Writing can be extremely fun or exhaustingly challenging for both students and educators. Most people think of English class as a place to develop a student’s writing skills within a structure. Because in most educational settings, students need structure to feel comfortable and confident in their writing abilities. However, creative writing goes against that structure. Which is the exact reason teachers should include a creative writing curriculum in their English classrooms.
What is creative writing?
Creative writing is an opportunity for students to learn to express their voices and opinion through writing. Students can develop as authors while exploring various writing techniques and styles. It helps students develop creative abilities that transfer beyond the classroom and into how they engage with other aspects of life. Creative writing helps students develop as storytellers and appreciators of the stories they read.
Why should you teach your students to write creatively?
Creative writing is necessary for student success. For some teachers, this will be a mindset shift. We are programmed to stick to teaching structured narratives and analytical writing pieces. Anything outside of what might prepare students for graduation is off-limits.
The idea that teaching creative writing doesn’t help students master skills and learning objectives, similar to any other writing format, is a myth. A creative writing curriculum can help students master objectives and develop a love of writing when implemented correctly.
Here are three reasons why you should include a creative writing curriculum in your English classroom.
1. It helps students learn the writing process.
The writing process for creative writing is similar to narrative writing. Both start with a draft. Leading students through a creative writing unit should start and end similarly to writing a narrative. When you communicate the similarities to your students, it eases some of the writing worries.
2. Students learn how to use a variety of writing techniques and styles.
Creative writing allows students to implement writing techniques that their favorite authors use. Student authors are encouraged to step away from the five-sentence paragraph and write dialogue or figurative language that can be a page long. Working with students on the arc of their fictional pieces or including anecdotes in non-fiction writing is exciting. Creative writing is also an opportunity to expose students to writing styles they otherwise would not know about.
3. Build confidence
For some students, the opportunity to share a completed piece of writing is the best part of the process. Their abilities are affirmed, and students become more confident in their writing skills. Since students are encouraged to include personal experiences and views, you will see more connections made in the classroom. Also, better student/teacher relationships are developed when you work individually with students to improve their writing.
How to teach creative writing in high school
It may be intimidating to start if you don’t have experience teaching creative writing. One of the most engaging ways I have started a creative writing unit is by reading to students. Share an excerpt from one of your favorite books and share it with your class. Then explain how various elements that the author included hooked you into reading.
A great next step is to provide writing prompts for students. When you start with writing prompts, you eliminate the excuse “I don’t know what to write.” Students are guided to begin writing based on the prompt but can make changes or veer away from the prompt as they see fit. You will be able to help them as they develop their writing with mini-conferences and peer review opportunities.
The most important part of teaching creative writing is encouraging students to try various writing techniques. You can use a mentor text to serve as an example. (I share more about using mentor text in this blog post). Or, you can model writing and challenge students to apply an idea to their writing. Try to avoid critiquing their writing style. Instead, focus on encouraging their attempts and leading them to take risks in their writing.
Resources for teaching creative writing in high school English
Ready to jump into creative writing with your high school students? This lesson on creative writing is a great way to introduce writing, publishing, and the elements of the story to a class. Students will reflect on their idea of what writing and writers are, what stories are, and what it takes to be a writer.
This introduction to creative writing unit includes a 19-slide presentation on creative writing with detailed notes for teachers on how to present the slides to students. In addition, there is a 6-page student workbook to accompany the Slides presentation. I recommend this as a resource to get you started.
When you are ready to encourage your students to consider how the story elements impact the overall plot, I recommend these activities as deep dives into setting and character development.
This Easel compatible lesson on creative writing is a great way to analyze the setting and how it affects characters and the overall plot. Students will think critically about the setting and use mentor texts and a choice board to guide their thinking. Students will also complete setting prompts that challenge them to describe images descriptively.
Use this character study lesson to analyze characters and how internal and external characterization affect the plot and message. Students use mentor texts and a choice board to guide their thinking about characters. Students will also complete prompts that will challenge them to develop their characters.
If you’re looking for a quick activity to test the creative writing waters with your students, I recommend checking out this Writing Two Sentence Horror Stories activity. In this mini creative writing unit, students review what makes a good two-sentence horror story. Then, they craft their own horror story through a series of revision processes. This activity is a great, engaging break from analysis, is perfect for Halloween, and can serve as a review of grammatical concepts for students.
Creative writing can add an enjoyable element to your high school English curriculum. It just takes a little bit of effort to get students started. But the result will be writers confident in their abilities and willing to take risks.
Do you include creative writing in your curriculum? Let me know in the comments.