Developing Creative Writing Ability through Model- Based Activities
When I asked my students in ‘English Access Microscholarship Program’ to write poems on any topic they liked, no students were able to compose poems except three. This situation made me explore activities that could help them to write simple poems. I started exploring possible websites and consulted with creative writers to receive insights so that I could adapt and use them in my creative writing lessons. Having got some inspirational suggestions and creative ideas from different websites and creative writers, I employed some creative writing activities in my class. Those activities enhanced my students’ creative writing abilities. In this article, I have shared my classroom experiences of teaching poetry writing using models.
Defining creative writing is a challenging task as it is deiffic to demarcate creative writing from other forms of writing. In this regard, Hale (2008) maintains creative writing as “anything where the purpose is to express thoughts, feelings and emotions rather than to simply convey information.” She incorporates stories, novels, poetry, (auto) biography and creative non-fiction in creative writing. Similarly, Maley (2009) opines creative writing as “the production of texts which have an aesthetic rather than a purely informative, instrumental or pragmatic purpose. Most often, such texts take the form of poems or stories, though they are not confined to these genres”. In the same way, literaturewalks (2016) defines creative writing as “the fine art of making things up, in the most attractive, apt and convincing way possible.” It is the telling of lies to reveal illuminating and dark truths about the world and our place in it. Likewise, Writerstreasure states creative writing as “any form of writing which is written with the creativity of mind: fiction writing, poetry writing, creative nonfiction writing and more. The purpose is to express something, whether it be feelings, thoughts or emotions.” The above definitions clearly conclude that creative writing is a creative expression of thoughts, emotions, feelings, written mainly in poetry, story, drama.
Why Creative writing activities in EFL classes?
There are multiple reasons behind the significance of creative writing in EFL classes. Creative writing enables learners to learn different aspects and skills of language implicitly. In this context, Maley (2009) believe that creative writing “aids language development at all levels: grammar, vocabulary, phonology, and discourse. It requires learners to manipulate the language in interesting and demanding ways in attempting to express uniquely personal meanings. In doing so, they necessarily engage with the language at a deeper level of processing than with most expository” text. In addition, Read (2015, as cited in Maley & Peachy, 2015) presents following points highlighting importance of creative writing in ELT classes.
– Creative writing increases children’s engagement and motivation.
– Makes language learning enjoyable and memorable.
– Gives children a sense of ownership to help and feeling of success.
– Promotes children’s ability to think in a flexible way.
– Provides a personalized challenge.
– Develops qualities such as patience, persistence, and resourcefulness.
– Provides a basis for the development of more sophisticated, conceptual and abstract creative thinking in future.
Based on the above discussions, it can be argued that the learners benefit a lot by creative writing activities in EFL classes as writing tasks could be motivational, memorable, enjoyable, and flexible and so on. Therefore, it seems a wise notion to incorporate creative writing activities in EFL classes.
Why ‘Models’ in Creative Writing Classes?
Use of model – based creative writing activities for developing creative ability in the students may be questioned. Nevertheless, it has been found that many learners with low proficiency in English hesitate to produce creative works. In this instance, using models as guidelines can assist students to create creative works. In this circumstance, Maley (2015) argues
“Children need a framework in which to develop creative thinking skills and it is usually helpful to provide a model or build up an example outcome with the whole class first. The framework delimits the scope of an activity and allows children to focus on their ideas. The model or example provides necessary language support”.
Additionally, Kirkgöz (2008) admits that teaching writing using a model is a useful method, which can be used to help consolidate grammar and vocabulary and improve creative writing skills. It involves students’ writing their poem following a format similar to the original one. Here, the poem, for example, is used as a starting point, and it also serves as a model and inspiration for language awareness for some parallel writing.
It is apparent, according to the above discussions, that using a model in creative writing activities is a milestone to amplify the creative ability of the students. Chiefly, the students with low proficiency in the English language can also boost up their creative writing through model – based creative writing instruction.
Here, I have presented some model-based poetry writing activities I employed in my EFL classes. These activities were effective during my classes as all the students came up with their poems written following the models demonstrated to them. Moreover, they were found highly motivated to write more poems seeing their success in writing poems.
1. Acrostic Poem
This is an easy way to compose a poem. In it, the poem is written generally with the first letters of each line spell out the word or phrase. First, make students clear about acrostic poem. Then, present some model acrostic poems. Subsequently, ask the students to write their names vertically. After that, tell the students to write down their own acrostic poem of their names. At the end, have students share their acrostic poems in the class.
Depending up on the level of the students, acrostic poems can be written in longer form adding more words. The teacher has to support the students to generate words as the students frequently stuck while writing acrostic poems.
2. Hello/Goodbye poem
It is one of the easiest formats to write poems for the students. This poem consists of only two lines. The first line begins with ‘Hello’ while the second line starts with ‘Goodbye’. First, demonstrate a model poem to the students. Second, make the students read the model poem. Then, ask them to write their own poems. Finally, make all the students share their poems in the class.
(Extracted from Maley, 2013)
3. Future poem
This is an admirable way to practice grammar points, i.e. singular and plural along with other aspects and skills of English. In this activity, first generate some useful words and ideas from the students presenting a model word, for example, future, development, etc. Thereafter, ask the students to imagine about the world after 30 years. Elicit their ideas. Then, display a model of future poem. After that, instruct the students to write their own future poem based on the model. Lastly, paste all the future poems on the wall and have the students’ gallery walk.
