If your students are anything like mine, they are always asking, no, begging, for more creative writing. I turned to blogging to provide both my seventh and eighth grade students more opportunities to write creatively with an audience of their peers. There are plenty of my students who do not need a prompt to get them writing, but there are an equal number who do need that extra nudge to set them up for success. I turned to using two different techniques to add more creative writing time into the curriculum, but without all the writing workshops and revision work. The first technique I like to use with my seventh grade Reading classes is called “First Lines.” This is an awesome way to connect creative writing with reading.
The idea behind a weekly First Line? Borrow a good First Line (first sentence) from a book that you have read that not only inspires some juicy, creative ideas to continue the story, but when the students are done writing and have had the chance to read other student responses, they get to hear the original opening pages of the first line’s book. Many of my students enjoy comparing their story to the original—and there is no right or wrong to wherever their first line took them.
What makes a good First Line for my middle school writers? Something that sets them up for suspense, mystery, humor, and they particularly enjoy lines that leave them wondering what the actual first pages of the book are. For example:
Once upon a time, a hundred years ago, there was a dark and stormy girl…1
I run to escape my dreams…2
The year I turned twelve, I learned how to lie…3
I’ve read many more books than you…4
The added bonus? Many of my students also end-up wanting to check-out that book from my classroom library once I am done using it for First Line writing. This is both a new way for me to bring creative writing into my reading classroom more often, and to do book talks in an inventive way.
I use a similar concept with my language arts eighth grade classes, but the prompts do not come from books. I often set-up a blog post that asks my students to choose from 1 of 3 creative prompts that are often only 1-2 lines/sentences in length. Their task: Create their own Blog Post that uses that line in some way. Often times they are written as narratives, but I will also see free verse style poetry, journal entries, etc. You can ask students to write in a certain format, or you can leave the prompt and post assignment open-ended. I like to switch up the expectations so students are constantly exploring in their writing.
You wake up one day to discover a giraffe tied to your kitchen table…
You are on your way home when, suddenly, it begins raining cats and dogs…
It is the first day of the Donut Apocalypse. Describe your day…
Once students get into the groove of creating their own Blog Post responses, I begin adding-in certain writing techniques that I want to see them fit into their writing: dramatic pauses with an ellipsis, figurative language, format changes (journal entry, advertisement), dramatic FONT to reflect voice, etc.
My students often remark at end-of-year reflections to keep the creative writing blogging and First Line writing. I think they most enjoy the chance to explore and share their writing that blogging really allows them to do. And, of course, I have many students who write and ask me if they can keep adding-on to their story outside of the time allowed in class! Who doesn’t like a student asking if they can keep writing outside of class?! That is almost as big of reward as reading all the creative responses I see from my students when they respond to either of these prompted writings on the blog.
1from The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell
2from Exile for the Dreamers by Kathleen Baldwin
3from Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
4from Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon