Creative Writing for Students and Teachers
Alan Maley, UK
Alan Maley has been involved in ELT for over 40 years. He has lived and worked in 10 countries, including China, India, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia. He is series editor for the Oxford Resource Books for Teachers, and has published over 30 books and numerous articles. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
What is creative writing?
The case for creative writing
Some practical ideas
The Asia Teacher-Writers Project
Why is it that most institutional systems of education develop such narrow and unadventurous teaching procedures? How is it that joyful learning somehow gets overwhelmed by institutional rituals: the worship of the syllabus, the obsession with ‘covering’ the textbook, the manic preoccupation with the exam, the compulsion to conform? It seems that only in rare cases, through the determination of individual teachers, is joyful learning achieved. In most other cases, the language is reduced to drumming in material as if it were a set of mathematical formulae in preparation for the exam, after which it can safely be discarded. Small wonder that many students simply switch off and develop a lifelong aversion to the language in question. What they learn is neither enjoyable nor perceived as useful in the ‘real’ world outside the classroom.
This applies to much English language teaching too: all too often, it lacks a creative spark. John McRae goes so far as to say,
“In future years, the absence of imaginative content in language teaching will be considered to have marked a primitive stage of the discipline: the use of purely referential materials limits the learner’s imaginative involvement with the target language, and leads to a one-dimensional learning achievement. Representational materials make an appeal to the learner’s imagination…” (McRae 1991:vii)
In this article I shall be arguing for the need to develop more creative approaches to writing as a way of enriching the learning experiences of both teachers and learners.
Creative writing is often contrasted with Expository writing. I have summarized the principle differences between them in the following table:
Appeal to the intellect
Avoidance of ambiguity
Feeling mode (plus thinking!)
Appeal to the senses
Creation of multiple meanings
When writing an expository text we are essentially instrumentally motivated. We have a quantum of facts, ideas and opinions to put across. Expository writing rests on a framework of externally imposed rules and conventions. These range from grammatical and lexical accuracy and appropriacy to specific genre constraints. The aim of expository writing is to be logical, consistent and impersonal and to convey the content as unambiguously as possible to the reader.
Creative writing, by contrast, is aesthetically motivated. It deals less in facts than in the imaginative representation of emotions, events, characters and experience. Contrary to what many believe, creative writing is not about license. It is a highly disciplined activity. But the discipline is self-imposed: ‘the fascination of what’s difficult’ (Yeats). In this it stands in contrast to expository writing, which imposes constraints from without. It often proceeds by stretching the rules of the language to breaking point, testing how far it can go before the language breaks down under the strain of innovation. Creative writing is a personal activity, involving feeling. This is not to say that thought is absent – far from it. The ingenuity of a plot, or the intricate structure of a poem are not the products of an unthinking mind: they require a unique combination of thought and feeling – part of what Donald Davie (1994) calls ‘articulate energy.’ An important quality of creative writing however is the way it can evoke sensations. And, unlike expository writing, it can be read on many different levels and is open to multiple interpretations.
It is reasonable to ask however, how we can justify the inclusion of creative writing, in addition to aesthetic reading, in our language teaching practices. A recent small-scale survey (unpublished data) I conducted among some 50 leading ELT professionals, especially teachers of writing, yielded the following reasons:
- Creative writing aids language development at all levels: grammar, vocabulary, phonology and discourse. As learners manipulate the language in interesting and demanding ways, attempting to express uniquely personal meanings (as they do in creative writing), they necessarily engage with the language at a deeper level of processing than with expository texts (Craik and Lockhart 1972). The gains in grammatical accuracy, appropriacy and originality of lexical choice, and sensitivity to rhythm, rhyme, stress and intonation are significant.
- Creative writing also fosters ‘playfulness’. In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in the role of play in language acquisition. (Cook 2000, Crystal 1998) In some ways the ‘communicative movement’ has done a disservice to language teaching by its insistence on the exclusively communicative role played by language. The proponents of play point out, rightly, that in L1 acquisition, much of the language used by children is almost exclusively concerned with play: rhythmical chants and rhymes, word games, jokes and the like. Furthermore, such playfulness survives into adulthood, so that many social encounters are characterized by language play (puns, jokes, ‘funny voices’, metathesis, and so on) rather than by the direct communication of messages. In creative writing, learners are encouraged to do precisely this: to play creatively with the language in a guilt-free environment. As Crystal states, ‘Reading and writing do not have to be a prison house. Release is possible. And maybe language play can provide the key.’ (Crystal 1998:217)
- This playful element encourages learners to take risks with the language, to explore it without fear of reproof. By manipulating the language in this way, they also begin to discover things not only about the language but about themselves. They effectively begin to develop a ‘second language personality’.
