Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Teaching Teachers to Teach Creative Writing

 On Monday (5 July 2010), two days ago, I gave a half day creative writing workshop for International Tuition School in Kuching for about 70 teachers, whereby I combined the best of several of my workshops over the past few years. I applied some of my Tree Methodology (from Tropical Affairs, nominated for the 2010 Popular –The Star Reader’s Choice Award), some of my narrative writing skills, some critical thinking skills that I developed to jumpstart stories, and added some short story writing pitfalls to avoid from my MPH-Short Story Contest talks I conducted as one of the judges for the contest.

It’s always great to get positive feedback on the day itself, during the beaks, afterwards, and also while signing autographs for my books. But in the back of my mind, I’m wondering, how quickly will the staff actually apply this, and what will be their results? Sometimes, I never know. Other times, I’ll hear back from them or I’ll bump into them at a conference a year or two later.

Well just now I heard from Sheila Khoo, one of the teachers who attended, when she requested that I add her as a friend on Facebook, with the following note, “I was one of those teachers who participated in your workshop on 5 July 2010. It was an interesting one I must say!"

Grateful to hear that and curious to hear more, I added her as a friend. Sheila happened to be online at the time (it was during lunch) and she immediately began to chat with me. (I rarely chat, and if I do, I keep it brief!) She wrote, “Hi, thanks for accepting my request. That was a good one last Monday!”

After I thanked her, Sheila replied, “I was thinking hard on how I should apply all that to my students. I guess time is what we need. We seem to have a bit of time constraint with the syllabus we have. But I would just like to share something which I did just yesterday (Tuesday) with my students (primary). I did some creative writing activity. I made them write something about 'a special gift' within 3 minutes and they did it. Some managed to write quite a few sentences...and they enjoyed it! Lol! I read out their work in class without disclosing who the writers were of course and they really had fun!”

We talked about this at the workshop, the importance of sharing anonymously, so the students can learn from each other. I replied, “When you make it fun and interesting for them, they benefit in more ways than one—especially a personal reflection that makes them think—that's great. Sharing is always good, it allows them to hear what others wrote. It doesn't have to take a lot of time. Could be a warm up, or when everyone is bored or feeling restless. A chance for them to change gears, have a little fun, and then get back to the lessons now that they're refreshed!"

Workshop I’m thinking, this is great! One day you attend a workshop on creative writing and the very next day you apply it, and the students actually have fun! Wow!

During my workshops I don’t go into any theory or my research. That’s boring; they get too much theory from everyone else, especially at conferences, and no clue how to actually apply it so it can work for them! For me, I go straight into what we’re going to do and how you can apply it, and then we do it, so they learn the process and internalize it and feel comfortable using it and they actually have fun, too!

WorkshopThe teachers may not be writers, but with a little confidence and some models and ideas that they can use to teach, to brainstorm ideas, they can inspire their students to write! That’s what teaching is all about, a willingness to try something new that might even be fun for them and their students, and at the same time, the students get a chance to write about something that interests them (and have some freedom to explore a topic, not pigeonholing them so they all have to write an answer in only one way.) This can benefit them in many ways, as they reflect upon what they write and what others wrote. The important thing, they’re being taught to be creative, and these creative writing and brain¬storming skills can be applied to all of their writing—and for the rest of their lives!

Let’s teach them early and put more fun back into teaching of writing—for them and for you as teachers…

* here's a link to two workshops in KK, with blog comments from three participants, and.another in KL for Malaysian Nurses Association
**Announcement latest workshop:  Writing Your Life Stories Workshop—Kuching! 28 April 2012 (with links to other workshops and writing tips!) 

***If you are interested to bring one of my writing workshops to your organizations or association in Sabah/Sarawak/West Malaysia/Singapore/Brunei please contact me at robert@borneoexpatwriter.com  Thank you.
****Update, the 20th anniversary of Lovers and Strangers Revisited

Here are links to some of my author-to-author interviews of first novelists:

Ivy Ngeow author of Cry of the Flying Rhino, winner of the 2016 Proverse Prize.

Golda Mowe author of Iban Dream and Iban Journey.

Preeta Samarasan author of Evening is the Whole Day

Chuah Guat Eng,  author of Echoes of Silence and Days of Change. 


Beheaded on Road to Nationhood: Sarawak Reclaimed—Part I 

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