The English Classroom

A HELPFUL GUIDE FOR PRESERVICE AND GRADUATE TEACHERS

Students always have ideas. They are inventive, colourful and see the world through an interesting lens. However, this doesn’t always translate to students understanding how to write a unique narrative.

There is a flow and particular level of organisation to writing a short story. This is not always obvious to our students and it is our job to encourage them to think outside their own context to develop something new and exciting.

Have you heard the quote, “Write what you know?” It is so overused and limiting to a budding young writer. Of course, human experience is founded on what we know, empirically. Although cliched, we should not overlook this quote. Consider the following quote from P.D. James:

“You absolutely should write about what you know. There are all sorts of small things that you should store up and use, nothing is lost to a writer. You have to learn to stand outside of yourself. All experience, whether it is painful or whether it is happy is somehow stored up and sooner or later it’s used.”

We cannot overlook the everyday life. There are moments everywhere we look – it is just that we overlook them too often. Think about a five minute conversation you can have that might either make or break your day. Or a encounter with a friend you do not see often. Perhaps an observation on the bus.

There are an infinite number of small encounters that could become the catalyst for a story idea.

Your toaster stops working. The batteries in the television remote have died. The car does not start. In all these instances, only you are affected. I wonder what life would be like if technology suddenly failed my life?

You hear a song on the radio. The school band plays the same song later in the day. Your mum begins to hum the song while making dinner. What is going on here?

You hate the sound of foam emerging from a box. What if there was a perfect sound?

There is inspiration everywhere. Perhaps, we should encourage students to start with what you know before expanding. For an emerging writer, this is a great starting point.

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