- Much of the teaching we do draws and focuses on the left side of the brain, where our logical faculties are said to reside. Creative writing puts the emphasis on the right side of the brain, with a focus on feelings, physical sensations, intuition, and the like. This is a healthy restoration of balance between the logical and the intuitive faculties. It also allows scope for learners whose hemisphere preference or dominance may not be left-brain, and who, in the usual course of teaching, are therefore at a disadvantage.
- The dramatic increase in self-confidence and self-esteem which creative writing tends to develop among learners leads to a corresponding increase in motivation. Dornyei (2001), among others, has pointed to evidence that suggests that among the key conditions for promoting motivation are:
5. Create a pleasant and supportive atmosphere in the classroom
6. Promote the development of group cohesiveness.
13. Increase the students’ expectancy of success in particular tasks and in learning in
17. Make learning more stimulating and enjoyable by breaking the monotony of
18. Make learning stimulating and enjoyable for the learner by increasing the
attractiveness of tasks.
19. Make learning stimulating and enjoyable for the learners by enlisting them as active
20. Present and administer tasks in a motivating way.
23. Provide students with regular experiences of success.
24. Build your learners’ confidence by providing regular encouragement.
28. Increase student motivation by promoting cooperation among the learners.
29. Increase student motivation by actively promoting learner autonomy.
33. Increase learner satisfaction.
34. Offer rewards in a motivational manner.’(Dornyei 2001: 138-144)
All these conditions are met in a well-run creative writing class. This increase in motivation is certainly supported by my own experience in teaching creative writing. Learners suddenly realize that they can write something in the foreign language which no one else has ever written before. And they experience not only a pride in their own products but a joy in the process.
- Creative writing also feeds into more creative reading. It is as if, by getting inside the process of creating the text, learners come to intuitively understand how such texts work, and this makes them easier to read. Likewise, the development of aesthetic reading skills provides the learner with a better understanding of textual construction, and this feeds into their writing. There is only one thing better than reading a lot for developing writing ~ and that is writing a lot too!
- Finally, the respondents to the questionnaire survey were almost unanimous in agreeing that creative writing helps to improve expository writing too. In fact, by helping learners to develop an individual voice, it makes their factual writing more genuinely expressive.
All of the above factors were mentioned by the respondents to the questionnaire. Respondents noted that students who become engaged in CW tasks demonstrate a robust sense of self-esteem and are consequently better motivated (Dornyei 2001). They also become more aware both of the language and of themselves as learners. The virtuous cycle of success breeding more success is evident with such students. As they become more self-confident, so they are prepared to invest more of themselves in these creative writing tasks. Above all, students derive not just ‘fun’ but a deeper sense of enjoyment from their writing.
There are a number of general points which will help make implementing creative writing activities more likely to succeed:
Try to establish a relaxed, non-judgmental atmosphere, where your students feel confident enough to let go and not to worry that their every move is being scrutinized for errors.
Ensure that the students’ work is ‘published’ in some way. This could be by simply keeping a large notice-board for displaying the students’ work. Other ways would include giving students a project for publishing work in a simple ring binder, or as part of a class magazine. Almost certainly, there will be students able and willing to set up a class website where work can be published. Performances, where students read or perform their work for other classes or even the whole school, are another way of making public what they have done.
Encourage students to discuss their work together in a frank but friendly manner. We get good ideas by bouncing them off other people. Help them establish an atmosphere where criticism is possible without causing offence.
Explain regularly how important accurate observation is, and encourage ‘noticing’ things. They also need to be encouraged to be curious and to follow up with ‘research’ – looking for more information, whether in books, on the Internet or by asking people.
Make it clear that what they do in the classroom is only the tip of the iceberg. To get real benefit from these activities, they need to do a lot of work outside class hours. Most of what we learn, we do not learn in class. You can capitalize on that fact.
Do the activities regularly in order to get the best effects. Maybe once a week is a sensible frequency. If you leave too long between sessions, you have to keep going back to square one. That is a waste of time and energy.
