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4 Tips to Incorporate Creative Writing in Any Subject

Tuesday, March 8, 2016 -- Scott Sterling

A common misconception is that writing creatively should only happen in English/language arts classes and that it has no place in the other disciplines. Another misconception is that creative writing means fiction or poetry.

In fact, creative writing can be a game-changing asset in almost any class. Here are four ideas to work creative writing into your next lesson plan, no matter what the subject is:

Creative nonfiction

If you scan the bestseller lists on the nonfiction side, you are likely to run into what is considered “creative nonfiction”—a branch of writing that uses literary techniques to report on actual persons, places, or events. Take, for example, two of the most recent Oscar nominees. Spotlight, the best-picture winner, portrays a real newspaper journalistic investigation, and The Big Short tells the story of the recent housing bubble collapse.

This strategy can be used to incorporate creative writing into any class. For example, in history, you might be studying the American Civil War. Ask your students to make a story out of two opposing leaders reacting to one another. Adding dialogue and characterization can help students remember how the people, places, and events fit together.

Cross-curricular opportunity

In middle school, my teachers got together and built an entire unit around science fiction. We had to write a short story in English class, of course, but we also had to do our research for the story in other classes. In math, we studied trajectories and parabolas (for visiting planets). In science, we researched gravity and the geology we might find in the places our characters would visit. The byproduct was that my classmates and I internalized the information much more efficiently than if we participated in a more traditional unit.

Word problems

Math and science teachers often provide text-heavy word problems and ask students to formulate the right equations to solve the problems. What would happen if you flipped that process?

Instead of providing the words, provide the equation. Then, ask students to write about a scenario in which that equation would be used. This strategy not only can make students think about how a concept applies in the “real world”, but also can serve as a formative assessment that goes more deeply than simply giving them a question.

Journaling

Journaling is a creative enterprise in that the writer has to think about how to express his or her feelings in words. Who says that those feelings can’t be about what happened in biology, history, engineering, or any other class that day? Journals make a great addition to any portfolio that students may be keeping, as well as an excellent activity with which to end class and receive some valuable formative assessment feedback.

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