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I have been thinking about creative writing and how to inspire students, rather than hearing groans when you tell them to pick up their pens.

We need students to see that writing isn’t a chore or a punishment, but can be a vital language exercise and help them with grammar, syntax and can help them widen their vocabulary.

Of course, as in most situations, the attitude of the student depends on how the teacher presents the subject. Simply telling the students to write about their holiday isn’t going to fill them with inspiration. So we need to give them some more interesting ways to explore this side of their language learning.

1. Music

Play the students a piece of classical music (I quite like the idea of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” or Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” as these seem to tell a story). Allow the students to write short notes on how they feel and potential stories etc… They could then write the story of the piece. Later, put the students into groups of 4 and get them to perform the story of the piece as a short play. This could turn into a project, complete with costumes, props and could even be filmed (and edited with the music as the soundtrack if you are technically minded!)!

If classical music isn’t your cup of tea, play the students the song which is the soundtrack to a film. The students should then write a synopsis of the film they imagine from the music and this could also be performed. Try to choose a song which isn’t too current or popular, as you don’t want them all writing the synopsis of the real film! That’s not being creative… that’s plagiarism!

You could them play them some of the film is came from to see how similar or different their interpretations are.

(Maybe use the music from some British films which may not have been very successful over seas… Hollywood blockbusters are likely to be recognised – how about The Full Monty, Billy Elliot, Trainspotting etc)

Pictures

A big poster of a film, with the title removed could allow the students to write about what they imagine the story to be. Or a more classical painting could give rise to romantic stories or days out

Poems

Give the students a poem. Find one that isn’t too cryptic, or one that has complicated word order or grammar so as not to confuse!  Pre-teach any vocab then have the students read it to themselves. Then read the poem aloud, paying attention to punctuation as this will help with understanding. Then put the students into small groups and let them discuss what they think the poem is about. Then have a group discussion to share ideas. The students should then mimic the poem, to apply it to themselves or to their interpretation.

I first came across this idea on another EFL teacher’s blog that I follow, and she has posted her take on this idea and a poem to get you started: http://evasimkesyan.edublogs.org/about/

Other ways to write poems would be to do a Haiku (3 line Japanese poem of 5 syllables, 7 syllables, then 5 again) – this will be challenging as the students need to choose the right words to get the correct number of syllables. A Tanka is the same idea as a Haiku but has more syllables (5-7-5-7-7).

Acrostic poems can provide a starting point for the students (where the first line of each word spells a new word). Students could choose  their own word, our you could give them all the way word and compare the differences.

Themes

One problem students have when doing creative writing is not knowing where to start. You could remedy this by giving them themes or titles for their story. Try to make them interesting (ie. NOT “my holiday” or “my town/school/country/family”).

These are just some basic ideas, please leave comments below to share how you have inspired your students when it comes to creative writing, and let me know if you used any of these ideas and if how it went! Good luck and have fun!

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