The following are simply a sample of some possible activities:
- Tell the class that they are going to write a poem. It will have only two lines, and each
line will have just two words. The first line will start with ‘Hello’, the second with
- Give students one or two examples:
Then, ask if they can think of any new ones. Note them on the board.
- Ask students to work in pairs (or alone if they prefer), and try to come up with at least two new poems. Allow 10 minutes for this task.
- Ask for their examples and put them on the board. Ask students to give feedback on each other’s examples.
- Collect all the poems. Display them on the class notice-board or upload them
onto the class/school website.
The activity is very simple yet it does require students to call on their vocabulary store and to think about words that have a mutual or reciprocal relationship of meanings (smoking/health etc.) If you prefer, this can be used as a short warm-up for other activities.
- Explain to students that they will be writing some lines that will fit together into a poem. Then, write up the stem you intend to use. For example:
I wish I could…
Elaborate further by eliciting samples of completed sentences, as in these examples:
I wish I could have an ice cream.
I wish I could speak French.
I wish I could visit Australia.
Then, ask each student to write three sentences following the same pattern.
- After about 10 minutes, ask students to work in groups of four and to share their sentences. They should choose six sentences that they think are most interesting and then decide what order to put them in to form a 6-line poem. There is no need for the poems to rhyme but if they do, fine. Lastly, tell them to add one final line, which is:
But I can’t.
- Ask groups to read their poems aloud to the class. Can they suggest any ways to improve the poems?
- Collect all the poems. Display them on the class noticeboard or upload them
onto the class/school website.
- You can decide on other stems to use in subsequent classes. For example:
I used to… but now…
I love the way…
I don’t know why…
It would be a good idea to choose stems that give practice in language points you are working on with the class at that time.
An acrostic poem is based on a word written vertically. The letters then each form the first letter of a word, and all the words are related to the meaning of the original word. For example:
- Explain what an acrostic is and write up one or two examples on the board.
Then, ask them to write an acrostic based on their own name or the name of someone they know well. The words they choose should somehow describe the
person. For example, Vuthy:
- Collect all the poems. Display them on the class notice-board or upload them onto the class/school website.
- Ask students to write at least one more acrostic before the next class. This time, they can choose any word they like (it doesn’t have to be someone’s name). For example:
Acrostics involve a kind of mental gymnastics that engages students in reactivating their vocabulary in an unusual way. Acrostics do not usually produce great poetry but they certainly exercise the linguistic imagination.
Acknowledgement: Some of the ideas were developed by Tan Bee Tin.
If you were …
- First you make copies of this outline:
If I were a fruit, I would be ….
If I were a vegetable, I would be…
If I were a tree, I would be…
If I were a flower, I would be…
If I were a fish, I would be…
If I were a bird, I would be…
If I were a book, I would be…
If I were a song, I would be…
If I were the weather, I would be…
If I were a season, I would be…
Then distribute the sheets that you have prepared. Ask students to work individually for about 10 minutes, completing the outline of the poem with words they prefer. For example:
If I were a fruit, I would be a grape.
- Let students share what they have written in groups of four. Then conduct a class discussion and go through the poems line-by-line, asking for examples of what they have written.
- Ask students to think of someone they like and to write the person’s name as the title of their poem. They then write a 12-line poem addressed to that person using the following format:
Line 1: describe the person as a kind of food.
Line 2: describe the person as weather
Line 3: describe the person as a tree
Line 4: describe the person as a time of day
Line 5: describe the person as some kind of transport
Line 6: describe the person as an article of clothing
Line 7: describe the person as part of a house
Line 8: describe the person as a flower
Line 9: describe the person as a kind of music/a sound
Line 10: describe the person as something to do with colour
Line 11: describe the person as an animal
The last line should be the same for everyone: ‘You are my friend’.
So, their poem would look something like this:
You are mango ice-cream
You are a cool breeze on a hot day
You are a shady coconut palm
You are dawn
You are a sailing boat crossing the bay
You are my comfortable sandals
You are the sunny verandah
You are jasmine
You are a soft gamelan
You are light blue
You are a playful kitten
You are my friend.
- Make copies of this list of words and phrases for use during the class:
Love an egg
Hate a tooth brush
Disappointment a vacuum cleaner
Marriage a spoon
Friendship a knife
Hope a mirror
Life a window
Work a cup
Time a banana
- Check that students know what a metaphor is – a form of direct comparison between two things. Give examples of metaphors in everyday life:
In fact, everyday language is so full of metaphorical expressions that we hardly notice them. They have become an accepted way of speaking. Explain that poets make great use of metaphor to make their words more vivid and easier to visualise.
