Sunday, December 25, 2011

Creative Writing Club: How to Inspire Teenagers

A couple of months ago I started a creative writing club at the high school where I work. I wanted to gain some experience "teaching" writing to young adults, and to provide a space where they could explore writing on topics of importance and relevance to their lives. Even though the English teacher was able to offer extra credit, I mentally prepared myself in case no one came during their lunch break. I was surprised and elated when that first Tuesday seven eager students showed up! Since then, we've had a steady stream each week--including several poets, fiction writers, an essayist and a songwriter.

Once, only one student came--late. I almost cancelled, but in just that short time he shared with me some experiences and insights from his life (such as incarceration and counseling groups/wilderness excursions) that he wants to develop into an article. The fact that he trusted me with his ideas, and then tore the previous weeks' writings from his notebook and handed them to me to read, filled me with glee for the rest of the day.

Each week, I share a sample of a different writing style or format. Then they write for 10-15 minutes on a topic or theme. Sometimes they'll share it aloud that week or the next. I always encourage them to choose a medium they want to work in: narrative, essay, poetry, spoken word, song or even just a list of ideas. My intention is to demonstrate a range of writers and styles--from haiku to comic books.

The first week, I introduced them to one of my favorite writers, Sandra Cisneros, with two excerpts. I also passed out a short comic book-style story from an anthology called Dear Bully. I read from the same book a short essay called "Isolation." They used that as their prompt and were writing past the bell. The next week I shared the following poem video "How to Be Alone" by Tanya Davis. Since so many writers break isolation/aloneness through the act of writing/confiding to the page, I wanted to expand their concepts of what is possible--both in creative form and content.

I've also passed out short essays on the theme "Why I Write," which generated interesting discussions on the drive and purpose of sharing ideas through the written or spoken word.

In the words of one student: "The writing will set you free."

1 comment:

Marlene said...

I love this video!

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