Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.”
Colleges can exempt students from resits if they hold GCSE English Literature and or Language, though they can only teach English Language. A lot of students seem to do better at GCSE Literature than English Language when they take their exams at 16. I have often wondered why this is the case. Perhaps it is because Literature can be ‘learnt’, certain facts and quotes crammed, themes explored. I am sure you will have your own thoughts. The writing sections in the English Language papers on the other hand requires students to think on the spot. Paper 1 of the reformed English Language is entitled in various ways by different awarding organisations; ‘explorations in creative reading and writing’, ‘writing imaginatively and creatively’ or ’imaginative writing’. Whatever the title, it is writing from scratch; 45 minutes to produce a fairly polished piece of work (16 marks for technical accuracy, 24 for content) from a picture or title prompt under exam conditions. It is not the most conducive environment for creativity, is it? Even as an adult who loves writing it sounds scary because I am not the most creative person. Write a blog – great! Lots of facts and opinion. Write a story and I am shaking in my shoes, struggling to get started. So how to teach creative writing?
Students can be taught to build a story, beginning, middle and end, include higher level vocabulary (never ‘nice’ always ‘delicious’, ‘eye-catching’, ‘charming’) have characters ready prepared which can be slotted into any situation or story. But how to practice getting started, the muse which breaks the writer’s block, and, most importantly in the FE resit environment, engages students in extended writing.
I am sure you have many ideas. I have used picture prompts; a deserted beach, misty lake, crowded market place, a run- down playground, or found interesting newspaper headlines and story titles, stills from films or the beginning of a tv crime programme. But I have also used music for a change of pace and stimulus and hopefully, as Plato suggests, give flight to students’ imagination; classical, pop, country and anything in between. Asked students to suggest a song. And then lots of W/H questions; How does it make you feel? What can you see? Where are you? Who is with you? Why are you there? This can be used as a regular ten-minute starter to build up scenarios and vocabulary (each student suggests a song/piece of music on a weekly basis) or as a full-blown creative writing lesson building up to writing a full piece in 30 to 35 minutes, leaving time to read through and check for the all important technical accuracy; spelling, punctuation and grammar and polish up the vocabulary.
About the Author
Catherine is currently a policy manager based in AoC national offices in London. In her current role Catherine works on policy related to the Skills Plan, careers and English and maths. Prior to joining AoC Catherine worked in the college sector for 14 years both as a teacher and manager. At Chichester College Catherine worked in the international department as an English teacher and Advanced practitioner before taking on the role of curriculum manager. At Northbrook College Catherine led on 14-19 Strategy, work with local schools including alternative provision and managed the foundation learning department before taking on management of cross college English and maths.