An example of future poem
When I look into the future
There are robots
There are aliens
There are saucers in the sky
But there aren’t any birds.
When I look into the future
There’s a memory stick in my head
There’s a tracking device under my feet
There’s a monitor behind my eyes
But there isn’t brotherhood.
(Extracted from Ardon, 2011)
4. “I Am” poem
This is a poem written about own self. Students love to write poems about their own personality. For this activity, first present a format of a poem. Then, clarify the format. After the students become clear about the format, present a model “I Am” poem. Thereafter, tell the students to write their own “I Am” poem. Afterwards, have the students to share their poems with their partners.
First stanza Example
I am (2 special characteristics you have) I am polite and kind
I wonder (something of curiosity) I wonder about my kids’ future
I hear (an imaginary sight) I hear a unicorn’s cry
I see (an imagery sight) I see Atlantis
I want (an actual desire) I want to do it all over again
I am (the first line of the poem repeated) I am polite and kind
I pretend (something you actually pretend to do) I pretend I am a princess
I feel (a feeling about something imaginary) I feel an angel’s wings
I touch (an imaginary touch) I touch a summer’s cloud
I worry (something that bothers you) I worry about violence
I cry (something that makes you sad) I cry for my Gram
I am (the first line of the poem repeated) I am polite and kind
I understand (something that is true) I understand your love for me
I say (something that is true) I say children are our future
I dream (something you dream about) I dream for a quiet day
I try (something you really make an effort about) I try to do my best
I hope (something you actually hope for) I hope the success of my children
I am (the first line of the poem repeated) I am polite and kind.
- 5 W’s Poem
This is a creative way to teach students about 5 W question words (who? What? When? Where? Why?). First, ask the students to write full form of 5 W’s. Elicit their responses. Make them clear about the words of 5 W’s. Then, present a format along with example. Have the students write their own 5 W’s poem based on model. Lastly, tell the students to share their poems in the class.
Line 1: Who or what is the poem about? Lisa
Line 2: What action is happening? Went on a road trip
Line 3: When does the action take place? (a time) To Minnesota
Line 4: Where does the action take place? (a place) Over the fourth July
Line 5: Why does this action take place? (a reason) To watch her friend get married
(Extracted from Robertson, 2009)
5. Cinquain poems
Cinquain poem is written in five lines following a format. It can be written describing a person, place or thing. This poem is easy to adapt in the classrooms because it is short and simple in nature. Before asking the students to write cinquain poems, tell the students to select a person, place or thing. Then, present a format of cinquain poem to the students. Check the students’ understanding about the format. Thereafter, display a model cinquain poem. After that, ask the students to write their own cinquain poems based on the model. Finally, have the students share their cinquain poems in the class.
Line A: One word topic Insect
Line B: Two adjectives that describe the topic Hidden, hungry
Line C: Three interesting –ing action verbs that fit the topic preening, searching, stalking
Line D: Four word phrase that captures feeling about the topic Waits as if praying
Line E: A one – word summary Mantis
(Adapted from Kautzer, 2015)
To sum up, it is obvious that creative writing activities are effective in EFL classes. They are motivating, memorable and interesting for the learners. They can enhance implicit learning of foreign language. Such activities can be effectively used to teach different skills and aspects of language. In this background, providing framework for composing creative task can be crucial for the learners as such frameworks offer guidelines for them. And, such models enable the learners to have a feeling of success in creative writing. Thus, it can be claimed that learners can develop their creative writing ability following the format or model provided to them and use of aforementioned activities can foster their creative writing skill.
Ardon, C. (2011). Poems for future. Retrieved from http: // teachingenglish.org.uk/article/poems-future
Collie, J. and Slater, S. (2009). Literature in the language classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hale, A. (2008). Creative writing 101. Retrieved from http: //www.dailywritingtips.com/creative– writing-101.
Kirkgöz, Y. (2008). Using poetry as a model for creating English poems. Journal of Language and Linguistic Studies, vol.4, No.2.
Kautzer, K. (2015). How to write a cinquain poem. Retrieved from http: //www. writeshop.com/writing-a-cinquain-poem/
Maley, A. (2010). Creative Writing for Language Learners (and teachers). Retrieved from http: //www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/creative-writing-langugae-learners-teachers
Maley, A. (2013). Creative writing for students and teachers: some practical ideas. Retrieved from http: //neltachoutari.wordpress.com/2013/10/01/creative-writing-for-students-and-teachers-some-practical-ideas/
Maley, A. and Peachy, N. (2015). Creativity in the English language classroom. London: British Council.
Robertson, K. (2009). Writing poetry with English language learners. Retrieved from http: //www.readingrockets.org/article/writing-poetry-english-language-learners
Robertson, C. (2009): Writing Poetry with English language learners. Retrieved from http: //www.readingrockets.org/article/writing-poetry-english-language-learners
(*Mr. Karki is an Assistant Lecturer of Janata Multiple Campus and Green Peace Lincoln College, Itahari, Sunsari. Besides, he has been working as a freelancer teacher trainer at British Council Nepal and Educational Training Centre, Sunsari, Nepal. He can be contacted at email@example.com.)