In a series of posts, we’ll be featuring Heather Whiteley, an English teacher and author, as she explores the idea of writing for pleasure. Do your students manage to enjoy writing as a hobby in their own time? And how about you, as a teacher? Do you get the opportunity to practice your own creative writing for enjoyment?
When reading for pleasure is high on the agenda for the teaching of English and literacy, why is writing for pleasure seldom mentioned?
I am an English teacher, but I’m also a reader and a writer. The benefits of reading for pleasure are exalted – it can improve grammar, spelling and the structure of writing. More than this, reading can simply be a pastime with a different pace to the accelerated world of technology. A love of reading is something all teachers would say they want to instill in their learners.
But what about the benefits of writing for pleasure? Writing for enjoyment can be a cathartic, even therapeutic exercise. It can be a creative outlet. It can also be much-needed practice of the skills of writing, whether for fiction or non-fiction. It’s quite common to see teachers get out a reading book when their students do, but how often do teachers get out their own creative writing notebook when asking their students to do the same?
But you can start now. Here are my top practical tips that you can try this week to start creating a culture of writing for pleasure in your classroom.
1. If your budget allows, give your students their own private writing book for enjoyment. Tell them that you won’t look at it, unless they have a piece of writing they are happy to share.
2. Write with students! If you’re setting them a creative writing exercise, why not give it a try? You might be surprised at what you come up with, and for students, seeing an adult join them in the work can highlight that writing is a worthwhile way to spend time.
3. Talk about writing habits and struggles. Got a daily writing habit going? Share this with your students! Sometimes suffering from writers’ block? Let them know that’s normal too. The message to give students is that struggling with writing doesn’t mean they are “bad” writers, and that those struggles can be overcome through building good habits.
4. Give them a space to receive positive feedback on their writing. Pobble is a great way to give students the opportunity to receive comments from readers, but there are other ways to do this, too. Does your school use social media? You can share student writing there, or in a regular newsletter to parents, or in your local paper. The satisfaction of becoming a published writer, and having that goal to aim for, will encourage your students to keep going.
5. Introduce your students to freewriting. This is where you write non-stop for several minutes, without letting your pen leave the paper. Forget about the rules – this is about releasing whatever has been lurking in the back of your mind. You might find ideas that are ready to turn into something awesome and polished. It can feel a bit awkward at first, but if you don’t let up, you’ll find you get into a rhythm a few minutes in.
6. Make some time this week to write for pleasure. Even if it’s just ten minutes. Start on that story that’s been itching away in your mind. Just give it a try. Everyone’s got a story to tell, and as a teacher, it’s important that you stay connected to the experience – and occasional frustrations – of creating.
It’s vital that students see their teachers grappling with the same challenges they face in their work. Moreover, teachers can gain a lot of insight from rolling up their sleeves and joining students on the creative journey.
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