Now that “why” and “what” are pondered on and concluded, the work begins. (this is in continuation to my previous post on…ing-in-classroom/)

If some children do not come up with a clear idea of what they want to write about or how, allow them to try out various ideas and different forms like prose or poetry. You can give them situations or topics to help them get started.

The exercise below is one of my favorites that get the creative juices flowing.

Exercise 2: Select an object from the surroundings with some details like a vase or a painting or a picture. Ask the students to look at it for a while and write whatever that object evokes in them. Encourage them to widen the horizons of their imaginations as far as they can take.

As you take the students on the journey of creative writing, keep reminding them to trust themselves and yet not expect to write brilliantly right away. A great way to get better, as I mentioned before, is to learn from other writers while keeping one’s originality.

Although writing is primarily a solitary exercise, classroom offers an advantage in terms of peer learning and brainstorming. The following exercise can help make it interesting.

Exercise 3: Assign a familiar story or a new one to the class to read at home. Ask them to come up with what they liked about it and what they didn’t. If it were up to them, how would they want that story to run its course? Let them present their case and discuss in class.

To be a writer, the student needs to be encouraged to read differently than an average reader. The reading has to be slower and more attentive to nuances of writing. It is advisable to reread for better results. The first reading is faster as the reader is eager to get to the end and see how everything worked out eventually. Already knowing what happened helps the reader see how the writer prepared for the end. It helps the student learn how a narrative works.

Ask the students to think about the effect the words they read had on them.

Continuing the process, here is another exercise that does well for lowering students’ inhibitions. It’s easy, it’s personal and let there be no rules.

Exercise 4:  Write something in first person. It can be a memory, it can be an experience, it can be a fantasy, it can be a dream. It can be in past tense, it can be in present tense, it can be in future tense. It can be a story, it can be a poem, it can be an essay, it can be a novel, if the kid can swing it! Let it flow.

After the students have written something to show, there comes the delicate part. How to critique. Please keep in mind that we haven’t yet gone into the techniques and nitty-gritties of writing like nuances of grammar, we are just looking at ideas, flow and manner of writing at this point.

Now, “this is okay… but you could have done better” or “this isn’t good enough” is not going to lift any student’s spirit up. We say those things with best of intentions, but please refrain from such downers. Of course, anyone can do better. Creative writing, in my opinion, can’t be and shouldn’t be competitive. We do have to work with a system of grading but grading a creative piece is tricky. Not every piece of writing is genius, but judging creative work effectively, especially something innovative and new, isn’t easy. The first thing I go for is – look for heart… and soul in the work. Now this maybe too much to ask from a 6th grader, let’s say. Hear me out, though. It’s not looking for some earth-shattering or soul-stirring composition, yet it is easy to figure out whether the piece was written distractedly in a scattered, haywire way or pointedly in a focused way.

This distinction is more important than ever because students today need something grounding like focused writing, straight from the heart, to combat ill-effects modern gadgets have on their attention spans, among other things. Creative writing can be a very effective tool to get kids get in touch with their thinking, emotions and their own selves, taking them away from the virtual reality they mostly live in.

You may ask them to peer-review but never without a set of guidelines, so the students do not go overboard with their criticism. Ask the students to self-critique as well, with the help of guidelines.

Another exercise to help students get going with their imaginations is given below.

Exercise 5: Ask What if? Either the teacher/facilitator can give a situation and ask what if that situation happens/happened, or she can ask the students to come up with their own “what if”s. I prefer latter. Who said sky is the limit?

What if sky is not the limit?

Remember (and let them know), there is no one right answer, when it comes to creative writing.