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Sorry to barge in...non-teacher here, looking for advice please?

(21 Posts)
CheapSausagesAndSpam Sat 02-Dec-17 10:54:44

I've been thinking of running some fun creative writing classes for children but I've no experience as a teacher aside from some drama workshops I ran a few years ago.

I am a published writer, I've had my short fiction in UK magazines, a poem in an anthology and I've also been commissioned as a writer on radio 4.

I make a living as a freelance copywriter and would love to organise a writing group for children.

My problem is that without any formal training, it's a challenging prospect.

I'm not really sure where to begin. I've been offered a venue and it's for a whole term to begin with so I thought a good approach might be to split the classes into two age groups...7-11 and 12-15. Does that sound ok?

Then, to work with each group on putting together a "school magazine" which they'd all contribute to. So some might want to write jokes, some might enjoy writing articles or stories....and some could illustrate if they fancied that.

I want it to be pressure-free. I don't want them to worry about grammar and spelling but to enjoy the process of finding inspiration through images, local news and their own lives. I would edit their work and show them the changes I'd made with explanatory notes...for the smaller children, I'd keep that very basic though. I don't want it to feel like I'm marking their work...I want them to learn about the creative process without the worry of "getting it right" but is that silly?

Would parents be hmm if I didn't focus too much on their academic ability? I want it to be inclusive so that they can all enjoy it no matter what their spelling/grammar is like.

Any advice or pointers would be so welcome as I keep losing my confidence in the whole thing! Any resource ideas would also be welcome.

curlscatsandkids Sat 02-Dec-17 12:23:51

Are you planning to charge parents for this?

Haggisfish Sat 02-Dec-17 12:28:58

I find the creative writing they do in schools is amazing-my dc currently read a story, devise actions and then ‘innovate’ by changing the main character etc. I might be a bit worried what you are suggesting might be a bit easy or maybe not named correctly-it would be more student journalism than creative writing?

NovemberWitch Sat 02-Dec-17 12:32:56

Have you been to any of the creative writing workshops that some children’s authors run? They can be outstanding. Might be good to check on what others have done successfully. Especially if you are planning on charging.

CheapSausagesAndSpam Sat 02-Dec-17 12:42:11

Haggie, that's the thing...too many rules. Your child's school call that particular element of a lesson innovating but that's not universally taught.

So what I teach might not square up with what they do in class. I don't see that as an issue though.

What I'd be teaching wouldn't be children's journalism but would be offering an opportunity for them to write for a magazine...and magazines include more than one type of creative writing.

CheapSausagesAndSpam Sat 02-Dec-17 12:43:15

November I haven't no...it would be valuable for me to sit in on a children's creative writing workshop though.

Haggisfish Sat 02-Dec-17 13:04:04

I get what you’re saying. I’m not suggesting you do the same as schools, just that I think your aims or opportunities would need to be made clearer iyswim. It sounds great, but a bit vague at the moment.

Haggisfish Sat 02-Dec-17 13:04:47

I would second attending some workshops. Writing West Midlands have details of lots of youth writing opportunities for example.

NovemberWitch Sat 02-Dec-17 13:06:36

Perhaps you could trial this for free, work out the bugs and see what you’d need to provide in order to have parents willing to pay for it.

Haggisfish Sat 02-Dec-17 13:06:52

Also, I think I’m not saying it needs rules as such, but everyone finds it hard if essentially told ‘do what you like’ or similar. You would need to provide some starting pointsor initial ideas to spark them off.

NovemberWitch Sat 02-Dec-17 13:09:53

As my OH found out, being amazingly good at something and winning prizes does not always indicate equally fabulous ability to teach it to something else. Unless you are clear about what you aim to achieve, the consequences might just be a glorious muddle if you are lucky. Do you have any experience of working with children not your own in any capacity?

CheapSausagesAndSpam Sat 02-Dec-17 13:15:10

November, yes...drama workshops with children aged between 5 and 17.

NovemberWitch Sat 02-Dec-17 13:28:27

Have you built on that so that they are creating their own scripts and dramas, as a creative writing activity?

curlscatsandkids Sat 02-Dec-17 13:31:16

school call that particular element of a lesson innovating but that's not universally taught.

How do you know that? Creative writing is taught very well in many schools and opportunities created from a range of innovative imaginative starting points.
To be honest a newspaper with jokes is very old fashioned and not going to improve a child's writing or make them proud of their writing.
Maybe leave it the trained professionals or go on a course and see some experts in action and the amazing writing children can do... in schools!

MiaowTheCat Sat 02-Dec-17 14:12:06

My parents had a business that delivered a lot of programmes within schools - one of which sounds pretty similar to what you're suggesting.

With budget cuts and funding changes from various sources - the take up for it just dried up completely. Schools that had used them to produce things like school newspapers brought it all in house to save costs.

Just as a cautionary note. That business has since folded completely (they offered loads of different types of programmes across different age ranges in schools and other settings). The money's not there any more.

noblegiraffe Sat 02-Dec-17 14:14:57

Is it some sort of extra curricular club? With the same kids going each week? With the parents paying?
Or one-off workshops? I'm a bit confused about what you're offering.

curlscatsandkids Sat 02-Dec-17 14:30:36

I've posted this in the Staffroom thread too but it's quiet there

Sorry for that but we're all too busy on a Saturday afternoon planning engaging creative writing lessons for next week!

NovemberWitch Sat 02-Dec-17 14:38:26

Good idea to post in the general population. It’s where a lot of potential customers are. But you are still getting similar advice; check out existing activities, give the children some guidance and stimulus for their writing...the only way you’ll know if it’spossible is if you try it out.

FlamingGusset Sat 02-Dec-17 15:34:06

Goodness, it's all a little negative here! I actually think it's a lovely idea, always nice to have opportunities to expand and develop skills.

I do agree with what a previous poster said about making sure the demand is there, though. With budget cuts, most schools just won't be able to pay, no matter how excellent your programme is.

Also, maybe a school magazine isn't quite the best medium for developing creative writing. What about a very targeted short story? I'm an ESL teacher abroad and my class just did a unit on "twisted fairy tales" and wrote their own at the end. They're 13 years old, so it's definitely something you could do with native speakers of all ages. They then performed their stories at the end of the unit - went down a storm. Having said that, they're a group that love anything creative, and they love to perform as well!

Mijkl Sat 02-Dec-17 20:03:11

I have been on both sides of this fence and think it's a great idea. There are lots of children keen on writing who don't get enough of a chance in school and though some teachers teach it well (usually those who don't bring a negative , defensive and jealous attitude to professional, expert authors), many don't. You have a lot to offer as someone who has the grit and skills and resilience to succeed as a published author. I suggest going via your local literature development agency, not via schools. Just set it up, offer it to parents via community channels and off you go.

Haggisfish Sat 02-Dec-17 21:21:36

Sorry,y intention is not to be negative! More creative writing for kids is great. I’m not sure about a newspaper-sad as it sounds, literally none of the kids I teach read papers. Maybe a website or magazine instead?

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