- A blade of grass
- A sharp frost
- Spending time
- Save time
- Opening up a can of worms
- She’s a snake in the grass
- He clammed up
- He shelled out
- A wall of silence
- Hand out the sheets. Tell students to write three metaphors by combining one item on the left with another on the right (students will have to join the words using ‘is’). They should not spend time thinking about the combinations. For example:
- Life is a window.
- Friendship is a knife.
- Love is a vacuum cleaner.
- Marriage is a banana
- Hate is a mirror.
- Now, ask them to choose just one of their new metaphors. They should now write two more lines after the metaphor to explain what it means. For example:
Marriage is a banana:
when you’ve eaten the fruit,
only the skin is left.
Hate is a mirror:
it reflects back
on the one who hates.
Tell students not to use ‘because’ as it is unnecessary, and to keep the lines short.
- Ask students to share their metaphor poems with the class. Students should then make an illustrated display of their work.
Acknowledgement: This idea is adapted from Jane Spiro’s brilliant book, Creative Poetry Writing (OUP)
In this final section, I shall describe the activities of a dynamically-engaged group of teachers who have put these ideas into practice and become creative writers who produce materials for use by their students.
Background and history
This is a small-scale, grassroots / bottom-up initiative. Participation is entirely voluntary and the project is independent of institutions. It is predicated on the principle that ‘small is beautiful’ (Schumacher 1974). There is no ambition to effect sweeping, large-scale changes, such as the many failed government schemes which litter the educational landscape. It has a local focus with no global ambitions. It works through persuasion at the personal level, and through the commitment of a small number of individual teachers. Small phenomena can nonetheless have large effects, as Chaos Theory teaches us. (Gleick 1988)
Significantly, it intersects with some important currents of contemporary professional concern. The role of the NNS (Non-Native Speaker) continues to preoccupy scholars of the spread of English, as does the development of English as an International Language, no longer the sole property of the metropolitan countries (Rubdy and Saraceni 2006). This project is intimately linked with such concerns. It promotes the notion of NNS teachers able to find their own confident place and their own idiom in this rapidly-changing global movement.
The project also reasserts the importance of the place of affect (Arnold 1999), of visualisation (Tomlinson 1998, 2001) , noticing (Schmidt 1990), personalisation, Multiple Intelligences (Gardner 1985), motivation (Dornyei 2001), authenticity, extensive reading (Day and Bamford 1998, Krashen 2004), the teaching of expository writing in a second language, and creativity in general (Boden 1998, Carter 2004)
The project started in 2003 with a small workshop in Bangkok. Teachers from a number of Asian countries gathered to discuss the desirability of writing creative materials in English for students in their countries. A collection of papers was the outcome (Tan 2004), together with some stories which were also eventually published by Pearson Malaysia (Maley and Mukundan 2005).
This first event was followed by workshops for roughly the same (but slowly-expanding) group in Melaka, Malaysia (2004), Fuzhou , China (2005), Hanoi , Vietnam (2006), Salatiga, Indonesia (2007) Kathmandu/Kirtipur, Nepal (2008), Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (2009), Jakarta, Indonesia (2010), Dhulikhel, Nepal (2010), and Jember, Indonesia (2011). Each workshop produced poems and stories which were published by Pearson Malaysia (Maley (ed) 2007 a) and b), Maley and Mukundan (eds) 2005 a), b), c), 2008 a) and b), 2009 a) and b), 2011 a) and b)), as well as another volume of papers (Mukundan 2006). Two resource books have also come out of the experiences. (Maley and Mukundan 2011 c) and d))
As already noted above, the group is noteworthy for being independent of any institutional support, and is entirely voluntary. Each year, a volunteer takes on the responsibility for finding local sponsorship and organising the workshop in a different venue in Asia.
Rationale and objectives
The group operates in the belief that NNS teachers are not only capable of but are also uniquely well-placed to write literary materials for use by their own and other students in the Asia region. By virtue of the fact that they share their students’ backgrounds and contexts, they have an intuitive understanding of what will be culturally and topically relevant and attractive for them. What they all too often lack is the confidence in their own ability to write interesting material. The group operates to dispel this misconception.
The following rationale underpins the activities of the group:
- A belief in the value of creative writing in English both for teachers and for students.
