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Why teach creative writing?

In the EAP setting, students are expected to create works which constitute university level, type and genre. Creative writing is but one aspect of this coursework, but in these lesson plans and rationale I hope to relate the importance and need for creative writing in the language learning classroom. In 2008, The New Yorker published an essay titled Show or Tell: Should Creative Writing Be Taught. Universities such as Columbia and Iowa, who house major workshop programs, argue that creative writing courses can help students overcome writers block, hone skills of observation, description, and analysis, and cultivate a critical awareness of literary technique and craftsmanship (Menand 2009). But can creative writing be taught? How does an instructor compartmentalize and build objectives and lessons around such an imagery, free, and open subject? The answer: teaching writing as a process, not product. Processes of writing include pre-writing, brainstorming, freewriting, drafting, revising, and peer-editing. These lesson plans incorporate each of these processes, and also use a recycling method in order to present each process with a variety of creative writing genres, including personal narrative, descriptive writing, and fables. For instance, the Round Robin activity primed students by using an open, freewriting process, but was also used to focus on form and story structure in the next class. This activity moved from a more student-centered, meaning-focused process, to a teacher-centered, formfocused process in order to draw attention to plot structure and narrative form. This order was chosen so that when students were brought to focus on form they would be focusing on authentic, student-generated materials. The opposite direction, however, can also help when teaching new genres and assessing writing skills. For example, a fable is first

introduced as a highly structured dictogloss activity. This activity serves more to assess listening, spelling, and memorization, however students are also placed in groups to check comprehension and complete the story structure. The activity opens up to a brainstorming activity about the concept of morals and then opens up further with the For the Birds storytelling for homework. Why teach writing as a process? Brown (2007) offers nine specific principles for teaching writing skills. Several of these principles were incorporated in these lessons, including: Balance process and product; Connect reading and writing; Provide as much authentic writing as possible; Frame your techniques in terms of prewriting, drafting, and revising stages; Strive to offer techniques that are as interactive as possible, Sensitively apply methods of responding to and correcting your students writing; and Clearly instruct students on the rhetorical, formal conventions of writing. The first four principles listed are accomplished through breaking down activities into separate processes of writing, using student-generated or authentic material, and incorporating peer-editing stages. In these lessons, peer-editing is highly structured in order to compensate for a students individual creative writing style, sensitive material they may be producing, and cultural difference on writing structures. As such, students were given explicit instructions on content editing (such as comprehension and main theme) and highlighting mechanisms to draw attention to the writing structure in question (i.e. underlining descriptive words, filling out Plot diagrams). The key to this stage was providing authentic input and interaction, not necessarily providing corrective or negative feedback to grammatical forms.

Where can creative writing be assessed? One method of controlled, intensive, and responsive writing assessment is using a dictogloss, also sometimes referred to as a dictocomp (Brown 2010). It is slightly different from a dictation because students must internalize much of the content of the passage and then recreate the story from what is remembered (Brown 2010). Writing can also be assessed in ordering tasks. In these lessons, ordering is tested at the paragraph level, not the sentence level, because narrative plot structure is what is being assessed, not sentence structure. These lessons also employ a guided question and answer method of analysis. After the fable dictogloss and discussion of moral students must fill out the Guided Writing Stimuli (Brown 2007). It is more detailed and complex than the Plot Mountain diagram, so it is a means to see what students have retained when asked to perform a similar task in a different writing environment. Much of these lessons were born out of my experience at the University of Iowa in the creative writing program and working with undergraduates in the Writing Center, but they are by no means tried-and-true methods of ESL writing instruction. It is my hope, however, that I can take these principles and apply them to other genres of writing, especially the use of student-generated materials when focusing on form.

Works Cited Brown, H. Douglas. (2007) . Teaching by principles: an interactive approach to language pedagogy. White Plains, New York: Pearson Education. Brown, H. Douglas, & Abeywickrama, Priyanvada. (2010) . Language assessment: principles and classroom practices. White Plains, New York: Pearson Education. Menand, Louis. (2009, June 8). Show and tell: Should creative writing be taught. The New Yorker. Retrieved April 25, 2012, from http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2009/06/08/090608crat_atlarge_m enand?currentPage=all