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Creative Writing Through Our Senses

Are you looking for a creative way to get your students more enthusiastic about writing? Are you one of the many teachers who want to make their writing lessons more engaging and awaken your students’ senses? Do you feel that your students’ writing lacks inspiration? Well, look no further!

This article will explain why teachers and students cannot ‘bridge the gap’ in writing and an approach that actually works. There are many reasons that explain why our students fail to produce a well-balanced essay. One of them worth mentioning is the fact that many teachers mostly focus on teaching specific skills throughout the years, like vocabulary or grammar, believing that by assigning a list of words and grammar theories to memorize for homework, will automatically make B2 Level students professionals in writing. Sounds familiar? Unfortunately, this recipe does not work! I am not saying that we should not focus on those skills, but instead there should be a balance. 

Text by: Maria Tseka

When I first started teaching, I always ‘went by the book’, but always felt that something was missing. I saw faces yawning and no interest in being taught how to write. I had to come up with ideas to get my students involved and more motivated to write. My Gold award-winning programme “Creative Writing Through Our Senses” was the answer to my students' writing approach. Students do not need to be shown a piece of writing and phrases to learn by heart for the day of the exam. This does not make them fluent users and definitely cannot make them think in English. What they do need is help in awakening their senses and experiences to use and produce. If they can accomplish this, they become independent and able to take any written exam.

 Take a look at one of my approaches:

 Creative Writing is found in many forms of written works. In our class we put learning into action by focusing on all four skills: Writing, Reading, Listening, and Speaking. We do this through the use of stories, poems, letters, essays, diaries, book reviews, articles, blackout poetry, pictographs, chain letters, and more. 

The four ingredients for great writing that I have been using are: confidence, imagination, love, and creativity. Students must first believe in themselves to build trust in their writing. This is where I come in to help by providing them with inspiring prompts that awaken the senses. A few examples of these include: a sentence starter, sound, smell, a picture, a video, a song, blindfolded tasting, and last but not least something tangible. These are the steps that open the gates of imagination. Now, how do we open them you might ask?

The following lesson plan was used for B2 levels aged 12-15, which shows the student's guided experience when trying to teach story writing, especially for the Cambridge exams; my focus is on the past tenses, descriptive language, sequencing, and short dialogue for active voice.

  • First of all, we listen to and watch a video on YouTube representing a school hallway ambiance between classes.

This is something they experience on a daily basis and therefore can immediately relate to it.

  • I ask questions about the type of sounds they hear and write them down.
  • Next, I draw a picture of a door with a large keyhole and write the following sentence: ‘You find a door in your school that you have never seen before. You peer through the large keyhole...’ and then I ask, “What do you see?”

Suddenly, like popcorn, the ideas start popping from my students as they eagerly try to get them out there, so that I can write them on the board and create a brainstorming map. It is amazing how the gates of imagination burst open within seconds!

  • My next step is to ask, “What happens next?”

This is the part where they start producing sentences and not just simple word ideas. It is the most crucial point that their knowledge of the English Language begins to take form. Sequencing, structuring, and organizing is when we roll out our mind maps and ‘burgers’- paragraph order and details- to help them structure well-balanced writing. Before we start to compose, I ask them to draw or create a collage of their own keyhole and the image they saw through it. By doing this, they begin to give it life the way they envisioned it, and therefore they feel a sense of love for their creation. Putting trust in their own work, their confidence and imagination generate a hunger for creation. They begin to write.       

Once they have completed their work, I ask them to read it out loud, so that the others can listen to it and then they can engage in a conversation that is sparked by comprehensive questions including: multiple choice, true or false, open-ended or even a summary to name a few.         

Finally, we work on meta-discourse. They exchange their writings and try to grasp and feel the writer's perspective by expressing it either in written or spoken form. Recommendations of any necessary changes including spelling mistakes, punctuation, grammar, or lexical ones are first pointed out by the students and eventually by the teacher.

A few words about me and my approach to writing:                                               

As a children's book writer and English teacher, writing has always been my passion. I have dedicated many years trying to inspire and teach students to love their written works and never seize to use their imagination in anything they desire to create in life. My approach to creative writing has not only been a game changer for my student’s writing style, but it has also sparked a love for reading and motivated them to express themselves in the most natural way. They are inspired by their own creations and their rich vocabulary, which after all, is the foundation of all great writers. They have built confidence, imagination, love, and creativity for the English Language and can therefore participate actively in all four skills – Writing, Reading, Listening and Speaking.