5 Tips for Engaging Students in Creative Writing

Upper elementary, middle and high school writing teachers will enjoy today’s guest post.  Jot down some ideas, try them out and let us know how they go! ~EMP

Creative writing can be a fantastic way to improve students’ communications skills. Most students have an innate desire to create, and everyone benefits when teachers tap into that desire. The “creative” is the easy part. But getting the student to actually write is a whole other story.

Here are five tips to get the students writing. Once the pens start moving, the rest is easy (or at least, easier)!

#1. Don’t read their work. I know I know, if a student isn’t going to be held accountable for the work, they won’t do it, right? This is true for some. But many students are afraid to write creatively for fear of having their creativity judged or censored. Sometimes we ask these students to pour their hearts out, and then heartlessly attack their work with red ink. Try asking the students to write just for the sake of writing. Sure, a few students will take advantage of the situation and shirk the responsibility. But many other students may truly benefit from the exercise.

#2. Make it a group effort. Most students are social creatures. Teachers might as well take advantage of this! You might try an activity like this one: Hand each student a blank piece of paper. Ask them to write the best opening line of poetry that they possibly can. You might want to give them a one minute time limit. When everyone has written one line, have everyone pass his or her poem to the right. Then invite the students to read the first lines and write the second line of each poem. Again, pass the poems to the right and write the third line. You can continue this for as long as you like. Then invite the students to read their collective efforts aloud. (Or you may want to read them, so you can edit as you go!) This process may well result in some shenanigans. However, it doesn’t take the students long to realize they have the opportunity to amaze and amuse their classmates, and even if it’s a bit painful for you, the students will be thinking and communicating.

#3. Invite them to imitate the contemporaries. Sometimes we teachers tend to beat our students over the heads with the classics—in other words: the dead writers. While of course the classics will always be important, many students don’t realize that there are people out there right now writing and creating amazing things. When we introduce our students to contemporary writers, we make creative writing a current event, not a history lesson.

#4. Make it PG-13. No one wants to get called into the principal’s office (or worse) for studying racy poems. But a little bit of innuendo can go a long way toward engaging the hormonally motivated student. Go ahead and read something spicy. Go ahead and let them write something spicy. (Just make sure it’s PG-13, not R!)

#5. Slam. Become familiar with “slam” poetry—competitive performance poetry. While the trend makes many a traditionalist shudder, students love slam poetry. There are slams and slammers all over the country. You might invite one to visit your class, and/or you might schedule your own slam. For whatever reason, a good poetry slam always seems to get the creative juices flowing. (And the public speaking practice doesn’t hurt either!)

Robin Merrill is a teacher and children’s author who writes for Teacher Certification Degrees, a career resource for individuals who want to become a teacher.

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