Free Writing

As a man who writes poetry as a hobby, I am continually in search of new sources of inspiration and new techniques to be able to remove creative blocks. I have found the free writing activities our class has undertaken to be extremely enlightening. In most of these exercises, I have felt as if I was able to produce respectable work in a relatively short period of time. However, there was one free writing activity during which I felt my quality of writing dropped significantly: the group writing exercise where we would begin with a character sketch and pass our work to a classmate who would continue the story. I found that not only was I suddenly encumbered by nervousness and the desire to impress whomever would subsequently read my story, I was also unable to develop the narrative I wanted to convey in the time I had. It was difficult to watch as my storyline was altered and my characters changed identity. Nevertheless, I chose to take the experience as a lesson in letting go and appreciating the opinions and comments of others, even in artistic projects.

Given the different ways in which these learning exercises affected me, I began to wonder how free-writing could be used in other classes. My current practicum is in a French 9/10 class; I could adapt the collaborative writing technique to create a peer-to-peer grading model, or perhaps give the students a brief time to write a short paragraph about a simple subject, which they could translate. In other subjects, a teacher could perhaps introduce an historical person or event, and encourage the students to use that concept as a basis for a free writing activity. Alternatively, an art or drafting teacher may suggest that students write down the direction they would like their projects to eventually go, or science students could compose short stories from the perspective of something they are studying.

Free writing encourages nonlinear thinking and creativity. It also enables students who consider themselves verbal or story-oriented learners to engage in the course content more successfully, and as I discovered, it also can build a sense of teamwork and interdependence. Given that there are truly all sorts of classes that may benefit from integrating free writing activities into their curricula, I believe free writing may be underused outside of the ELA classroom. Perhaps as the Province of British Columbia tends toward a less restrictive curricular model, free writing will be further developed in innovative ways as a teaching technique in our schools.

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