- Writing Opens Many Doors
The following is a report on my experiences teaching creative writing to ten- to fifteen-year-old students both in their first language, Slovenian, and the first foreign language they study, English. Writing, as one of the four language skills, is an important part of the language learning process for children. Above all, creative writing is rewarding for children. It enables them to learn and create and, as a result, to feel positive about themselves. It confirms and develops their skills and competences. As there are no wrong answers in the process, every draft of a text has some good elements that can be further developed. Teaching through creative writing provides teachers a lot of freedom and room for creativity: teachers can include a variety of theme-related material, develop students’ language skills, and share their own or their pupils’ experience and attitudes, all with the goal of supporting their pupils during the process of producing a literary text. The writing process is liberating for both teachers and students: it provides an opportunity to discuss the themes children are interested in, allows for more personal communication, and opens up a door to self-expression.
As opposed to creative writing competitions in Slovenian, which are very frequent, searching for the “right” competitions in a foreign language is mainly a teacher’s independent choice and not suggested by the school administration. Surfing the Internet proves to be the most useful way to find competitions. In addition, links to competitions may be found through personal contacts and any events where teachers meet and share information. The “right” competition has to meet certain criteria: a reasonable timeframe, no entrance fee, an attractive theme and genre, and targeting of the appropriate age group. Pupils can be informed about competitions on school notice boards and via email. First, pupils have to feel “inspired” by the theme; they have to sense that the theme is relevant to their lives. Second, they have to feel they have something to say about the theme. Their first questions are usually “Can I also write about (insert their favorite topic here)?” or “Does it (for example, a poem) have to be long?” (Meaning, I already have a glimmer of an idea but I am not sure if it is strong enough.)
Students certainly feel more confident when reassured that fewer than a dozen lines for a poem will suffice, that there is no maximum set length, and that it does not have to rhyme. One of the basic pieces of information they have to realize at the start is that a “theme” is not the title of a creative text. Teachers should recommend that students invent a title that is as original and as personal as possible.
It usually takes some time from the teacher’s first notice of a competition until student submissions start to arrive. Pupils need to fit their creative writing into their schoolwork schedule, and a creative spark needs some time to appear and fully ignite. Teachers should encourage students to think about the theme as often as possible to support the creative process. Student writers often feel encouraged if texts written by their classmates or schoolmates are read aloud in front of the class by the student writer or the teacher. They, usually, feel good if they receive responses from their teacher and peers.
Pupils can choose to take part in competitions at various levels—local, national, and international. Language teachers work as a team, and all their pupils aged ten to fifteen are invited to enter. Our pupils [End Page 56] have been exposed to two literary modes so far: poetry and prose. Translating from English to Slovenian has also provided another opportunity for them to show their creativity. In my experience, pupils are, as a rule, more attracted to poetry than prose as it is easier “to play” with a few words and yet create a unique work of art. Prose, however, is more demanding since it requires more complex language skills, especially in second-language writing.
Younger pupils tend to use stanzas and rhymes more frequently than older pupils, who more easily express themselves...