- A belief in the ability of teachers in the region to produce their own English teaching materials.
- A belief that these materials will provide useful input for promoting reading (and other activities) in English.
- A belief in the value for professional and personal development of forming a closely-knit, Asia-wide, mutually-supportive learning community of teacher/writers.
The objectives are:
- To produce poetry and stories appropriate in level and content for use by Asian students of English at secondary level.
- To publish and promote these as widely as possible, thus creating a wider awareness of the value of CW.
- To develop materials and activities for the teaching of creative writing.
- To run creative writing conferences and workshops for the wider teaching community wherever possible.
In this way, to boost the self-esteem and confidence of teachers of English in Asia.
In other words, the project aims at three main audiences:
- professionally and personally.
- English teachers in the region at large who will use the materials and hopefully go on
to develop their own in due course.
- students of English in the region who will use the materials, and will themselves
produce texts which can be fed back as input to other students.
Apart from peer editing and discussion, the workshops also include input sessions when new ideas for activities are shared. There are now many published sources for such ideas (Koch 1990 , Matthews 1994, Rinvolucri and Frank 2007, Spiro 2004, 2007, Maley and Mukundan 2011 c) and d))..
To assess the value of the group’s activities for its members, I conducted a simple questionnaire inquiry in October 2011. A digest of the results in the form of selected quotations is included as an Appendix.
The importance of the project described here resides in the high degree of commitment by young, energetic professionals to its aims. Ultimately, change in our teaching practices will not come from top-down ministerial decrees but from the commitment of individuals with a belief in the value of their actions. ‘A journey of 1000 li begins with the first step.’ (Chinese proverb)
Arnold, Jane. (1999). Affect in Language Learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Boden, Margaret. (1998) The Creative Mind. London: Abacus.
Carter, Ronald. (2004) Language and Creativity: the art of common talk. London: Routledge.
Cook, Guy. (2000) Language Play: Language Learning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Craik, F.I.M. and R.S. Lockhart (1972) ‘Levels of processing: a framework for memory research.’ Journal for verbal learning and Verbal Behaviour II: 617-84.
Crystal, David. (1998) Language Play. London: Penguin.
Davie, Donald (1994) Purity of Diction in English Verse and Articulate Energy. London: Carcanet.
Day, Richard and Julian Bamford. (1998) Extensive Reading in the Second Language Classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Dornyei ,Zoltan (2001) Motivational Strategies in the Language Classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Gardner, Howard. (1985) Frames of Mind. London: Paladin Books
Gleick, James. (1988) Chaos. London: Sphere Books
Koch, Kenneth. (1990) Rose, where did you get that red? New York: Vintage Books.
Krashen, Stephen (2004 second edition) The Power of Reading. Portsmouth NH: Heinemann
Maley, Alan (ed) (2007 a)) Asian Short Stories for Young Readers. Vol. 4. Petaling Jaya: Pearson/Longman Malaysia
Maley, Alan (ed) (2007 b)) Asian Poems for Young Readers. Vol.5. Petaling Jaya:Pearson/Longman Malaysia.
Maley, Alan and Jayakaran Mukundan. (eds) (2005 a)) Asian Stories for Young Readers, Vol 1 Petaling Jaya: Pearson/Longman Malaysia.
Maley, Alan and Jayakaran Mukundan (eds) (2005 b)) Asian Stories for Young Learners. Vol. 2 Petaling Jaya: Pearson Malaysia
Maley, Alan and Jayakaran Mukundan (eds) (2005 c) Asian Poems for Young Readers.Vol. 3. Petaling Jaya: Pearson/Longman.
Maley, Alan and Jayakaran Mukundan (eds) (2011a)) Asian Short Stories for Young Readers. Petaling Jaya: Pearson Malaysia
Maley, Alan and Jayakaran Mukundan (eds) (2011 b)) Asian Poems for Young Readers. Petaling Jaya: Pearson Malaysia.
Maley, Alan and Jayakaran Mukundan (2011 c)) Writing Poems: a resource book for teachers of English. Petaling Jaya: Pearson Malaysia
Maley, Alan and Jayakaran Mukundan (2011 d)) Writing Stories; a resource book for teachers of English. Petaling Jaya: Pearson Mal.aysia
McRae, John (1991) Literature with a Small ‘l’. Oxford.: Macmillan.
