Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Creative Writing in the Classroom

Many people balk at creative writing. They see it as having few practical applications in the real world. Certainly, this stereotype is a by-product of creative writers themselves (and I am one of them), who talk about "art" more than they do "practice" or "practicality."

But creative writing can be used elsewhere. I was fortunate enough to mentor teach in a literature classroom, where creative writing featured prominently. The professor, Dr. Letitia Moffitt, used creative writing assignments to help students understand Shakespeare plays. These students were, for the most part, non-English majors, mostly sophomores, who had little previous experience with the Bard. By creating their own scenarios based off the plays (sometimes rooted in popular culture, such as The Lion King, Jersey Shore, and other programs), students were able to grasp the underlying thematic concepts inherent in the plays.

But creative writing can extend beyond English courses. In a mathematics course I had freshman year, our professor encouraged creative thinking in understanding advanced probability theorems. There was little of what we would traditionally call "writing" going on, but the process was still there; the idea was sound, and it helped us non-math students grasp these principles.

The same idea could easily be applied to other courses. Don't let the writing itself get in the way; often, it's the thought process behind the writing that is most useful. Use creative scenarios to get around difficult concepts. If students can be shown how abstract or difficult subjects relate to some aspect of their own life, they will better understand both the subject and why it's worth learning.

If you have any specific ideas or suggestions, please post them in the "Comments" section.


  1. Wow, that Moffitt sounds absolutely amazing. EIU needs to give her tenure and a huge raise immediately. Sabbatical would be nice, too. (What, too subtle?)