Creative writing is a skill that is too often overlooked, even though it is vitally important in helping children to progress in their school life and ultimately their career. In today’s world, almost all jobs require some form of written communication, usually via email.
We have compiled a number of quick, simple tips to help you nurture creative writing skills in the classroom. Whilst some of these tips may seem a bit obvious, it is always a good idea to reiterate those foundation skills that we sometimes forget to work on.
Daily writing practice
Regular practice is a tried and tested learning theory and it certainly applies to creative writing, no matter the age of the children, you’ll definitely want to use both the styles of non-fiction and fiction writing. Try to set aside as much time as possible each day to do story creation, if you can’t manage very long then have the children add a small part to their story each day and build up across the week. If you can spare a healthy amount of class time then one day you may have the children write non-fiction, based on facts from what they did at the weekend/in the holidays, the next day you might ask them to create an elaborate, fictional story of what they would like to do next weekend, letting their imaginations run wild and breeding creativity.
Read and write along with them
Read to and join in writing exercises with the children, this will help to make them feel more comfortable with creative writing and putting their ideas on paper. Some children may feel nervous about making stories up, not knowing how far they can go with an idea. Joining in as a teacher can knock down those barriers and relax the children, helping them to engage more with the exercises and most importantly, enjoy it! Where possible, have the children read their stories back and get the other children to act them out in real-time!
You can also offer the option for children to input in to writing a joint ‘class’ story, where the teacher would begin a story with a simple setting, then ask the children to say what else they can ‘see’, ‘hear’, ‘smell’ and ‘do’, this is a great way to get children interacting and creating as a group and you can read their (probably crazy) story back to them at the end!
Create a classroom space dedicated to creative writing
It is very important to provide children with an area where they can feel comfortable whilst creating their stories. Next to the obvious items, exercise books, pens, pencils and erasers, you should also decorate the walls with vibrant colours and try taking quotes from the children’s favourite books to help inspire creativity. Always try to have age-appropriate dictionaries and thesauri around so children can feel free to research, expand and improve their stories at all times.
Play games with words
Word games are a powerful tool in helping children to enjoy learning how to use language and become creative in their writing/speech.
The obvious choices are commercially available word games such as Scrabble, Boggle and Bananagrams which are brilliant for helping children to rearrange letters to come up with different words that they can in turn use as story prompts to create narrative.
Other games such as Scattergories and Magnetic Poetry allow better opportunities for brainstorming in groups, the children can work together using these games to come up with joint stories.
For the younger children, try mixing things up by baking cookie letters or even using alphabet spaghetti at dinner times to keep them thinking about forming words and using their imagination, they could compete to make the best or longest words possible from the letters they are given.
Ball games are also an interesting addition to the creative writing area, think about making a ball or large dice with different questions attached to the sides. One child throws the ball to another and when it is caught, that child must come up with an answer to the question under their thumb. Some questions to think about may be; “Is our main character male or female?”, “What setting are they in?” “What is our main character planning to do today?” “Where is our main character going?” Or even to expand, “who is our main character going to meet?” The possibilities are certainly endless, all it takes is to chop up some small pieces of paper and attach them to a dice or ball that is suitable for the classroom.
Planning a project, have a theme
As we touched on earlier in this article, just as adults are, children are often a little scared of the unknown. Before starting a new story building project, it’s always best to set out a basic theme or idea that the children can work alongside. Before beginning a project, encourage children to think about the structure of story-making with a few simple questions revolving around a journalistic style; “Who?” “What?” “Where?” “When?” “How?” And “Why?” If any children are struggling with such an open brief for a story, then ask them to integrate past experiences, such as things they enjoyed doing or people they admire.
Review and encourage
Always review each child’s work, give them positive feedback on the areas they’ve done well and gently suggest places where they may have strayed, this will mostly be spelling or grammar as no idea is a bad idea in creative writing! Always reward for creativity, give treats and prizes for the craziest and most interesting ideas (this will help the children open up in later projects). As ever, try to use the sandwich technique of feedback, offering two positives to each negative: “Your main character was very interesting and I liked the way you described him to us, you just got the a and I the wrong way around in the spelling but I loved the way that he found what he was after on his journey and met some new friends along the way!”
Do you have any tips that have worked in teaching creative writing? Share your comments below.