Sorry for those of you expecting a personal blog containing some juicy gossip but this just isn’t it. Unless you’re a teacher or writer it probably won’t interest you… Soz.
The use of Creative Writing in ESOL!
There are many genres of creative writing – such as prose, poetry and drama. Creativity helps students to deploy their skills within human roles that various societies have created. For example, if students focus on dialogue when writing fiction, they have the opportunity to utilise the dialect they have experienced in society. This allows students to demonstrate how the English language is used colloquially. It also helps students to understand dialect when out of the classroom.
Teaching creative writing can develop language, storytelling and the use of anecdotes, all of which are beneficial to ESOL students struggling to use the English language intelligibly. Although literature is used in some ESOL courses, it is largely neglected in most. Using literature as part of teaching can achieve many goals for a wide range of ESOL students, including reading and writing skills.
Although it might be interpreted that creative writing is just writing, writing cannot be achieved without reading. Research suggests that the most successful readers are ‘bottom up’ (they can read a text and translate it to the information it presents) and ‘top down processers’ (‘they can relate information to their own knowledge and interpret it’). Therefore, when teaching creative writing to ESOL learners, it is important to choose texts that meet the levels of their needs. Personally, I would suggest that texts a little above the level of the students would also benefit them and introduce them to new vocabulary and content to which they can adapt to their own writing. This would stretch and challenge the abilities of the learners.
Most would argue that creativity cannot be taught, & I might be inclined to agree, however, a good creative writing teacher does not attempt to teach creativity, they seek to expose it. They should then teach the techniques involved by embedding these into reading and writing activities. Too many subjects and activities are ‘uncreative’. Teachers, fundamentally, should understand multiple-intelligence in order to identify the importance of effectively embedding creativity into their lessons. An example of this could be asking the students to write a short story using past simple sentences.
Reading and writing tasks provide opportunity for students to explore the creativity embedded within them.
As a trainee teacher, I found anecdotal stories helped me to understand the subject being taught by listening to examples in context. This is something that lends itself beneficial to creative writing in an ESOL classroom. It is an opportunity for students to use their own experiences and share them as stories. This, after all, is how most authors discover character and plot in their own writing. They draw from personal experiences and start to build a narrative.
It might be proposed that literature also provides ESOL students with independence to their own learning. They are able to create their own schematic structure (allowing them to build up their knowledge) and learn at their own pace. This also builds confidence with learners. Reading and writing can be a daunting prospect; however, if the teacher shares their stories – as discussed above, it becomes an easier and more enjoyable process for students. This also provides opportunity for students to discuss the books they read as a child. It is important to note here, that it should not be assumed that ESOL learners all come from the same country. There are many students from Albania, Iran, Russia, Syria, and more, all of whom have different experiences of growing up. This is a fantastic opportunity for students to learn about each other’s countries and traditions, to explore traditional stories and get to know each other whilst participating in intercultural activities.
As creative writing carries the importance of progression in reading and writing, the enjoyment of the lessons is vital. Exploring creativity and feeling comfortable to share one’s thoughts and ideas can be quite liberating, but equally intimidating. It is important for a teacher to create a relaxed atmosphere and promote the importance and relevance of creativity. Creative minds are often disregarded but should be paid equal attention to linguistic and logical intelligence. Once students recognise creativity as a quality within themselves, as a person and learner, they start to feel pride in their work and more confident to read and share their work with others.
Creative writing in ESOL enhances intercultural understanding. Whilst creative writing is beneficial to a student’s writing and reading skills, it is most beneficial to their self-esteem and pride of where they have come from. It provides cultural enrichment, allowing students to know that where they come from and their experiences matter. However, it must also be taken into consideration that some learners will not want to discuss their experiences in their own countries as this can be quite traumatic. However, as an advocate for creative writing, it could be suggested that writing is an outlet. If we strip away grammar and the many techniques that come with writing, it can be used as a platform to express one’s feelings. Therefore, allowing students to write about their experiences without necessarily having it to discuss them with others. It is a potent agent for change, growth and healing.
Basically, be creative. Allow your students to be creative.