“A word after a word after a word is power”
Hi, I’m Fabi, I’ve been a teacher for over 20 years now, and if you know me from my instagram profile (@lighthouse_elt), you know that I’m passionate about visible learning, positive discipline and nonviolent communication. However, as a first text coming back to this blog I would like to bring a more personal text which is a part of who I am, personally and professionally. And it means a lot to bring Margaret Atwood’s quote as a title to this text: I do believe writing is power.
As I was growing up, writing hasn’t always been a comfortable skill for me. Since it was used mostly for the sake of checking language mistakes, the creativity behind my texts was pushed into second place. After some years, I remember that writing tasks would leave me extremely anxious, and my Portuguese grades started sinking.
That has changed when I started doing English classes later in life. I remember there was this teacher who would push us to put our creativity into words. Of course, she would ask us to pay attention to our language – after all, you need to be able to create a coherent text in order to bring your readers into your universe – but the focal point was to be able to translate our mental image into words. That was a game changer for me. Nowadays, I know that when my mind is pure chaos, either personally or professionally, it is in writing that I find comfort, peace, and understanding of the world around me.
So, when Richmond Share invited me to start writing for the blog again, I knew that I had to bring a text about the role that writing can have in our lives, and how we can impact our students positively to write more: here are five steps to creative writing, which you can adapt into an activity for your students.
Step 1: Free Writing
Set a 10-minute timer, tell your students to get a blank sheet of paper and start writing everything that comes to their mind! You could choose to explain that it is difficult to pick just one idea when our brain is buzzing with different topics and scenarios, so this step can help them put their minds at ease.
When the timer alarm goes off, instruct students to read each idea individually, check if these ideas can be grouped somehow, and choose one of them to develop.
Step 2: Write from the heart!
Students should make an honest attempt to stay true to themselves and let their personality shine. The stories which rely on a personal backstory or are based on a real-life experience are the most enjoyable to read. You could tell students not to worry about what you as a teacher or other peers in class might think.
Step 3: KISS – Keep It Super Simple
At first, they may not be able to write a full text with 100, 200 words. However, sometimes a single paragraph may bring the full idea you wanted to write, and it could as well be a starting point to your full text. Keeping it simple could be the easiest way into your text.
Step 4: Sugar and spice and everything nice
This is the time for your students to take some risks, in order to lead them out of their comfort zone. Yes, this may mean that your students will have to rewrite some pieces, but you could tell them that this is not really a correction, but an invitation to take one step forward. Some of the features you could encourage them to use are:
- flashbacks: suggesting a backstory to the main character, for example;
- personification: giving inanimate objects some life;
- oxymoron: contradictory items which appear in conjunction;
- metaphor: a figure of speech which is representative of a symbol.
Step 5: Read your writing out loud
This normally helps them gauge the flow of their writing, which could help them identify if there is anything they would like to change. If they feel awkward doing it, you could allow them to go some other place to do it. Invite them to reflect on what they have written, and ask them how they feel about their production so far.
Of course, after all of this, if you wish to help students with language problems you can go for it, but remember this was not first in your list of priorities, so it’s just a plus on the overall accomplishment.
All along this process, respect your students’ pace. Allow them to produce as much as they wish, and invite them to push themselves, if they feel comfortable. This shouldn’t be just a task which is done to complete a grade or tick a box: it’s really an exercise to help your creativity translate into words.
So, fellow teacher, this is my way to help you reflect on the power of writing, and how you can bring this to your class. I feel that by writing this text to you, I come full circle, hoping that I inspire you to look at your students’ writing productions through a different perspective. Your students will thank you in the future, as I thank my own English teacher.