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How to Teach Creative Writing

I have a confession to make. When it comes to creative writing, I’m not the best in the world. I’ve written a few short stories here and there, but they certainly are not the best in the world. I should know better than to even try and teach creative writing to anyone because, let’s be honest, I’ve failed miserably at doing so. However, I understand the importance of having something like creative writing in your toolbox as a writer and a journalist so I thought I’d share some of the tactics I’ve learned over the years that could help you too. Whether you’re teaching creative writing to your children or you’re just looking to get some extra practice, these tips should help get you there.

Start Small

When you’re starting out as a teacher, it’s important to keep your classes small. Too often we are pressured into giving our students loads of assignments so that we can satisfy a demand rather than provide focused, one-on-one learning. While it is imperative that you teach your students how to write well, it’s even more important that you teach them how to write well. The more you can get into a few hours a week, the more you will be able to accomplish, particularly if it’s something you’re passionate about. Small classes allowed you to get to know your students on a more personal level, which in turn, made the classes more enjoyable for both of you. In the long run, you’ll be able to see significantly greater growth in your students because of the personalized attention they received.

Use Short Poems & Short Stories

When I first started teaching creative writing, I would often assign my students short poems because it was easier for them to write something that was already pre-formed rather than use their imagination and create something new. They would often struggle with coming up with ideas for their poems and would end up just copying what they’d already read or heard before. Of course, this is not the case for everyone. Some students really do enjoy coming up with ideas and words to describe what they see and feel. However, for the most part, short poems and short stories work just fine for beginner’s writers, especially since you’re not expected to write an entire book in one sitting.

Encourage Students To Read & To Write About Things They Are Interested In

One of the best things you can do for your students is to get them interested in reading and writing about things that are important to them. If you discover that one of your students is really into Harry Potter and the Sorcerers’ Stone, for example, you can assign the book as a class read and write about. Potter is considered a magical series because it encourages kids to identify with the characters and allows them to discover their creative talents through writing. Just because your student is into science fiction does not mean they can’t explore the wonders of the Harry Potter universe. At the end of the day, it’s all about encouraging your students to find their passions and follow them.

Avoid Criticism

Unfortunately, as much as we want to help our students become the best writers they can be, we sometimes have to be the bearers of bad news. Whether you’re an adult or a parent who’s guiding your child’s education, sometimes you have to tell them that what they’ve written is not up to par. Especially in the beginning, it’s important to be as encouraging as possible but avoiding over-estimating their talent. In most cases, this is a lifelong process and something they will have to work at.

Be Selective Of The Literature You Select

Another thing that can make or break any class is the quality of the reading material you choose for the students to read. If you’ve ever had a bad experience with a boring teacher who made you read a bunch of crap, you know how frustrating it can be when the material you’re given is of such poor quality. When I was a kid, I hated literature classes because the teachers would choose books that were way above my head. While it’s great that they were able to expose me to new words and ideas, it was still a struggle to get through the material because I felt like I was constantly having to work at a different level than the rest of the class. Books can be an issue in this regard because it’s not possible to know what type of literature your students are going to be capable of understanding and responding to. If you assign Stephen King’s The Stand, for example, you’re bound to get some interesting discussions but you might also end up with some very confused teens who don’t know what’s going on half the time. On the other hand, if you assign Alice In Wonderland, you’re guaranteed to see some strange faces with twisted expressions as the students figure out the whimsical nature of the Mad Hatter. If your students aren’t getting the message or aren’t finding it interesting, it’s probably time to find a new literature class.

Create A Culture Of Creative Writing In Your School

As a teacher, one of the most important things you can do for your students is to create a culture of writing in your school. This can be as simple as assigning regular classes where students get the opportunity to write and polish their skills or it can be as complex as establishing a writing group where members work on each other’s stories and get feedback. In any case, the more you can do to encourage and support your students in their creative endeavors, the more you will see them develop as writers. When I was in school, we didn’t really have much of a writing class. All of the emphasis was on the mechanics of writing, how to write an article, a short story, or a play. We didn’t have classes dedicated to creative writing like Harry Potter or The Hunger Games because, let’s be honest, neither of those series are usually assigned to eighth graders. So, as much as we want to encourage our students to read and write about what they love, it sometimes doesn’t happen because there isn’t enough support at school.

Encourage Students To Explore Outside The Classroom

Even though they’re only kids, it’s important that your students get some fresh air every now and then. During recess, they get bored and need a change of activity so it’s important that we as teachers provide that by giving them opportunities to explore outside the classroom. You could take a few minutes during your daily lesson and, instead of just reading out loud, why not engage the students in some sort of creative activity? If you want, you can pull a random word or phrase out of a hat and have the students write a poem or story about it. Or, you could pull a random act of kindness and have the students write an essay about it. The possibilities are endless, especially since you’re not confined to classroom rules when it comes to outside activities.

With any luck, these tips will help get you started on the right foot. Teaching creative writing can be tricky and sometimes frustrating, but with a little bit of planning and a willingness to help the students, you can turn out excellent results. If you follow these tips, I’m sure you will find that your students will appreciate your efforts and be grateful for all the time and effort you’ve put in to help them find their creative talents.