Matthews, Paul. 1994. Sing Me the Creation. Stroud:Hawthorn Press.
Mukundan, Jayakaran. (ed) (2006) Creative Writing in EFL/ESL Classrooms II. Petaling Jaya: Pearson Longman Malaysia
Rubdy, Rani and Mario Saraceni (eds) (2006) English in the World: Global Rules, Global Roles. London/New York: Continuum.
Schmidt, Richard (1990). ‘The role of consciousness in second language learning’. Applied Linguistics. Vol. 11, No. 2 129-158. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Schumacher, E.F. (1974). Small is Beautiful. London: Abacus/Sphere Books
Spiro, Jane (2004) Creative Poetry Writing. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Spiro, Jane. (2006) Creative Story-building. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Tan, Bee Tin (ed) (2004). Creative Writing in EFL/ESL Classrooms I Serdang: UPM Press.
Tomlinson, Brian (1998). ‘Seeing what they mean: helping L2 learners to visualise.’ In
B.Tomlinson (ed). Materials Development in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 265-78
Tomlinson, Brian (2001) ‘The inner voice: a critical factor in language learning’ Journal of the Imagination in L2 learning. VI, 123-154.
Wright, Andrew and David Hill. (2008) Writing Stories. Innsbruck: Helbling Languages.
Questionnaire Survey of Group Members. October 2011.
The intention of the survey was simply to assess in a rough and ready way the value of the groups activities as perceived by its members. Members were asked to give their free responses to just five statements. The following is a selection of the contributions of the 19 respondents.
1. What I have learned about writing
To my pleasant surprise, I can produce some poems, an ability that I have never thought of even in my mother tongue. (Phuong, Vietnam)
Before taking part in CW, I hardly tried to write poem and story in English…Now I am writing regularly and my writing is also improved. (Motikala, Nepal.)
… that good writing often results from the inspiration obtained from listening to others, participating in real-world activities and interacting with fellow writers. (Dat, Vietnam)
Writing is a process of re-experiencing and re-living our feelings and thoughts again and again until they are condensed and distilled into an art form which embodies and takes over life itself. (Philip, Hong Kong)
Writing is to relive you life
Writing is to share your emotions
Writing is to sharpen your mind
Writing is to release your tensions.
Writing makes me feel free and seems like a good medicine to cure worries, stress, and depression. In particular, writing makes me feel I can go everywhere in different periods and time with only my pen. (Kanokon, Thailand)
It is fun challenging oneself, and the joy one gets once it is appreciated by others. It is like peeling the layers of an onion, though it makes one cry, when not able to get satisfaction. (Sarita , Nepal)
I have learned that the ‘audience’ you write for is as important as yourself especially if you desire to see your writing published. What may be crystal clear in your mind may be just a foggy representation to the reader. So sometimes you need to make the extra effort and be careful of self-indulgence. (Mallika, Malaysia)
I write books but I never wrote poems or short stories before. I am writing textbooks now, using some techniques I learned from writing poems, so that my writing would be (I hope) more interesting to the readers. (Risti, Indonesia)
It involves our feelings, attitude, judgment to achieve our special purposes such as educating and entertaining our readers, publicizing our opinions, exerting our own influence in the society, entertaining ourselves. (Meng Tian, China)
I learned how to write from heart and use real life experience for writing. The best thing I learn is that it is important to share our writing with peers before it gets published. (Prem, Nepal)
Creative writing gives me a chance to forget the cliché, but play with words for fun, activate my unusual thinking and imagination to experience a world of creativity. (Lihua, China)
That even I can write creatively, after being taught the different techniques. (Dzeelfa, Malaysia)
Writing brings a person closer to others in a special way in communicating inner thoughts and ideas. (Fei , China)
I find writing is enjoyable as I have a channel to express my deep thoughts and feelings in an artistic way or in a disguise of language.
…once I start putting words down, I will be carried away by the flow of thoughts. ( Li Wei, China)
Writing sharpens my observation skills and encouraging me to look at things from different perspectives. It’s an excellent means to express my feelings, emotions and creativity (An, Vietnam)
I have learned that writing is a very important skill not only for study but also for life and that writing is not only for communication but also for creativity (to sharpen our creative senses). Writing creatively is not only for specialists (or famous creative writers) but for everybody. It is very empowering to know that I can write creatively (it was an amazing feeling when I finished writing my first short story in English). I have never written a story even in Burmese, although I have written lots of academic essays. (Tan Bee, Burma)
2. What you have learned about teaching writing (and reading).
The role of CR is not properly emphasized in our syllabus. When students learn Writing in our context, they learn about how to write argumentative essays, letters, contracts, memos, CV,rather than stories or poetry.
