Creativity across the Curriculum: Creative Writing beyond English: Karen Lockney Argues That Creative Writing Offers a Valuable Route to Understanding in Subjects across the Curriculum, and a Productive Link with English

By Lockney, Karen | English Drama Media, February 2012 | Go to article overview

Creativity across the Curriculum: Creative Writing beyond English: Karen Lockney Argues That Creative Writing Offers a Valuable Route to Understanding in Subjects across the Curriculum, and a Productive Link with English


Lockney, Karen, English Drama Media


In higher and adult education, the popularity of creative writing courses has risen substantially over the last decade. In addition, the expansion of internet communication has brought with it the now well-established blogging culture, and numerous other online outlets for people's writing. We might ask ourselves, however, if there is a mismatch between the popularity of writing as a hobby or avenue of study in society as a whole, and the often-perceived difficulties of engaging pupils in writing tasks in the school context. Although schools and individual teachers of course seek ways to motivate pupils in engaging writing tasks, often there is a sense that more sustained writing provides one of the biggest challenges for pupils, either because of application to the task, or perhaps due to struggling literacy competencies. There may even be times we use writing as a punishment, for example in writing lines (which seems to be making something of a come back in many schools) or in setting an essay or piece of writing in detention situations.

Creative writing, of course, has always had a key role in English classrooms where pupils write in a variety of genres: poetry, short fiction, travel and autobiographical narrative, etc.,--but to what extent might it be useful in building a positive approach to writing across the curriculum? Whilst literacy-across-the-curriculum initiatives never disappear entirely from schools' agendas, investigations into the teaching of writing in different subject areas tends to take the form of supporting the writing tasks commonly found in that subject area, typically non-fiction writing. Where the National Curriculum at key stages 1 and 2 mentions cross curricular links between other subject areas and English, this generally refers to 'non-literary and non-fiction writing'. Whilst this most certainly has a place, there is perhaps also room to explore ways in which creative writing can be used to support the explicit teaching of learning objectives in a range of subject areas, perhaps even to allow for new avenues to open up in the exploration of some more complicated areas of subject disciplines. We might also consider that there are further possibilities in 'non-fiction' writing where creative writing can have a role.

What is creative writing? Why is it enjoyable for so many people?

In many ways, the definition of 'creative writing' might seem blindingly obvious. If we want to turn to a popular phrase: it does what it says on the tin. However, it might be worth taking a moment to consider what exactly we do mean by it, in order to help us think about how it might be applied to less expected areas of the curriculum.

Plainly, there is a role for the imagination; a writer may draw on fact or on 'real life' but is at liberty to extend this as far as they wish into the realms of fiction; the writing may fall into recognisable forms--poetry, a play script, a diary entry etc., or--in this postmodern world--play with form entirely. Creative writing gets published by Penguin, Faber and Random House, or it is locked away in the sock drawer never to be read by anyone other than the author. Nobel Prize winners engage in creative writing, and so do pre-school children. Some people engage in creative writing because they dream of being courted by one of the aforementioned publishing houses, others simply write because they enjoy it; it may even be intensely private (diaries, for instance). Some people view it as part of a healing process (hence its use in some therapeutic contexts).

For most people who choose to write creatively, it fulfils the function of many other creative acts (playing a piece of music, painting, dancing, baking a cake): it engenders a positive feeling, it has a tangible output (whether or not it finds an audience), it allows us to express ourselves in ways we are not always able to do in many other walks of daily life, and sometimes to understand things in a way we could not do in more everyday contexts. …

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