egg, bubble wrap etc to figure out. For smell, again blindfold and use something like black liquorice (the grosser the better). Finally, taste, I usually do a sip of pop or carbonated water because you will get some great descriptions of bubbles. You can be creative, and when it's all done, share some of your student examples with the class. Once you've done this exercise have students go through their rough copies and highlight sentences that are telling and make them showing. It works every time!
It's one thing to edit for your students but peer edits and reviews are the way to the creative gold mine! They feed off of each other and their brutal honesty really makes them better writers. They have no problem telling one another where they got lost, or what is unbelievable. It's great interaction and teaches them the benefits of collaborating. You can download my free editing wheel HERE!
It is so important for students to take pride in their work. Producing a final draft worthy of display really completes the entire process. Nothing is more anti-climactic then putting effort into something that goes nowhere. Seriously no one wants to do that and your students sure don't want to either. One of my personal favourite things to do is compile their stories into a class anthology that can be used for parent teacher interviews, the class library or even the school library. It's a great keepsake and is easily done at any staples.
It's not so much about the tips, as it is about the steps to the process. Putting it together and having students take some time with their work can improve their own creative process. Give'r a go!
For more resources check out my Creative Writing Crash Course on Teachers Pay Teachers! CLICK HERE TO CHECK IT OUT!
-Miss B :)