Review with Creative Writing
Connect a wide range of literature concepts where writers demonstrate mastery through creative writing.
By Elijah Ammen
Creative writing seems to be one of those things that always gets pushed into its own unit because there are a few students who love it as much as the teacher does, and the rest of the class has collective writer’s block—a phrase they picked up from too many bad Hallmark movies about tortured novelists who meet their soul mate on the subway and find inspiration to finish their novel in a musical montage.
But creative writing can be so much more than a few figurative language standards or something we use to fill the few weeks between testing and summer break. Creative writing can be used to review numerous literature and language standards in a way that has writers generate the examples rather than merely identify them. This moves review from being passive to active (and is much higher on Bloom’s Taxonomy). Try some of the following and adapt it to make it your own:
Have Visual Prompts as Inspiration
Even if you are not one of the large block of visual learners, the imagination is still stimulated by seeing images that suggest strange, unusual, or fantastic situations. You could have everyone work from a single visual prompt, but I’ve found that this often leads to conflict due to having a wide range of interests in my class. Instead, try a gallery walk with printed pictures that vary in style and genre—whether sci-fi universes, adorable puppies playing together, or even journalistic man-on-the-street photography. This allows writers to match their prompt with their style, and survey a range of prompts until they find one that starts their mental process.
Use the Stages of Writing a Paper: Brainstorm, Outline, Draft, and Revise
We often misplace the “creative” in creative writing. There is a system, and it’s this system that allows for an analysis of literary concepts. Giving young writers a prompt and a blank sheet of paper will lead to either panic or a jumbled, self-indulgent ramble. Start with a brainstorming activity where you model thinking through a prompt and coming up with potential ideas. Then give your class the time and space to work through ideas. Be very clear about the stages, especially the revision stage. Just because something is creative does not mean it cannot be improved with self and peer-editing. Sometimes even just reading the story out loud can highlight weak points.
Have Your Standards Embedded into Outlining
Once your class has chosen their prompts and brainstormed, they can go into outlining their story. This is the key. This is where you get to review standards and concepts that you have been teaching all year.
- Create a Guided Outline: This will differ depending on what you’ve covered and what you want to review. Have each writer fill out the guided outline based on his or her personal story.
- Move Through All Five Elements of Plot: This is the frame of your outline. A good story needs to have exposition that describes the characters and setting, rising action with conflict, a climax with the greatest point of conflict, falling action as a result of the climax, and resolution to resolve the story. Have your class graph out the major events on a basic plot chart and then fill in specific details after they have an overarching idea of the story.
- Embed Smaller Concepts: On your outline, have the writers describe the protagonist in a simile, or the antagonist in a metaphor. Use hyperbole to talk about the setting around them. What tone would the protagonist and antagonist have toward each other if they were in a conversation? What are some actions that could indirectly characterize the protagonist? All these and many more help review concepts, but allow the student to generate the example rather than just identifying it or guessing one of four letters on a quiz.
Share Briefly but Frequently
Find a variety of ways for the creative writers to briefly share what they are working on. This is a quick check for understanding and helps keep writers on pace. At the beginning, you can have everyone explain why they chose their particular prompt, or what they think is going on in the picture. Every so often during the outlining stage, have shoulder partners so you can simply call out something like, “Ok, take thirty seconds to describe your protagonist to your shoulder partner,” or “Explain the main conflict between your protagonist and antagonist to your shoulder partner in one sentence.” This helps keep everyone on task, as well as allowing your class to verbally process—again, hitting multiple intelligences in one lesson.
Be sure and share the results. Put them all in a book and self-publish it on a site like Lulu and have your librarian add it to the school library. Have a time where stories are passed in a circle and are shared and enjoyed by everyone. Having a goal for creative writing removes the pressure of having stellar creativity and gives a framework that all young writers can follow.
Lesson Planet Resources:
Stuck in the same rut of writing prompts? Try mixing things up with a few different styles of writing prompts.
Use this lesson to practice critiquing creative writing. Your class can evaluate a unfinished sample story and then revise and finish the story after their critiques.
Take a step back and think about the big picture with creative writing and how to motivate and inspire your young writers.
Looking for a simple and memorable way to generate creative writing ideas? Use a simple five-step process to think through the major elements of a story.