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Carys Arnold

SID: 10096097

Enhancing Creativity and Imagination Through Writing

Literary Review and Commentary

While there is a plethora of instruction on hoew to scaffold writing, there is little to assist

with inspiring the imagination of students of creative writing (Şenel, 2018). In order to

kindle the imagination and creativity of the average secondary student, pedagogies must go

beyond the ordinary scaffolding tasks that format construction of a text and work with the

ideals behind creativity. Whilst inspiration can be found in unlikely places, it requires a solid

understanding of literary devices and social constructs to be effective. There are several

concepts helpful to building creativity in writing. This paper will discuss Nancie Atwell’s

concept of the minilesson, journaling activities as inspiration for creative writing and

synaesthetic writing and sensory language association.

One of the fundamental needs for the ability to write imaginatively is that the writer has a

base of knowledge from which to draw inspiration (DeHaven, 1973). Since critical literacy is

so essential to creatively conveying meaning, teachers must place an emphasis on how

language works (Searle, 1998). For secondary students, teachers should not assume that

there is a large base of knowledge and should begin by ensuring that students have a wide

range of readings at the beginning of any writing unit to get a solid idea of what is creative

and imaginative before they begin writing themselves. Given that critical literacy involves

being aware of social and cultural differences, texts from a variety of cultures must be

studied (Morgan, 2010) so that students can understand the context behind their writing –

and have greater impact on their audience.

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SID: 10096097

When students do begin writing, it is important that the teacher is actively involved in the

writing process to provide guidance and clear expectations (Riabokrys & Mishchenkob,

2016; Graham, MacArthur & Fitzgerald, 2007). This is especially important for students

lacking confidence in their writing ability (Riabokrys & Mishchenkob, 2016). It is therefore

considered good practice to test the ability of students’ writing throughout the curriculum,

and not only in creative writing units. One way to do this is through the minilesson.

The concept of the minilesson as described by Atwell (1998), is to tackle one focused point

of writing at a time. While the whole lesson may be dedicated to metaphor, a minilesson

could perhaps focus primarily on how a particular type of metaphor can be used to elicit

meaning. For example, the class could focus on using food to describe a landscape, starting

with simple similes such as ‘as flat as a pancake’ and working up to complex concepts like

‘the icy river clung to the bank like thick chocolate sauce dripping off ice cream’. Since the

minilesson is an interactive, collaborative concept (Atwood, 1998), it would work best in

small groups where, perhaps, each student could add to part of a sentence or paragraph.

The teacher should also be spending time with each group to give one-on-one feedback to

students (Margawati, 2014). Research has found that, similar to the minilesson, micro-

writing tasks running from three to ten minutes can be particularly beneficial to students’

understanding of the complexities of language (Ferlazzo, 2018). A series of minilessons

where students are writing for a short time may be beneficial if implemented during the

creative writing unit.

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The minilesson has the unique ability to be improvised, giving teachers the ability to address

issues as they arise throughout the unit (Atwell, 1998). To be most effective, minilessons

should pre-emptively prepare students for units in the syllabus coming up later in the school

year. Since minilessons take so little time, they can be included in a lesson the narrative

features in a Shakespearean play for example, with a view to the students drawing on that

knowledge again when they tackle creative writing. As such, it is a good idea for students to

have a journal along with their regular exercise book for class notes (Thomson, 2010). The

teacher should instruct students as to which minilessons are to be included in their journals

with an eye towards creative writing. Students should also be required to write something

interesting they learned in the journal at the conclusion of each lesson so that they can

draw on their collection of notes when they begin writing. This will assist students by having

them engage critically with the texts they are studying throughout the unit.

Having students draw on and apply the knowledge they gain from minilessons or journal

entries of readings they enjoyed earlier in the year can have a positive effect on their

imagination and creativity since they will have chosen to add and comment on some of

these texts themselves (Thomson, 2010). A student can only utilise their imagination to full

creative prowess if they are capable of critically analysing text in all of its forms, including

written, spoken, lyricised, poetic and urbanised (Searle, 1998). Only by having complete

control of language can a student employ it to manipulate their reader into thinking or

feeling a particular idea (Graham, MacArthur & Fitzgerald, 2007), therefore, it is essential

that students have a strong theoretical background on the uses of language. Journaling can

be a useful method for students to keep notes on these language structures throughout the

year. Thomson (2010) believes that keeping a journal is on the same level of importance as
Carys Arnold
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small group work – a required and highly beneficial activity according to the Department of

Education and Training (2003).

The very act of journaling gives students the opportunity to create meaning by paraphrasing

what they have learned (Thomson, 2010), and starts them down a path of critical analysis

that they will find useful when crafting their own meanings through creative writing. As

such, students should also be encouraged to jot down events in their life that may be able to

be used for creative writing. Travel writing can be particularly useful in inspiring imagination

due to the fact that the student may be experiencing something for the first time

(Margawati, 2014).

The one place where human imagination runs unfettered is in dreams. Using dreams to

inspire creative writing can give ideas to even the most reluctant writer (Johnson, 2011).

