As our culture becomes more and more “screen bound,” our kids are inundated with flashing facts, opinions and graphics. Their ability to evaluate this input and generate their own unique ideas will be valuable to them in life. For this, they must develop an ability to think creatively, “outside the box.” Most curricula fall short in this area, so it’s up to parents to fill in the gaps.
Leading creative writing sessions is a wonderful way to let kids build confidence in their ability to generate ideas. Since there are no wrong answers, it’s a joyous break from academic rigor, yet more strategic than many “educational games.” Add cupcakes and it’s an “Idea Party”! Stage a poetry reading, and it counts as language arts! Most importantly, once you establish an open, non-competitive atmosphere, kids will have the courage to think creatively in other settings.
I began leading creative writing workshops for my daughter (an only child) and her friends in our home in 2008, without anticipating the “creative community” it would form. Sharing work after each assignment enriched everyone’s experience and taught the kids to listen to each other. It also “leveled the playing field,” as the less confident kids saw that anyone can come up with something terrific, and the overly confident came to understand theirs was not the only good idea in the room. Even kids who were reluctant initially soon couldn’t wait to come to class, and many began writing more on their own. Some had such a good time in the group that they even asked to have their birthday parties at our house!
There’s surely one parent in your circle who could lead writing sessions. An hour and fifteen minutes for 8-10 year olds and an hour and a half for older kids works well. I usually have them work on 3 exercises that present some irony and challenge their thinking, such as: “Describe a mind with no ideas,” (Is it an empty box or drawer? A desert or a vacant lot? etc.) or “Invent a character that invents a character,” or “Write a never-ending story, set in an ice cube.”
To get things started, you can prove our brains are wired for creative thinking: just pose a simple question and let the group see how many answers they can find. Try “What ways might you hold a party in an empty room? (No furniture or games, just guests)” They’ll all pitch in ideas, building on each other’s suggestions. Soon, you’ll see former “non-writers” shine!
A heartfelt bravo to all homeschooling parents for impacting their children’s education as no one else can. Leading creative writing workshops for so many kids has been one of the most rewarding parts of my life!
Cathy Altman Nocquet made a career of creative thinking while working in international advertising as a writer and strategist. Her creative writing workshops feature offbeat, inspiring exercises designed to develop creative thinking long term. She has taught hundreds of students from dozens of American and European schools, led workshops at libraries and for non-profit groups, including Gifted in France, The Paris Girls Scouts and the English Language Schools Association. Ms Altman Nocquet is a SCBWI writing contest judge and a graduate of Columbia University. Her ebook, “Write Outside The Lines: A Creativity Catapult,” can be found at Amazon for $2.99. For more creative ideas, visit: http://can.writing.free.fr/