Obviously, there is a clear distinction between academic writing and creative writing. How do we teach our kids to see it?
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the way that I teach writing recently, and what I am expecting of my students in each situation. I’ve come to the realisation that I am squashing a lot of opportunities for creative writing at the expense of well crafted, grammatically correct pieces of work. The reason why we write, after all, is to send a message to an audience. If I spend all of my writing conferences with my students correcting their grammar and ‘fixing’ their writing, how will they begin to understand that their message has been received by the audience (me).
I have realised, that while I think I am allowing my students creativity, what I am really doing is teaching academic writing – how to write what the teacher/lecturer wants to read. I do this by setting certain expectations or success criteria before each writing lesson. As I send my students to their desks, I can be heard saying: “Make sure you use interesting adjectives. Don’t forget I want to see capital letters and full stops.” I realise that I am probably destroying any creativity in saying these things before my students even put pencil to paper. My new focus will be to ensure that students know their message has been received by the audience BEFORE working through any grammatical features that need attention. It is vital they can see this in order to maintain their enthusiasm for writing beyond the classroom.
I now realise the importance of enjoying creative writing based on my own experience. The last piece of creative writing I engaged with was titled ‘A Day in the Life of my Foot’. I wrote it in year 7 (1998) and since I have not written creatively. This is not to say I haven’t written anything, I just haven’t written creatively. Since 1998 I have been deeply entrenched in the world of academic writing, i.e. writing what the teacher or lecturer wants to read. It is for this reason that I am finding my current assignment very challenging. I am required to keep a writing journal in order to understand how students might feel when we ask them to write. I am using this blog as my journal of thoughts, and I know that while my thoughts might be very disjointed and scattered I am gaining a deep understanding of what I expect my students to do.
If I gain nothing else from the experience, I will have the ability to empathise with my students.