Inventing a Creative Writing Club
I inherited the Creative Writing Club halfway through last school year. On day one the students told me this is where they hang out, eat candy, and gossip. I immediately realized I was not the right mentor for the job. Fast forward months of struggling to engage a small handful of students in writing exercises and arrive at the summer leading up to a new year. I had no plans of sticking with the club. But starting the school year out teaching a new subject, under a new administrator I wanted to make a good first impression. Saying no to the club didn't seem like the best way to do that, so I was back to spearheading the Creative Writing Club.
I knew I needed a different format. Something that would help students grow in their writing, be engaging, and simple enough for me to prepare with little to no planning. Teachers do a lot and between piloting a new math curriculum and teaching ELA for the first time I knew I wouldn't have a lot of time to spend prepping writing prompts and exercises. Besides, I didn't become a teacher to watch students sit around and gossip, I became a teacher because, funnily enough, I enjoy teaching. During my ELA class, I asked some students how they felt about sitting through a mini-class on the craft of writing each week and their eyes started glazing over. I knew I needed a hook, something to bring them in, and, for my own sanity, something I could still add some instruction to. That's when and where my idea began: watch an episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender then talk about an element of writing we saw in the episode.
The writing in Avatar: The Last Airbender is superb. It strikes a balance of serious and comedic. It has, arguably, the best character arc on TV (I'm looking at you Zuko). The elements of conflict, character motivation, setting, etc. are all ripe for amazing discussions on the craft of writing. My teaching itch would be taken care of, lesson planning- hit play on the video, engagement factor- yes. I had a plan.
I'm going to be pretty transparent here. That was it- my whole idea. It wasn't until I turned to Canva to make my flyer that I realized my template had space for more...stuff. Three is a nice number, what else could I add to watching a great show and talking about craft? That same day I had a student come up to me and ask if I would take a look at her story. Feedback. Of course, I could offer that. After all, middle school students tend to write short chapters. But I still needed one more thing, something to make it sing. In my high school growing up we had a single edition of a book students could submit art and writing for. I decided to call mine a contest and my third item was born. I'd want it opened to all of the students in the school, so the club would just be responsible for hosting the contest. I had my three items and a club I was getting excited about.