Teacher Tested & Student Approved: 6 Ways to Promote and Nurture Creative and Fearless Writing

Posted by Aimee Sutton
August 31st 2016 @ 9:05 AM
Categories: Writing


Teacher Tested & Student Approved: 6 Ways to Promote and Nurture Creative and Fearless Writing

Writing is not an individual sport.  It is more like tennis or basketball.  Student’s will have opportunities where they are collaborating with partners or groups, and moments when they check in with their teacher to receive instructional feedback to improve their craft.  Student’s must be provided opportunities to be creative, free, and fearless with their writing.  This article presents  6 teacher tested and student approved practices and projects that promote, nurture and allow creative and fearless writing opportunities.         

Creative Writing Practices

Writer’s Notebooks are similar to Japanese Gardens. They begin by seeds being planted, followed by adding items fill in blank spaces or to replace the weak.  Finally, from continuous maintenance and attention, blossoms a beautiful piece of art.  Writer’s notebooks are a wonderful space to generate and practice creative writing.  It is imperative that the introduction of the notebook to students be open and inviting.  This must be a safe place for a writer to write.   

Personal Notebook:  In a personal writer’s notebook, a student must not fear the pages or the pencil.  They just need to write, or draw, or create. Vicki Spandel said in her book, The Nine Rights of Every Writer, “...only nonwriters fear failure.  Writer’s know clutter and roadblocks and random thinking are all part of the process.” Students must know anything added to the pages can be massaged, manipulated, and processed to become a published piece.  Writing projects often start with brainstorming and planning, which for some students means writing freely on topic, fearlessly knowing that it will all come together in the end.  Writer’s notebooks are a perfect place to generate and plant these ideas.  The fear of the writing process mustn’t be present.  Sylvia Plath said, “...everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise.  The worst enemy to creativity is self doubt.”  A personal notebook may be messy.  It might include sketches, drawings, photos, or collages that inspire or reflect experiences.  It might include quick writes or quotes that will later be combined with a small moment in time to begin a novel or short story.  Each student will experience and display their creative writing differently.   It is the teacher’s charge to nurture and co-sculpt with each student in order to achieve published pieces.  When working with students in their writer’s notebook a teacher must be sensitive and explicit at the same time.  It is in a teacher’s best interest to have their own personal writer’s notebook.  The teacher’s notebook should be utilized to introduce and explain the process, as well as continue to create right alongside his/her students.  Additionally, a teacher’s personal notebook can be used as a mentor text for mini lessons during writing time for craft or structure building.

Interest Notebooks:  A class inventory of interest notebooks is created by generating a list of interests from a class of students.  If there are 25 students in the class, it is recommended to have 30-35 titled notebooks for students to choose from.  Example titles could include; Auto Racing, Football, Figure Skating, The best thing I ever ate, Olympic Sports, U.S. History, Vacation Destinations, Short Stories, etc.  The list is endless.  In the interest notebooks, students are responsible for creating a written entry that connects and is significant to the title, as well as, respond to at least one other person’s entry within that notebook.  Student’s responses to each other inside the notebooks should contain connections, agreeing or disagreeing statements, additions or continuations of another person’s writing, and/or writing feedback to strengthen craft and writing structure.  One teacher mentioned that using Interest Notebooks in her classroom allowed her students freedom from the common statement, “I have nothing to write about.”  She also stated that having the response expectation allowed for peer feedback and more accountable talk within the classroom.

 

Creative Writing Projects

Creative writing is not something that is only permitted in writer’s notebooks.  Student’s should be urged and provided opportunities during every writing lesson or project to show their creative side.  The following writing activities are structured projects with a creative twist.

6 Word Memoirs:  In this creative writing activity students research and read a variety of memoirs to explore all of the elements before crafting their own.  However, the catch is, their memoir must only have six words. One teacher who uses this clever writing activity says, “My students love it!  It taps into their creative side, while simultaneously teaching them the power of choosing word carefully and correctly.  The students never cease to amaze me!  Most (stories) are powerful, poignant and effectively communicate a story in six words.” 

Student Examples:

  • It all starts with a pencil.
  • Found hope in an unknown place.
  • Two best friends from different worlds.
  • I strangled myself with a seatbelt.
  • Got dare, did it. Bad idea.
  • Mom...I’m stuck on the roof.
  • Why does popcorn not always pop.

Text Structure Magazines:  Text structures are often taught as a unit with reading strategies, however a group of 5th grade teachers decided to share the topic in writing and have students build a magazine.  Each individual student became a lead editor for their own magazine.  The requirements are; a table of contents, articles written in different text structures (description, compare/contrast, cause/effect, chronological/sequence, problem/solution), a conclusion, and a bibliography.  Some classes decided on a topic for their magazine as a class, using topics such as Civil Rights.  Where others had free choice when selecting their magazine focus, and had a wide variety of topics.  The final projects were outstanding!  One teacher said her students loved this writing project and were sad every day when it was time to move on to another content area.  When asked about the project a student replied, “This was awesome!  I got to research about Disney and I understand the difference between description and compare/contrast now.”           

Research Narrative:  For this structured writing project high school writing teachers had their students focus on a historical event.  Unlike a traditional research projects, students were asked to write a historical narrative.  Students selected events such as; the Lindberg kidnapping, Rosa Parks’ refusal to sit in the back of the bus, and 9/11.  The narrative required ten historical facts and ten cultural facts from the time period in which the event took place, along with a credible plot line, character development, and dialogue.  One teacher stated, “The students enjoyed learning about a different era and event, as well as composing a piece about a fictional character as an ‘eyewitness’ to a documented moment or period in history. 

Letter to Myself:  As an end of the year writing project 6th grade teachers have their students write a letter to themselves that is saved and returned during their high school years.  This creative writing activity is a favorite of students, teachers and parents.  Teachers supply a list of topics such as; lessons learned, celebrations, friendships, classroom memories, belly laughs, goals for life after high school, and mentors or inspirational people in their lives for students to write about.  One high school teacher shared,  “the students often get a good laugh out of their younger self.” and also mentioned that this letters become memorabilia for many students and their parents.

 

Writing is a fine art and needs to be viewed this way.  Creative writing without fear is a mindset that must be crafted.  It is our responsibility as teachers of writing to create the safe settings, provide the opportunities, and promote the creativity in order to build and strengthen our young writers. 

 

 

 

 

Spandel, Vicki. 2005.  The Nine Rights of Every Writer: A Guide for Teachers

Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

 

Kukil, Karen V. 2000 The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath 1950-1962. New York:

Vintage.