For me CW is like dessert in the syllabus which I can use to promote the ability of some students and to create some motivation for the class when they can hear about their peers' CW.
… encouraging the students to write poetry is developing their thinking and feelings about people and life.
… joining the CW group puts me in the learner's shoes and I understand the process that my students have to go through in CW more. (Phuong, Vietnam)
CW helped me to enhance my knowledge and opened my horizon of thinking. (Motikala, Nepal)
Inviting others to do the same thing as you and observe how differently they do it will teach you a lot about teaching. (Dat, Vietnam)
Reading and writing are the two sides of a coin: they are complementary to each other. The more you read, the more you learn about the art of writing and the more you write, the more you like to read others (because it helps improve your writing). (Vishnu, Nepal)
That there are so many ways to teach writing and it doesn’t necessarily have to be in one chunk as teachers sometimes believe.
…I have learned new ways in which I can get students with lower English proficiency to actually write poems of their own. Their lack of language ‘sophistication’ is actually sometimes an advantage as the words they write come out fresher and more honest. (Mallika, Malaysia)
Teaching creative writing or reading is not only the way to challenge the traditional way of teaching reading and writing to EFL or ESL learners, but it is a better way to make teaching and learning more enjoyable, more meaningful and productive. (Lihua, China)
It is important for students to feel the enjoyment of writing freely at the beginning….As more experience of writing has been gained by the students, teaching writing is actually a good way of understanding a person inside out including one's emotions, life experience and cultural background. …it can stimulate the real thinking and reflection of a person and make students re-experience some unforgettable moments in life. (Li Wei, China)
…one thing I learn from CW projects is trying out alternatives and taking risks within constraints. So, when I talk to my students (giving advice for their language lessons as part of a practical language teaching course), I push them further, changing their mundane and safe lesson plans into creative lesson plans, trying out new ideas to teach the same content. (Tan Bee, Burma)
3. What you have learned from the other members of the group.
… I get great support from my colleagues who are professionals in the field of ESL teaching and CW and their love for teaching and writing is inspiring. (Phuong, Vietnam)
I have learned about their culture, writing variation and use of languages. And the most important thing I have learned from them is cooperation/networking. (Motikala, Nepal)
… that in writing we display what we are or can be. Our strengths and weaknesses, hobbies and interests, passion and puzzles all come into our work. It’s almost like answering this question: If you were them, how would you behave & live your life? (Dat, Vietnam)
They testify that our feelings and thoughts are both unique and universal, and it is the ways that they are condensed and distilled that make writing, and also life interesting and engaging. (Philip, Hong Kong)
The members of the group can give me inspiration and motivation to make me continue writing, and I can get acquainted with the fellow writers who understand and share similar passions. It is comforting that I am not alone. (Lin Xiao, China)
My weaknesses both as a writer and as a human being - not because other members of the group pointed out my weaknesses to me but because the good things that I observed in them, and the good things I found in them.
So far in the journey of life
I’ve been committing error
The dirt was on my face but
I went on dusting the mirror.
that working in pairs and groups requires an open-minded attitude to succeed.
…they try their best to make comments to improve our work as if those writings were their own.
Lastly, working in pairs or groups helps us improve work because when we write we ourselves surely understand what we mean, but it is only one side. Having other members to help and make some comments exposes to what we have not noticed. (Kanokon, Thailand)
They are the real motivators, I have learnt a lot from the group… (Sarita, Nepal)
Patience and kindness. Sometimes writing is so personal that you don’t want to share it with others for fear of criticism .Sometimes we are on guard and defensive about our own writing.. But in the groups I’ve been no attacks were made and I have learned to let down my guard and be more open ,to accept what others say and weigh their comments honestly.
In meeting member writers from different countries, I also began to see how personal writing style is influenced by cultural backgrounds. I think the common love for writing has created a special and almost exclusive bond between members in the group. (Mallika, Malaysia)
I learned about friendship amongst everybody from different countries and it really has widened my horizon. Risti, Indonesia.
