Creativity cannot be measured objectively, yet a creatively written essay easily stands out over mundane ones. For years, teachers have been awarding marks for various aspects of essay writing, including creativity. So whether you agree with it or not, the emphasis on creative writing is here to stay. So as children start to write short stories and essays in the English language, they will also need to also start making these stories appealing to the reader because simply stringing together grammatically correct sentences is only going to secure a basic pass grade.
Obviously, preschool children will not be writing essays or short stories, yet laying the foundations for creative writing must actually start in a child’s early years.
In this article we look at what parents and educators of young children can do to teach and encourage their children to write engaging and interesting prose in the English language aka how to teach children to write creatively.
It is a common misconception that creative writing is all about writing an interesting story. Instead, creative writing is better defined as writing any story in an interesting way.
We listed a few examples of non creative and creatively written sentences so we can illustrate the difference.
|Non Creative Version||Creative Version|
|John went to the market.||To the market, John went.|
|The hot weather bothered David.||The humidity and heat of the day gave David discomfort.|
|Most people do not believe in ghosts.||Generally, people disbelief ghosts exist.|
|Children need to know how to speak English well.||Children must attain fluency in spoken English.|
Before we go any further, let’s first define the intangible: What is creating writing?
Here is what we think it is:
Creative writing writing is a lot more than thinking up than an imaginative story. Instead, creative writing is writing in a way that engages the reader – using sentence constructs, vocabulary and punctuation in a way that holds the reader’s attention and manages the pace of the prose.
Let’s break this down into digestible chunks:
- Imaginative story
- Sentences that are neither too long winded nor concise; being suitable for the subject and intended audience
- Punctuation that feels natural to the reader and manages the pace of the story
We will look at each of these aspects of creative writing in the rest of this article.
1. An imaginative story
Does creative writing require an imaginative story fit for Hollywood?
The short answer is no.
While a unique story is great, going too unique also creates its own set of challenges – because in the short word and time limit given to children in schools, they will have to keep each story at least reasonably believable. So while writing about alien abductions and hauntings may possibly work, trying to write a Lord Of The Rings style epic in a school essay will be extremely challenging – because there will simply not be enough time to fill in the reader on the back stories of all the characters, without which the story itself would hardly make any sense at all.
But if children are going to be expected to write unique stories, they will undoubtedly need a vast store of knowledge to draw reference from. The more they know, the easier it is to write from an angle that is unique. For example, if children in Grade school are asked to write a story about space travel, most children would write about travelling from Earth out to space. A well informed child however, will be able to write about travelling from a space station back to Earth. This unique perspective will easily bring with it a few extra points simply for being a significantly different story from everybody else in class.
What can parents do about this?
Educators of preschoolers have to expose their children to a variety of content from as young an age as possible. The more they know, the more they will be able to relate to and the more unique a perspective they can add to any story they write. This exposure to information must start from a young age, instead of parents trying to cram information into their children just before they enter formal school.
Parents can do this by allowing their children to watch documentaries, edutainment shows and educational content on YouTube. This is the easiest way and fastest way to expose children to a vast variety of information. There may be some concern with allowing children to watch too much on screen content, but the learning value of this activity is tremendous so parents will have to strike a comfortable balance.
Some edutainment or educational mobile content we would recommend are (no affiliate to any of these productions):
- Story Bots (on Netflix)
- Beat Bugs (on Netflix)
- National Geographic (an old favourite, this content is easy to find in YouTube)
2. Sentences that are neither too long winded nor concise as suitable for the subject and intended audience
In the beginning, children should be encouraged to write in the best English they can, regardless of whether their Grade school or Primary school teachers are comfortable with this or not.
If your child’s teacher tells you or your child to write in simpler sentences (assuming your child is getting the complex sentences correct) – ask for a more competent teacher. This happens when teachers are not comfortable handling or marking at a higher level of difficulty than they are used to marking. And yes, this actually happens.
Writing in as good English as possible is not to be confused with writing long and complex sentences. At least, it should not be interpreted as only writing in long and complex sentences or using big bombastic words all over the place. Long sentence structures and bombastic words should be used but only when appropriate.
However, in every educational tool for teaching preschool English, the sentences used are often short and simple. The words used are also often simple. Every time a complicated word or sentence is introduced, there is also bound to be some adult that opines – “that is too complicated for this child’s age”.
So what can parents do?
It goes without saying that cramming knowledge into a child at the last minute is a bad idea. So educators and parents have to introduce bombastic words and complex sentence structures to children at as young an age as possible. When exposing their children to such content, it must be kept in context, so that children gain an intuitive understanding of when it is appropriate to use what kind of sentence structures and which bombastic words.
Ignore the naysayers.
There is no such thing as vocabulary or grammar that is “too complicated for a child“. If your child is able to understand it, it is not too complicated for him/her to learn.
Since preschool educational tools and resource do not usually include complex sentences or complex words, parents and educators will have to read books meant for slightly older children to their little ones. We have a basic list of recommended reads at the end of this article.
3. Punctuation that feels natural to the reader and manages the pace of the essay
Beyond the basic placement of full-stops and apostrophe marks, punctuation is difficult to teach to English learners at any level. The grammar rules that dictate where each punctuation mark can appear are also not very well defined and at best they are complicated. In case you did not know, there are 14 different types of common punctuation marks that are used in the English language. This list includes exclamation points, full stops (or periods), question marks, apostrophes, brackets, commas, semicolons, dashes, colons, ellipsis, parentheses, braces and quotation marks. Since very little time is spent even in schools on teaching the effective use of punctuation marks, this remains an under developed area of English development for most children and even adults. Yet, effective use of punctuation can create drama in even the most simple of sentences so it is worthwhile to teach this to young children, so that they can build on their knowledge of punctuation use as they grow older.
For example, look at the two sentences below.
- John knew he was in trouble because he had crashed his father’s beloved car.
- John knew he was in trouble, for he had crashed his father’s beloved car.
Replacing “because” with the comma simplifies the sentence and adds a slight drama to the sentence – making it easier to read and more engaging. Repeat this approach across all the sentences in an essay and the overall drama and level of engagement of the entire piece of writing will increase significantly.
Some books we would recommend for expanding your child’s reading abilities are below (no affiliation to any of these authors or publishers):
- The Hardy Boys books
- Books by Roald Dhal
- Books by Enid Blyton
In conclusion, it must be added that there are several enrichment centres and tutors who promote their ability to teach “creative writing“. While we are not casting doubts on their claims – the fact remains that creative writing is not measurable nor tangible. So if parents choose to enroll their children into such programmes, they really should spend time to carefully monitor if the child is really able to put together more complicated sentence constructs or use a wider range of vocabulary more confidently. Otherwise, they may just be paying for over hyped marketing on simple English tuition!
- This post is brought to you by the KidsEnglishCollege™ Editorial Team
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