Wednesday, February 27, 2019
WRITER 2 WRITER: TEACHING CREATIVITY AND STRUCTURE IN WRITING
When it comes to writing well, two things are essential: creativity and structure. These work side by side to construct any piece of good writing, be it a poem, a story, an essay, or an instruction manual.
Let’s begin with structure. Structure isn’t so much the shape or the organization of the writing as it is the rules that govern how we write. It includes spelling, grammar, punctuation, syntax, as well as things like thesis statements, plot progression, argumentation methods, poetic patterns, and so forth. Structure is HOW words are put together and HOW they function within a sentence, a paragraph, stanza, or so on. Without structure, things simply don’t make a lot of sense. Also, the rules that form the structure of writing apply the same to everyone.
Creativity, on the other hand, is the freedom to sculpt language the way an artist sculpts a work of art. Every individual creates his/her own style of expression and language patterns. Each person is capable of tapping into his/her imagination to craft a unique written work. The possibilities are truly endless. New songs, poems, stories, news articles, and books are brought into existence by the thousands every single day. In fact, it is practically impossible for two people to write the same story or poem — unless they intentionally copy each other.
In order to write well, which means to express one’s ideas in a way that they can effectively communicate those ideas to others, kids need both the rules that govern good writing and the freedom to explore their own imaginations. To focus solely on spelling and grammar and such is boring and can discourage the budding writer who may struggle to learn those concepts.
Likewise, to allow unfettered freedom without also teaching structure gives kids a false sense of confidence and dooms them to mediocrity in a world where employers and college professors expect quality writing skills.
How do parents and teachers balance creativity and structure?
One way is to encourage students to choose their own topics to write about while still requiring specific guidelines. For example, if the assignment requires a five paragraph essay, teach the structure and rules necessary for essay writing but let the student choose which topic to research, whether it is baseball, or lizards, or unicorns, or Abraham Lincoln. If the teacher is teaching a specific curriculum, such as biology, provide a suggested list of topics from which the students can choose. The key is to give the student a choice and to encourage individuality and creativity in how they present the information.
Another way is to teach creative writing, such as short stories or poetry, before tackling more academic forms of writing. The goal is for kids to have fun and to develop confidence in their writing. Once that happens, then they are far more likely to succeed with essays and research papers.