It has been some time since my last post. The past couple of weeks have been full of marking, report writing, TESMC, Language and Literacy Levels and Youth Mental Health First Aid courses. Needless to say, I’m glad to finally have a little time to breathe and get some thoughts up on my blog!
Today I was fortunate enough to attend the launch of a very talented colleague’s second novel. You can find his Facebook page here and follow him on Twitter (@rjbrownauthor). R.J. Brown has an incredible ability to draw even the most reluctant readers and writers into the world of literature and creativity. There were actually two launches of his book – one public and the other one at the school. I was unable to attend the one at school, but from what those who did go have recounted, the event drew together students, parents and staff in a shared celebration of the achievements of someone who is an integral part of our school community.
These events got me thinking. As English teachers, part of our role is to help students develop and apply their creativity through language. Yet one of the biggest obstacles I come across in my English classes is how to inspire students to play with language and engage with their creative sides. So often, when doing a unit on narrative, have I heard students try to use the excuse “But I’m not creative.” I don’t think this is true at all. I think humans are innately creative. Watch children play with their toys. Whether it’s girls playing with dolls, or boys playing with cars or action figures (or vice versa), kids make up story lines. They act out these narratives through their toys, or through the performances that they put on for adults. They are being creative without even having to think about it.
So what happens to make so many students seem to lose confidence in their creative side? It is still there, but it can be a challenge to help them find it.
Perhaps it is the absence of ‘play’?
Or the imposition of rules and limitations on what they should be writing about?
Or a belief that they need to write simply to please the teacher, rather than for their own pleasure?
Or a culture that doesn’t encourage spontaneous reading and writing?
I’m not a hundred percent sure if it is any of these, but I know that one thing I would like to do this year is to help my more reluctant readers and writers to find their creative sides and to use them whether they are writing a narrative or an essay. Another colleague and I are working on a project which aims, in part, to do just this. More information to follow on that at a later date as it is still in its early stages.
In the meantime, I’d love to get your thoughts – how do you help your students engage with their creative sides? What do you do to counter the attitude that writing is “just something they have to do” to get a grade?