Teaching creative writing is a real challenge because so often it relies on richness of imagination or richness of experience. Many students lack both of these because they do not read or have very few vivid experiences on which to draw. As adults, it is easy to think of our ‘favourite place’ or our ‘best holiday’ or our ‘brightest memory’ because we have lots to choose from and if not, we have likely read about them (hopefully, as English teachers…). However, many of our students simply haven’t experienced events, people or places that they feel inspired by, as blue as that sounds…
Something that I have tried recently with a low set group is guided writing. It is a task suggested (naturally with brevity…) by AQA so I decided to develop it and give it a go. My aim was to begin to build confidence by laying the groundwork for storytelling and description. This obviously means spending a lot of time reading, discussing and also a lot of literacy based activities on sentences, but ultimately if students could write their own piece, albeit closely guided, they would know what to aim for because they had written it.
The Bread and Butter:
- Provide students with a guided tour of a chosen place or character (resource below) with particular details omitted and questions in their place. For example:
You have stepped into an empty street. It is the dead of night and you are alone. What buildings can you see? Are they small houses or city buildings? Can you see any streetlamps?
This activity works well with characters as well as places. What’s particularly helpful is that all students will come up with different ideas even though the script is the same; this makes sharing and feedback engaging rather than repetitive. Give it go here.
With my group, we only used the first section of a script before reflecting on our word choices and then continuing. It is very similar to slow writing in this sense, especially if you direct students towards what types of sentences to use at each stage. Alongside our creative writing, the class have all been collecting their favourite adjectives in a small vocab book. To build these lists, we have used a variety of resources – the banks here provided by Twinkl are particularly good because they divide the words up into categories like appearance, condition, shape, size, sound, time, feelings and touch. For a low ability group, this makes their decision making less overwhelming and the vocabulary clearer in its context.
I’d also add that this is a great activity to create a quiet focused atmosphere, because they have to listen, think and write pretty much at the same time…
Find more detail on narrative and descriptive writing at KS4 in this post.
Thank you for reading!