Creative Writing in the Middle School Classroom

Once upon a time . . . and they all lived happily ever after.

Creative writing that uses phrases like these shows up often in elementary writing. Once a student enters middle school, inventive writing often gets pushed aside. According to recent research, however, creative writing still offers benefits for the student beyond sixth grade.

Researcher Marissa Despins states that creative expression allows students to be able to voice emotions and build confidence. Non-academic writing also gives the writers the opportunity for thinking imaginatively, a skill that can be used for problem solving in all sorts of life areas. Even though creative writing has fewer restrictions than academic writing, it can still allow students to build writing skills, such as using new vocabulary, forming varied sentences, and finding their voice. Additionally, the skill of creative writing can also allow older writers to entertain, clarify thinking, and simply learn to read and write (Essex).

Sometimes instructors find teaching creative writing difficult. What topics do you assign? What steps of the writing process do you require? How do you grade creative pieces? Typically, creative writing works best when the writer goes through the basic writing process of planning, drafting, editing, and publishing. But the parameters might be more lenient than those for an academic writing project. For example, planning might consist of drawing a picture of the setting of a story. Or publishing might mean handwriting a poem in script to hang on the wall. Grading is easiest with a set rubric given at the beginning of the assignment. This might include categories such as “time spent on project,” “details given about characters/setting,” and “use of images.” Typically, word count is not an important factor in grading creative assignments.

Topics for creative writing can extend well beyond the typical writing assignment. Students can be allowed to choose their topics, but often they request some suggestions. Here are a few suggested topics for different genres of creative writing.

  • Poetry: Write an abecedarian poem. This is a poem where each line begins with the next sequential letter of the alphabet. The poem does not need to rhyme (although it can), and sentences can continue through several lines. Brian Bilston wrote “An Attempt To Write an Abecedarian Poem In Praise of the Dictionary”; the first lines read,

“An unfaltering ability

Bring clarity to the English language

Constitutes your

Defining quality.”

(You can read the entire poem here.) This type of poem is one that works well to display for other students to read; the poet may also want to illustrate the poem.

  • Devotional: While this might be a more informative writing, devotionals provide a strong creative opportunity. Typical guidelines might include to choose a topic and find a Scripture passage that corresponds. Then write two to three paragraphs that tell a story that illustrates the passage. End with a paragraph that explains the point being made. This writing works well to be published in a booklet including the class’s responses–students can use this booklet for an actual devotional time.
  • Bible story script: The student can choose a narrative Bible passage and write it in the form of dialogue. Include stage directions and small props. Make sure that the character amount and extras do not exceed what the class can produce, and publish by acting the script as a class project. For this one, the teacher might want to approve topic choices before the student proceeds to make sure that they are class appropriate (e.g. avoid violence and romance).
  • Story picks: On small slips of paper, the teacher should write ideas for a main character, the setting, one object, and one conflict. The students should draw one slip from each category and use those picks to create a story. Sample story picks might be
    • Characters: a chef, an artist, a mechanic, a farmer, an archaeologist, a mother, a deep-sea diver, a mountain climber
    • Setting: Antarctica, a desert, an inner city, a field, a bookstore, a warehouse, a train, a rocket
    • Object: paintbrush, road sign, globe, flower pot, pickup truck, icebreaker ship, shovel, vine
    • Conflict: thunderstorm, being chased by a dog, the electricity goes out, lack of water to drink, a broken arm, a displeased customer, a falling brick, a screaming child

Works Cited

Despins, Marissa. “Benefits of Creative Writing in Middle School.” ELA Matters. 30 Nov. 2022. Accessed 20 Dec. 2023.

Essex, Christopher. “Teaching Creative Writing in the Elementary School.” ERIC Digest. ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading, English, and Communication. Accessed 20 Dec. 2023.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

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