news & tips
A collection of helpful articles on teachers and teaching
Add Creative Writing to Your Lesson Plans: Five Engaging Strategies
Working creative writing into the classroom curriculum can be difficult, but it is incredibly worthwhile and can give students new ways of seeing academics and the world in general. Consider dedicating some classroom time to these quick and easy creative writing projects.
Creative writing project #1: Found poetry
Found poetry is an empowering process that breaks out of stodgy assumptions about the poetry tradition. Help students play hide and seek with poems using a blackout technique recently popularized by poet Austin Kleon.
Students pick out words and phrases on a page and combine them to create a poem. Teachers can do the lo-fi version of this project by distributing photocopied pages of a textbook, novel or newspaper and having students black out all the text except the words they choose.
The New York Times also has an online blackout poetry program students can use as a tool for creating found poems. They can then share the poems on the New York Times site if they wish.
Students can use other tools to create found poetry as well — for example, by doing a hashtag search on Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram. Since the options for this project are limitless, use your imagination to apply it to any subject or topic.
Creative writing project #2: Story chain
This in-class writing can take a bit of time, but it’s worth it and a lot of fun. Have students ready their brains and then give them a prompt. This prompt can be something as simple as “It was a dark and stormy night,” or a series of nouns and verbs they need to try to work into a sentence.
Have students write their name on a piece of paper and begin a story based on the prompt you have given them. Give them one minute to write, they call “time” and have students pass their paper to another classmate. Give students one minute to write an addition to the text they’ve received.
Once each story has been in the hands of every student, pass the story back to the original idea-holder. As homework, you can assign authors to revise their story chains and create a coherent short story from the assignment. If you are teaching in a computer lab, you can make this “musical story-chairs” and have students swap after musical interludes of differing lengths.
Creative writing project #3: Copycat
Ask students to bring in their favorite piece of writing from a book, essay, or poetry. Before the writing session starts, ask each student what they love about the writer they chose. Once you’ve finished that discussion, instruct students to write for a significant amount of time as if they were that writer — or trying to be a copycat of that writer.
Once they have finished, give them an opportunity to share their writing and discuss any challenges they may have had while doing that writing. This exercise forces students to consider the rhetorical choices and challenges of their author as well as how, exactly, the author creates a piece.
A homework assignment for this exercise should include revision that reclaims ownership of the piece. Have the student revise the piece and put their own sense of self and voice into it. This allows them to really analyze writing, both of their favorite author and of their own product.
Creative writing project #4: Chimera, Braid, or the Fly
This can be a really entertaining way to create poetry. Give students two or three inspiring blocks of writing and have them weave together lines or phrases from those pieces. This is a bit of an extension of the found poetry assignment idea, but it forces the collision of different figurative language and ideas or images that really pushes students to find new ways to say and see things.
Consider using two very different poems as well as a third element — non-fiction writing, for example, or even a brochure or website. As students work to weave these images and ideas together, they will come up with unique ways of saying things.
Give students a good amount of time to practice on this work and when their writing time is over, encourage them remove the restrictions of their assignment and revise the piece away from the sample writings so that they can find their own voice in the fray.
Creative writing project #5: Sound sense
Review a variety of different sound strategies in poems. Suggestions include:
After discussing these techniques, listen to Lewis Carroll’s “The Jabberwocky,” then have students write their own sound-driven poem. Encourage them to replace real words with made-up words, should the need arise.
At the end of the writing time, have a brief in-class poetry reading where students are rewarded for their sound-sense with an attentive listening audience. Encourage audience involvement, engagement, and reflection in snaps, claps, or other appropriately rewarding sounds as your author reads.
Monica Fuglei is a graduate of the University of Nebraska in Omaha and a current adjunct faculty member of Arapahoe Community College in Colorado, where she teaches composition and creative writing.
Austin Kleon, Blacking Out, Texas Country Reporter
Searching for Poetry in Prose, New York Times