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For some, the idea of creative writing assignments in ELA is exciting. You might have students in your classroom who are regularly honing their writing skills at home, on their own time. On the other hand, you may have some students who haven’t done much creative writing at all. In fact, they might look at writing as less an opportunity and more as a punishment.
Strong creative writing assignments will provide unique challenges and rewards for all of your students. It will provide the necessary framework to help reluctant creative writers and the necessary guidelines to give focus to your most exuberant. It should also not simply focus on the end product, but on the overall creative process, like planning and outlining at the outset, and editing and revision at the end.
Above all, though, a strong creative writing assignment should be interesting to you and your students. It should serve to incite creative passion in your classroom, and that’s why I’m excited to share my 5 favorite outside-the-box creative writing assignments for ELA to inspire even your most reluctant writers.
Remember mixtapes?! If you don’t, you’re probably far younger than I am. 😉 Well, one of my favorite writing assignments is to get students to make one of their own.
First, you’ll have students choose ten songs that represent them in some way, and then you’ll have them write about their connection to each song. I like to make it really old school and have them separate their choices into Side A and Side B songs as a kind of tracklist. Warning: your students may have no clue what a B-Side song is…
I’ve always found music to be an effective way to get my students engaged in conversations around creative writing, whether they’re writing it or reading it. After all, song lyrics have so much in common with poetry. Alongside writing about each song, the Soundtrack of Your Life assignment prompts students to plan the overall structure of the mixtape as a whole and write about how the collective meaning of the songs connects to their lives.
I also love using a hand-drawn introductory video made by John Spencer to introduce the assignment to students and give them a little background information on what a mixtape is!
Teenagers always feel misunderstood, am I right? They often get a bad rep, and this writing assignment tackles this notion perfectly.
I love getting students to write an open letter discussing the seven greatest misunderstandings that they think people have about their generation. They make a case for why they are different than how they are perceived. I like this one a lot because it provokes students to write convincingly and passionately at the outset. I mean, if someone were to have asked me to explain the ways my generation was misunderstood when I was their age, I could’ve easily written an incredibly long list.
What’s great about this assignment is that students get to learn about a seldomly discussed yet important form of writing: the open letter. Open letters are usually written in protest or as an appeal for a person or a group of people to change their opinion on a particular topic.
You might consider providing prompts to the students to help them formulate their lists. Try asking questions like,
Another creative writing assignment idea is to have students write a personal narrative inspired by the memories of three textures. The feeling of the sand between your fingers at a certain beach you’d visit as a child, squishing Play-Doh between your fingers, or even cookie crumbs on your hands at grandma’s house. You get the idea. Students will focus on their five senses—and their tactile senses in particular.
They might simply choose textures that bring back fond memories, or they might go so far as to choose textures that are collectively symbolic of their ideals and values!
You’ll want to encourage your students to go into as much descriptive detail as possible when describing their three textures.
Can you think of three textures that have been important in your life? It takes some brainstorming, doesn’t it? That’s why I like to provide a planning sheet with questions for each texture. This makes a great starting point for your students.
We know our students learn a lot of important lessons outside of school. They learn important lessons from the sports they play, from the friends they make, from all the things they do. They are always learning. Everywhere they go.
The same was true of us, of course: much of what we learned came from inside the classroom, but some of it—a lot of it—came from outside. Another creative writing idea is to have students design their own school.
I first have students brainstorm what school would be like and what a typical day would look like, hour-by-hour, at their new school. You might consider having them get peer feedback by having them share their initial concept with a partner. Then, to take it to the next level, get students to develop a promotional advertisement to recruit other students!
Ok, this last writing assignment is really fun! For this one, students get to write about something that they “geek out” on.
We all seem to have at least one interest in life that brings us joy every time we get to discuss it. Incorporating this joy into a creative writing assignment is a great way to engage every student. It’s also a great way to establish the mentality that creative writing should ultimately be enjoyable. We’ve heard the cliché “write about what you know.” This assignment pushes that idea further to write what you love.
Students will also get to practice writing a listicle. A listicle is a piece of writing or other content presented wholly or partly in the form of a list. It’s a common form used by bloggers and journalists. In other words, it looks something like what you’ve been reading here!
I hope you found these creative writing assignments for ELA helpful! Best of luck teaching creative writing in your class.
Want more ideas for creative writing? One of my favorite ways to get students writing is with snowball writing.
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