Teaching Creative Writing

There are actually some great resources on teaching creative writing on the Web, especially for those looking at the technical know-how aspects. I worry a bit though that we as teachers focus too much on concepts that actually limit the creativity of our students. Another way to look at teaching creative writing is not as something standardized but as giving each individual students an opportunity to flourish in a unique way. I realize that the education system isn't exactly built for that right now, but it's certainly worth a shot.

Guideline Free

Before teaching your students about the rules of dialogue, plot, etc., give them at least one assignment with guidelines that requires them to write a story. Instead of limitations, provide them with a sheet of paper listing techniques an ideas they can use. This list can include different styles like internal monologue and putting a story in the form of a letter, locations, time periods, character ideas or whatever else you can think of. As opposed to limiting your students, this list gives them permission to try whatever they want.

Reward Originality

Let's face it, the first story a student writes will probably be all over the place. But keep in mind that any his of originality should be praised. Imagine if someone told William Shakespeare he was no good at these "play things" after he wrote his first one. Even if you don't understand exactly what is happening in the tale, it's not quite time to reign the student's creativity in. If you must grade these assignments, and I suggest you don't, grade them on being outside the box as opposed to falling in line with the parameters of a standard story.

What is Possible?

To go along with the list from earlier, you should read aloud excerpts from non-traditional stories to serve as examples of what can be done. There are stories told from multiple perspectives, the perspective of a pet or told from an unreliable narrator. There are those that span decades and those that span a single day. There are stories that utilize pictures heavily and even those with maps of made-up worlds. This is the time to give kids more ideas as opposed to fewer. Showing them as many storytelling options as you can is like flipping the switch to creativity. And that is what teaching creative writing should be about, right?

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