It’s very tempting for we teachers to avoid creative writing, especially for younger students. We spend so much time trying to just get our younger students to learn the letters, much less getting them to come up with and/or write stories. I’m not saying we don’t have students write at all; but because we spend so much time just getting them to correctly write one sentence, creativity gets set to the wayside.
Think about our kindergarteners. In our attempts to get them reading, we tend to stick to the story books we get with our curriculum. It’s hard enough trying to get these little ones through all of the standards that it’s very difficult to even think of doing something outside of that work.
Our students may not be able to read more in-depth stories, but they can definitely understand them when we read them. Some of you teachers out there are already doing this, and that’s amazing! I don’t think I had a teacher read a book to any of my classes until I was in 5th and 6th grade. “My Side of the Mountain” by Jean Craighead George is a book that I have never personally read, and yet the story is written in my mind because Mr. Decker would take the last 15-20 minutes of the day at least twice a week to read this story aloud. The moments we spare to expand the imaginations of our young students are the moments that mean the most and the ones they are most likely to remember.
Reading to our students is one way to keep their minds creative, but there is another way that is even simpler. Have you ever had a conversation with a five, six, or seven year old? And I’m not talking about a conversation where you ask them questions and wait for specific responses. I’m talking about those moments when a child comes up to you and tells you about what their toy has been doing all day. Most of the time, the things they are saying aren’t real, but they put SO many details into their made-up stories! It’s truly amazing! I once had a second grader tell me all about his little Lego guy. I knew absolutely nothing about Legos before that moment. I still don’t know much about Legos, but I do know that this particular Lego guy is a hero who sometimes does bad things. But he got punished for doing the bad things and had to stay at a volcano and ended up as a great guy. I could have written at least 5 pages from all he told me about this Lego guy.
With younger students, it’s really difficult to do a true round-robin to create a story as a whole class. Our younger students all have their own stories and have a really hard time letting anyone else share in the making of their stories. This may be a little hard to do, but getting students into much smaller groups and working with just a few students at a time can be very rewarding. When you work in small groups, you can be the pen for your students as they tell you their stories. Frustration can run high for our younger students when they’re attempting to create stories while also trying to write the right way.
If at all possible, have the students come to you one-on-one to share their stories with you. You can write the stories down as they speak; thus keeping their creativity on high while taking away the frustrations of writing. You could even have these students go later to illustrate the story they have made up.
Not every story is going to be a winner. Don’t expect them to all be amazing. Not every student is going to grab on to creative writing, and that’s okay. What these one-on-one sessions allow is for you to find those students who excel in creativity and work with them on growing in this area. There are no two students who are exactly the same. My younger brother was bad at almost all core subjects until he got into the Vocational Technical School in high school. Once he got immersed in that, his grades immediately started raising. A boy who never planned to attend college attended Pittsburgh Technical Institute in Structural Engineering and has now completed a Bachelor’s degree at Point Park University, passing classes like Calculus with nothing below a B grade, and most were A grades. Once he found something that interested him, the rest fell into place for him! But creative writing never meant anything to him, and – again – that’s okay!
Remember that your students are like snowflakes, each one unique and made exactly how they should be. Embrace the things they excel in and don’t make them feel bad for things they might not do as well in. We have to teach certain things to all students, but give a little freedom to your students and let them know it’s okay to branch out a little.
Please feel free to include any of your own ideas in the comments!