Given the complex, unstructured nature of dreams, it is useful to give students a complex,

unstructured means of describing them. Literary synaesthesia and complex metaphors are

an excellent way of inspiring creativity in the most mundane objects (Writers Write, 2017).

Humans define their reality through the senses, and synaesthesia has the ability to shift that

reality (Riddell, 2014). When wielded appropriately, literary synaesthesia can provoke

powerful sensory reactions in the reader through their own perceptions and experiences.

This is the very foundation of creative writing. When a student can create something wildly

different from what they have seen before, it is proof of their creativity. Only the truly

creative can wield a metaphor so powerful that it makes their audience smell a colour.

These three focuses for inspiration and creativity should go a long way to inspiring creativity

and imagination for creative writing students.

Carys Arnold
SID: 10096097

Unit Outline

In the units preceding the creative writing unit, students should be given several relatively

simple short writing tasks to allow the teacher the opportunity to gauge which students

require the most assistance. The writing tasks should be centred on creativity and

imagination within the topic at hand. The reason for including creative writing prior to the

unit is that it is more beneficial for students to receive creative writing instruction

integrated with the rest of their curriculum and it will allow the teacher time to evaluate

students over time (Riabokrys & Mishchenkob, 2016; Marlow, 1995).

Prior to beginning the creative writing unit, students should be journaling both dreams and

travel for several months to give themselves a reasonable amount of subject matter to work

from. Students should be taking notes in their journal during the holidays or after any

excursions they partake in throughout the year. During the writing phase of the sub-unit,

students will choose one of their dreams or travel experiences and expand on it for their

creative writing piece (Thomson, 2010; Atwell, 1998). They will be required to reflect on

their experience before writing in order to give them a solid idea of what they want to write

about (Graham, MacArthur & Fitzgerald, 2007). Some reflection points could include; ‘what

questions does your experience raise?’, ‘comment on the realism of the dream’, ‘how can

you intensify the emotions you felt?’ and so on.

Carys Arnold
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In the creative writing unit, students will study a variety of methods designed to encourage

creativity and imagination. It is essential that students explore multiple methods of

generating creative writing (LeNoir, 2003). For the purpose of this paper, the focus is only on

two or three tactics, however, it must be assumed that during the course of the unit, they

will explore many more. It is assumed that the students have already had some instruction

and feedback on creative writing as described above. While there is no particular sub-unit

addressing minilessons, this is because they work best when integrated with the rest of the

unit and used to explain how particular functions assist audiences in interpreting a text

(Atwell, 1998). As such, minilessons are to be assumed for focus points at each stage of the


To begin the unit, students will read from a wide variety of sources that use both

imaginative ideas and creative techniques. Some examples of the writing will include works

that build on or leapfrog from other texts. This will include a brief overview of Pride and

Prejudice and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies as an example of a classic novel with a

modern and imaginative twist.

To get students into the mindset of imaginative writing, part of the lesson should be

dedicated to reading a richly imaginative passage. Students should underline the phrases

they are drawn to the most and make note of which language feature it is using (hyperbole,

metaphor, alliteration etc). They should comment on what makes that language feature

effective. This could be addressed as a minilesson since it is so focused on the reasons

behind effective writing techniques, and should be followed by a short writing task where

students utilise the language feature they just wrote about.

Carys Arnold
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Over the course of the unit, the teacher and students should be bringing in passages of

writing from their own readings outside of class (Atwell, 1998). The writings should be

added to a Google Drive folder so that all students have access to it. At least one assessment

task should focus on creating a text from multiple sources in the folder combined with the

students’ own writing.

The synaesthesia focus will begin by students studying visual language and completing

colour association activity templates (Boas & Gazis, 2016). Think-Pair-Share would work well

here as it will allow students the opportunity to express their own ideas first, but still learn

from the whole class. The teacher should come up with some unusual associations prior to

starting the activity to set the expectations for the students, an important part of any task as

evidenced by the Quality Teaching Framework (Department of Education and Training,


The class should then have an introduction to synaesthesia through both the medical

definition and its manifestations and some examples of it as a writing technique. The

following activity should take place as a minilesson. Once the students have a grasp of

synaesthesia as a concept, they will begin a creative exercise where they should draw a

picture of an emotion or another intangible concept. Then they should describe a colour

without using names for colours to describe it (Leone et al, 2018). These types of activities

are important because they will get students thinking about how to use descriptive

language in unconventional ways and help foster their creativity (Gerlach, 2009). A mastery

of synaesthesia as a literary device shows real maturity and creativity in a writer and can be
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a writer’s most powerful tool (Kochhar-Lindgren, 2012). The most talented writers can use

synaesthesia to manipulate their readers into experiencing whatever the author intends

(Graham, MacArthur & Fitzgerald, 2007).

With a solid background in literary techniques, a wide range of reading, and a wealth of

information and their own experiences to draw from, students should have a good chance

to write a truly creative, imaginative text. The process of writing over time will also give the

teacher a range of texts from which to assess the students’ progress.

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