Teaching creative writing will stretch you as a person and as a teacher. If you’re looking for how to teach a creative writing class, I hope my refection process benefits you.
This past semester, I was tasked with teaching creative writing for the first time. Before I dive into the second semester, I want to reflect on my experiences. This sort of class is one that I will never teach the same way twice because my writers will always have different needs. Still, I need to process what approaches worked and did not work.
If these ideas help another teacher, great! This is what I learned from teaching creative writing with high school students.
Also! I have a freebie in this post that you can hand students tomorrow! Sign up for Language Arts Classroom’s library to receive the handout and other freebies:
Encourage peer collaboration and feedback.
High school students don’t always value interaction, brainstorming, and creating with peers. Such collaboration is important in any class; in creative writing, it is vital.
Even though I work with older students, I still need to model the collaborative process. I often did this by writing a sample, verbalizing what I liked and disliked, and asking for student approval. Plus, I never let questionable feedback offend me; I would instead articulate what the student said about my work.
The next time that I teach creative writing, I need to be more intentional with designing feedback. Sure, older students understand that collaboration is important and that kindness moves their messages forward. Still, I should provide exact examples for them to model their feedback.
Creative writing improves with feedback.
Because imaginations dominate the writing, it is easy for students to lose track of transitions and explanations. The story might be interesting, but a fresh reader might be confused.
Remind students that at the end of a book, the author thanks a list of people who provided feedback and encouragement. The list of readers is long. Professional writers gladly accept feedback. Train students to think of feedback as part of the process.
Students might understand that they should provide feedback, but they should also understand that receiving feedback is important too.
Use images to spur creativity.
This brainstorming technique worked multiple times when students found a wall. Grab some pictures from the Internet and compile them into a presentation like I did for this character activity. You can also head outside or ask students to contribute pictures. I have many Pinterest boards that inspire my own writing. Encourage students to develop a process that inspires them as writers.
Now that you have pictures, try brainstorming. What colors, depths, and shadows do students see in these images? How can those descriptions better their writing?
Another opportunity for images is to head outside with your writers. You might focus students by providing certain images for them to analyze.
Review dialogue rules.
Dialogue confused my students, and I’m not sure I have a solid reason as to why. I’m guessing that the rules differ from citations in formal writing, and that is their typical writing assignment. I had my students bookmark this page and watch this video. We reviewed and practiced dialogue frequently.
Practicing punctuation, reviewing grammar rules, and breaking grammar rules can be great addition to teach creative writing.
Implement literary devices.
All those literary devices students find in literature? Now it is their turn to implement them! Some, like similes and direct characterization, come naturally. Students automatically include many literary devices. Don’t be afraid to read literature as you teach creative writing. Inspiration and examples help young writers, especially concerning literary devices.
Trickier literary devices? My class and I really worked with indirect characterization and setting. Students had too much telling and not enough showing. I’ve found that using pictures is a great scaffolding technique as I teach creative writing. Pictures inspire students to see angles they normally wouldn’t by simply imagining their story. Pictures provide a step for students as they implement literary devices in their creative writing activities.
Whatever your creative writing activities for high school students, you should include character development. Students really bloom when they craft characters. Sometimes students need prompting, so I created a brainstorming list for students, and you may download it for free.
Why did I do this? Creating and developing characters is hard! Students know interesting characters; in fact, I spent time brainstorming memorable ones with students. Then, we discussed why those characters stayed in their memories.
From our discussions, students realized that these characters have multiple levels. They have quirks and unlikable traits. No human is perfect; a realistic character isn’t either. We gave our characters mild obsessions (chewing nails), memorable habits (eating cheesy waffles for breakfast), and a unique style (red jean jacket). To do this, I asked characters to brainstorm more information for their character than they would ever include in their story. Creative writing assignments for high school can be analytical: Older students have years of viewing and reading characters!
Why? Well, students then had an image of the character which flowed into the development. The ideas were easier to weave into the story when students had this background information. Finally, students had a unique character they invested in before they began writing a story.
Teaching creative writing was rewarding in many ways. Students expressed their concerns and fears, joys and triumphs. When I took over this class, I wondered what the outcome would be. This was my first experience teaching creative writing, and I was nervous. Now as I prepare for the new semester, I’m excited to see what students develop and what I can create to help them.
You are welcome to download the characterization brainstorming sheet for free! Sign-up for Language Art Classroom’s library to download it and other freebies.
Are you looking for more ideas for how to teach a creative writing class and creative writing assignments for high school? Check out my Pinterest board with ideas from around the web.