Writing techniques and life experiences are both crucial to writing. (Meng Tian, China)
I learned to be cooperative and open-mindedness to share ideas and views. (Prem, Nepal)
a very good channel to enter into different people’s world of thoughts, values and conceptions. (Lihua, China)
They bring a lot of their culture and their "selves" into their writing. Some can write effortlessly, some like me, can't. (Dzeelfa, Malaysia)
I like to share with them my writing experience and get to know their life stories as well. They can point out my strength and weakness in creative writing pieces and I can rewrite those in a different perspective. (Li Wei, China)
The group members have never stopped surprising me with their power of creativity! (and to be honest, I sometimes feel jealous of their talents!)…They have shown willingness to write and above all, willingness to apply self-discipline in writing. An, Vietnam.
… that every member has something interesting and creative to contribute. (Tan Bee, Burma)
4. What has been most important to you as a teacher.
To find there is always something that I can learn from and share with my students (and other group members or workshop participants) (Philip, Hong Kong)
That I can write - because I teach the teaching of writing. All writing teachers must be writers! (Jaya, Malaysia.)
Creative writing has given me insight to create variation in my teaching.. (Sarita, Nepal)
That I can teach my students to see things in a different way. That stories can be created from the simplest and most mundane things. In fact nothing is mundane if they look at it with the right eyes. I have learned that peer editing is good and I can use that in my language writing class. (Mallika, Malaysia)
Passion for English writing and reading has been very important to me. Without it, I will not work so hard to improve myself. (Meng Tian, China)
Students and teachers learn from each other… (Lihua, China)
Passing on what I have learnt to my students…Marveling at the writing produced by students whom I felt were unlikely to write. (Dzeelfa, Malaysia)
Since I know more about the nature of writing through the workshop, I am more
confident and am in a better position to share my writing experience and tell them how
appreciate a story or poem. (Fei , China)
All participants are equal in terms of acting as critical readers. Open
discussion and sincere suggestion as well as heart-to-heart talks around the
writing and life are most valuable. (Li Wei, China)
Respecting my students’ opinions, sharing what I know with them and encouraging them to share with each other. (An, Vietnam)
I think becoming a more understanding teacher, seeing students’ work and my own work in a different way. These days in my classes, I pay more attention to students (who would normally be regarded as ‘bad’ students, who sit at the back of the class, don’t participate much, look bored etc). (Tan Bee, Burma)
5. What has been most important to you as a person.
To live a meaningful and happy life. (Phuong, Vietnam)
Meeting people and sharing experiences. (Motikala, Nepal)
What has been most important to me as a person is that your thought may be sleeping most of the time and you need some interaction to push the right button in your brain so that those ideas will jump out at you. (Dat, Vietnam)
The drive to experience or re-experience old or new experience, and the ability to express it and share it with others. (Philip, Hong Kong)
The acknowledgment or advice from the fellow writers has inspired me a lot. I’m learning to take the compliments, and also learning to accept criticism. (Lin Xiao, China)
To learn from my friends and foes
To learn from my mistakes and follies
Life is the plot by the Master writer
The source of all poems plays and stories. (Vishnu, Nepal)
…knowing and developing myself, helping others and sharing good things to others are also very important to me. (Kanokon, Thailand)
The most important thing is a reinforcement of my personal conviction that creative writing is what I want to do most and that even if everything else I do eventually ends.
I have learned that words are maybe the most important things we humans have. (Mallika, Malaysia)
It has been a magnificent experience. Meeting people from diverse culture, learning different values. It is a treasure. (Risti, Malaysia)
I feel proud of being in the CW group. At least I am able to produce some pieces of creating writing which are mine. (Prem, Nepal)
The challenge of producing some work even when I didn't feel like it. If I push myself hard enough, I can come up with something and it’s not always rubbish. (Dzeelfa, Malaysia)
I find writing can be a way of observing life and reliving precious moments. Everything captured into words will be preserved into memory whenever I reread the writing. That is a miracle for me since life can be kept intact into words. I am still not so keen on writing, but now something has changed in my heart. The beginning is always difficult but the process is less intimidating now. (Li Wei, China)
Being accepting, forgiving (my self and others, though sometimes it’s not easy) and optimistic. (An, Vietnam)
Taking risks and being innovative - not repeating others’ footsteps (or even your own footsteps) at times, but making your own footsteps or new footsteps. (Tan Bee, Burma)
Please check the Creative Methodology for the Classroom course at Pilgrims website.
Please check the Literature course at Pilgrims website.