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How to Approach Teaching Creative Writing

The education system is something which narrows its focus over time. By the time you reach the level of PhD, you’re working on a highly focused and specific topic; a small niche of study in a wider field. But, before you reach those lofty heights, you have to develop broader skills. Each level of education provides you with the skills you’ll need for the next one; hence why you begin school learning basic numeracy and literacy skills.

All of this is my meandering lead into talking about skills which are applicable in a broad range of circumstances. Or, rather, a specific skill with broad applications. The fact that you’re able to read this suggests that you’re aware of the importance of things like basic literacy. Instead, let’s talk about creative writing; a skill whose broader applications aren’t always obvious.

When you think of creative writing, your thoughts will probably jump straight to writing novels, screenplays and poetry. Yet, creative writing is simply that; writing creatively. The better you are at this, the more you can do with your writing. To put it another way, it’s like jogging. You may not like it (I certainly don’t) and you may have no plans of doing a marathon. However, there are plenty of times in daily life where being able to jog briefly without collapsing is a useful skill. Creative writing is more than just writing fiction. Have you ever needed to write a report or other account of factual events? Because this is something you’ll definitely want people to be able to read through without confusion, as well as keeping their attention. All the skills you use to write an exciting sci-fi story are what you can use to make your factual reporting more compelling.

And this is just discussing the writing side of it. In terms of broadly applicable skills, creativity is pretty much universal. Being able to consider the factors of a situation and creatively come up with a solution is a valued ability in any circumstance. And, to go back to the exercise metaphor, creativity is like a muscle; the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Giving your students/children creative writing activities is a useful way to encourage creative thinking while also helping to boost their vocabularies and writing skills.

So, having discussed the ‘why’, let’s move on to the ‘how’. What’s the best way to teach children to write creatively? It’s worth considering because there can be some temptation to micromanage your students’ writing. This is because there are some approaches to creative writing that can be considered objectively incorrect. Sentences can run on too long, or descriptions can be vague and difficult to follow. But these are structural issues, and shouldn’t be your main focus. The best approach to teaching creative writing is one you can apply to any creative activity. You simply let them experiment.

Make it clear to them that no one is expecting them to do amazing work right out of the gate. Instead, encourage them to explore different ways of doing things, to find out what suits them best. Your role should be to give them exercises that provide a framework for them to do that. After all, as any writer can tell you, there’s nothing more intimidating than a blank page.

Besides, beyond all the practical benefits of creative writing, it can also just be fun. For teachers, it can serve as an excellent wind-down activity at the end of the day. Or as a lighter activity to break things up between heavier, less creative, subjects. For parents, it can be a fun bonding activity between you and your children.

Ultimately, creative writing can be a good reminder of why it’s important to have fun while learning.

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The author

Joseph Morgan is a Content Executive for Twinkl; an educational resources company. Before joining Twinkl, he worked in the care sector as a support worker for St Cuthbert’s Care.

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