Bringing in Creative Writing into a Reading Classroom

This is re-posted from the Literacy in Learning Exchange – Write for Texas — South Texas and the Valley group

March 3, 2015 – 4:51pm | thotchkiss

When I started this exploration of writing five years ago I was at a loss. Writing to me was a full process of first draft, revising and editing, and final draft. In my 7th grade reading class that lasted 45 minutes with not enough resources to send books home, there was not a lot of time for the full writing process. However, since my district has Language Arts split into English and reading classes, I was torn. I knew we needed to write to allow the students to see the connection between the two, but I was already fighting a battle trying to meet all the requirements I needed to.

Each year I tell my students who say “I don’t EVER read” that they do all the time! They read emails, articles, billboards, sports stats, text messages, Facebook posts, Instragram comments, and so many other things. I then realized, that we can write all the time like this too. Writing does not have to be so formal and can often times be a lot of fun. We write for several reasons in my room. We write to express our opinions of books, a response to a question, to answer a prompt that will help us remember background knowledge before reading a text, and we write creative writing.

These past few weeks we have been doing a ton of creative writing to show that we have mastered reading concepts and I am really excited to share them.

Drama:

We started our drama unit back in January and have been reviewing it these past few weeks. In past years we read scripts and then we wrote our own. I quickly became sick of the same scripts that did nothing, but have students stay in one place. My kiddos always seem to have a hard time moving a script along without having the narration that a novel gives.

This year we read a monologue and a dialogue. We looked at how different the scripts were, what was missing, what was needed, etc. Then we had the students turn the monologue into a dialogue. This involved them adding in another character that had only previously been mentioned. They also had the choice of turning the monologue into a dialogue. This forced them to choose the more important story and truly express that characters feelings. The results were pretty good, but it is something I’m hoping to really fine tune for next year.

TEKS 7.5A says that students need to understand the purpose of playwright’s stage directions. Every year I have students who don’t see the importance of the italics in parantheses and just read over them. Then they are confused when they cannot figure out what is happening. This year my planning partner and I came up with a great idea for them to see this. In our textbooks there is a script of Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First.” There are absolutely no stage directions. I took a brave soul from each class, and we read it with no stage directions. Completely monotone. No voice inflection. No movement. The students were SO bored about two pages in of this eight page script. Eventually, we stopped and talked about why they are bored. Then, we watched the actual performance. The students got to see how important stage presence is and how our original script was in desperate need of direction. We add a few, and then I let them CREATE! The students got to create their own form of confusion similar to “Who’s on First.” Most of them choose idioms which caused for some great fun. It was amazing how much their writing changed. All of a sudden they were adding stage directions of movement, voice tones, and placements on the stage. Their scripts were hilarious and it made them so fun to read and grade. They succeeded in learning the TEKS and were able to demonstrate it easily! Most of all, they had fun!

Poetry:

Students can easily write poetry, not always the greatest, but they can whip one out pretty fast. One thing they have struggled with is adding in imagery and knowing why it helped the poem. We spent the past week reading “The Highwayman.” We drew out Part One to help us summarize it. In Part Two we posed as the different characters as each stanza and wrote about how we thought they felt in that pose. Then we wrote!

TEKS 7.6C says that students need to know how point of view effects a text and 7.8A wants them to look at the author’s choice in imagery. This time around students used our original text as a mentor and chose one of the characters (The Highwayman, Bess, The Redcoats, or Tim, the stable worker) and rewrote part of the poem from their point of view. They had to choose first person or third person limited and add repetition, similie/metaphor, and onomatopoeia (as these were elements we concentrated on in our analysis). It was amazing what the students came up with. They had been so angry by the end of the poem that they really wanted to dig into Bess’s decision. It has been so fun to read each poem and see where their creative minds took the story. They showed me they understood how 1st person can dive into their feelings and/or how a narrator can see their actions in third person limited. They also answered a question about why they chose to add in their certain pieces of imagery. Let me tell ya, they got it! They were so excited to tell me how that “Bang!” was what awoke the Highwayman from his trance of happiness from his latest heist. It was amazing!

Creative writing to express their knowledge from their reading has been not only extremely successful for them, but has been so much fun to read and grade!

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