Teaching creative writing?
Not sure where to start?
I’ve got you! Let’s get planning!
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How to Teach Creative Writing
All writing is (or at least should be) creative.
However, if you are teaching a specific creative writing class, here are some tips to keep it moving:
- Plan your outcomes.
- Build your lessons.
- Create a feedback loop.
- Foster a writing community.
Let’s look at each of these in more detail:
Plan Your Outcomes
At the end of the class, what do you want your students to have created?
A collection of poems? A play? A short story? A memoir? A novel? (You can participate in NaNoWriMo!!)
- Determine what it is your students will be working on.
It will be easier for you if your class is working on the same outcome and the same genre. You’ll be able to focus your lessons more effectively. However, if you want to leave the genre and final product up to your students, just adjust your planning (more about that in a sec!).
It will be easier if you start with the big picture and then zoom in.
So, create a yearlong plan (or however long you’ll be teaching the course). Then you can focus on smaller sections.
- What about grading?
Creative writing by it’s very title means writing. Which, for you as the teacher, means you need to determine what you are going to grade.
Set up your requirements — how will the students be assessed and how often?
Because creativity is subjective, you may want to use a simple rubric to assess drafts.
You can also use a cumulative point scale. In other words, create different activities that student complete to earn points.
For example, graphic organizer, word bank, character description, scene description, rough draft — all of these elements can be part of the total grade. Each can be worth a specific number of points.
If your students will be working on different genre, you can create a list of requirements for each genre.
Break Up Your Lessons
- What will you teach?
Teaching creative writing doesn’t mean that you just set your students free into the realm of writing. Even though they may begin with gusto, most will falter without guidance.
Start them on the path to success by planning how you will teach your class.
One way to design your class is to look at the elements that go into a the genre.
For example, a short story includes character development, description, dialogue, pacing, conflict, minor characters, back story, and so on.
Start by making a list of all the elements of the genre. Organize them into what makes sense to you. In what order will students need to develop these elements?
Use that list as the topic of your daily mini lessons.
Your mini lessons will provide your students with a quick exercise to practice in class, work on with a partner, or include in their own writing.
- Using a journal
Keeping a writer’s notebook or journal is so important for a creative writing class. Get your students used to creating “seed ideas” in their journals. This means they won’t be wondering what they will be writing about next.
Start class with a writing prompt or challenge. Writing challenges like, “Write a story without using the letter E” sound simple enough, but they aren’t!
Teach students that journal writing is exercising their creative minds and practicing their writing skills.
Create a Feedback Loop
Don’t send your students off to write the next Hunger Games and then not provide feedback until the end!
Here are three ways to create feedback to your writers:
- Exit Cards
Provide students a way to give you an update on where they are in class and how they feel about it. I love using exit cards as a way to find get feedback from students.
They can simply respond to the question: What did you work on today and how did it go?
- Writing Feedback Sheets
I created these to use in writing workshop, but they will work for creative writing as well. You create two-way notes that you can use to make recommendations for what the student should do next, and then the student responds with notes on progress and problems.
- Peer Reviews
Writing demands an audience.
At first, it is terrifying to share a story or poem, but if you make that one of the class requirements, students will gain confidence.
Peer reviews can be done in many different ways:
- Students read a piece out loud to the whole class. Feedback can include something as simple as clapping.
- Students can read a piece to a small group. Members of the group can respond with “What I liked best” and “What I’d like to see more of.”
- Students can read a piece to a partner.
- Students can swap written texts for a partner to read.
- Peer Review Purpose & Boundaries
Before getting started with peer reviews set the rules. Remember that a peer review for a middle school student can be terrifying!
What are your goals for having a peer review? You want your students to share ideas, work on their oral language and listening skills. As an added bonus. when students know they will be sharing with their peers, the quality of their writing improves!
How to do this? Keep comments positive. Students can respond with comments like “this is my favorite part” or “I liked this section” or “I’d like to know more about this.”
No fair making statements like, “Write more” or “Good.” Specific comments mean the students are listening to each other.
Role play what a good peer review and a bad peer review looks like. This can be a hysterical activity (especially role playing the bad one!).
Be sure students understand the purpose for a peer review: to encourage others, help peers improve their writing, and (most importantly) improve their own writing.
Foster a Writing Community
Writing is meant to be read and shared (well, unless it’s your diary…that’s why it has a lock!!)?
Provide a way for students to celebrate their writing.
- Host an “open mic” for parents or other classes.
- Have students create a book of their work. That is super easy to do with a binding machine. Students can create their own cover and even create a dedication page.
- Hold a day of sharing for just your class. They can either read their works out loud, or they can pass around finished work.
- Have students display excerpts of their work as a classroom or hallway display. They can pull a favorite scene, poem, or passage to highlight. They can illustrate as well.
- If students create their own books, consider making a copy for your own classroom library for other classes to read.
- At the end of your class, be sure to acknowledge the students’ achievements!
And don’t forget to write with your students! That’s the fun part!
Here’s to having a blast with creative writing!