Now that “why” and “what” are pondered on and concluded, the work begins. (this is in continuation to my previous post on https://www.eshikshachaupal.com/how-to-go-about-…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.
Writing is one of the craziest things to do — it’s hard, and often what gets written surprises the writer. ~ Richard P. Gabriel
I do like the quote above and creative writing is hard in a sense, yet it is surprisingly simple at the same time. It sure is crazy! Creative Writing covers everything that can be written using imagination and some flair – fiction, poetry, prose and anything in between. It is important that the seeds of creative writing are sowed while the soil is tender, that is, in the student phase of a child.
Let’s dive into the art of creative writing.
Before doing that, let’s answer the question – can anyone write? Well, anyone who has a fair knowledge of language and grammar and can put together a comprehensible sentence can write but to be able to express oneself beautifully and capture the readers takes practice and hard work, among other things.
I believe there is at least one story or one poem or one book in everyone.
The first thing to remember is that writing is a skill and as is the case with every skill, one has to keep honing it. The best way to do that is to encourage the children to read a lot, especially the kind of work they’d like to write.
In the first of the series on Creative Writing, I would like you to address a question at the very core of it. It may sound a little absurd but do ask the children – why they want to write. Let them ponder over it. Let them come up with any answers. Ask them to be as honest as they can. Ask them to write and share their answers. You can never be surprised enough with children!
There is a whole lot of difference between writing for self and writing for others, let’s be clear on that. It is always gratifying if others appreciate one’s work but true creativity cannot emerge if the writer keeps thinking what the reader would like.
So creative writing, in essence, is writing from the self and for the self.
Fact: J. R. R. Tolkien spent years writing a history of an imaginary country, inventing languages and mythology and timelines and maps, purely for himself.
It is understandable that we cannot afford the luxury of that kind of timespan in a limited term of a class, but you get the point, right?
Creative writing starts with the writer – with their imagination, personality and interests.
Exercise 1 for the students:
Dig deep into yourself and your imagination and find what you really want to write about.
In today’s highly connected world, we owe a lot to digitization for all the benefits that come with it.
Our children probably wouldn’t know of this but the generation of today’;s parents can really appreciate the difference it has made in our lives. For we are the ones who have also seen the world go around even with the ease of having everything on our fingertips. We have studied through the times when research meant combing through huge volumes in a library. Now that the world is enjoying the sophistication and convenience of the internet, something seems still lacking. And that is the fact the enablers of education aren’t as much connected online as they should have been. Yes, I am talking of the teachers in India. Teachers are the backbone of education field and yet they haven’t caught up with the changing times. There are many reasons that attribute for this fact. The biggest one is lack of a proper platform customized for teachers’ requirements. It’s a pity that there are lacs of teachers all across the country struggling with similar problems and coming up with their own solutions and aren’t really able to leverage through one another experience. It’s like re-inventing the wheel over and over and over again!
If teachers could be connected via an exclusive online community for educationists, a lot of time and energy would be saved, not to mention the bonus of learning new things or new ways of doing things every day. This is even more desired for a country like India that is unique in terms of its diversity. For example, connecting rural India with Urban one can usher in a new era in education.
Education is an ongoing process. At no point it should stagnate into age old ways, especially in the current technologically evolving time and age. Imagine a scenario where teachers from everywhere can learn from each other, share their knowledge and also their concerns. It would be like enabling the enablers – a huge requirement of the time. Though there are resources available online, they are sporadic and scattered. Nowhere can a teacher, after her grueling schedule, look for a one stop shop for her requirements. There is no interaction happening on the net. And there is definitely nothing that tempts teachers to be connected and hence most of the teachers are least active on the net. It’s like missing out on a huge opportunity and working in silos whereas a whole wide world of collaboration is open out there. Like it or not, education today is more difficult and evolving than it
was in the previous generations. The teachers don’t have to walk their paths alone and grapple with their daily predicaments individually. They just need to walk together. Virtually.
Now is the time to wake up and smell the digital roses!