Creative writing for language learners (and teachers)

Creative writing normally refers to the production of texts which have an aesthetic rather than a purely informative, instrumental or pragmatic purpose.

Creative writing for language learners (and teachers) - writing article - guest writers

Most often, such texts take the form of poems or stories, though they are not confined to these genres. (Letters, journal entries, blogs, essays, travelogues, etc. can also be more or less creative.) In fact, the line between creative writing (CW) and expository writing (ER) is not carved in stone. In general, however CW texts draw more heavily on intuition, close observation, imagination, and personal memories than ER texts.  

One of the chief distinguishing characteristics of CW texts is a playful engagement with language, stretching and testing its rules to the limit in a guilt-free atmosphere, where risk is encouraged. Such writing combines cognitive with affective modes of thinking. As the poet, R.S. Thomas once wrote, ‘Poetry is that which arrives at the intellect by way of the heart.’ The playful element in CW should not, however be confused with a lax and unregulated use of language. On the contrary, CW requires a willing submission on the part of the writer to the ‘rules’ of the sub-genre being undertaken. If you want to write a Limerick, then you have to follow the rules governing limericks. If not, what you produce will be something other than a limerick: obvious, perhaps, but important too. The interesting thing is that the very constraints which the rules impose seem to foster rather than restrict the creativity of the writer. This apparent paradox is explained partly by the deeper processing of thought and language which the rules require.


What are the benefits of CW for learners?

  • CW aids language development at all levels: grammar, vocabulary, phonology and discourse. It requires learners to manipulate the language in interesting and demanding ways in attempting to express uniquely personal meanings. In doing so, they necessarily engage with the language at a deeper level of processing than with most expository texts. (Craik and Lockhart 1972) The gains in grammatical accuracy and range, in the appropriacy and originality of lexical choice, in sensitivity to rhyme, rhythm, stress and intonation, and in the way texts hang together are significant.
  • As mentioned above, a key characteristic of CW is a willingness to play with the language. In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in the role of play in language acquisition. (Carter 2004, Cook 2000, Crystal 1998) In some ways, the tsunami of the Communicative Approach has done a disservice to language teaching  by its insistence on the purely communicative functions of language. Proponents of ‘play’ point out, rightly, that in L1 acquisition, much of the language encountered by and used by children is in the form of rhythmical chants and rhymes, word games, jokes and the like. Furthermore, such playfulness survives into adulthood, so that many social encounters are characterized by language play (punning, spontaneous jokes, ‘funny voices’, metathesis, and a discourse which is shaped by quasi-poetic repetition (Tannen 1989)). These are precisely the kinds of things L2 learners are encouraged to do in CW activities. This playful element encourages them to play creatively with the language, and in so doing, to take the risks without which learning cannot take place in any profound sense.  As Crystal (1998) states, ‘Reading and writing do not have to be a prison house. Release is possible. And maybe language play can provide the key.’
  • Much of the teaching we do tends to focus on the left side of the brain, where our logical faculties are said to reside. CW puts the emphasis on the right side of the brain, with a focus on feelings, physical sensations, intuition and musicality. This is a healthy restoration of the balance between logical and intuitive faculties. It also affords scope for learners whose hemisphere dominance or learning-style preferences may not be intellectual or left brain dominant, and who, in the normal process of teaching are therefore at a disadvantage.
  • Perhaps most notable is the dramatic increase in self-confidence and self-esteem which CW tends to develop among learners. Learners also tend to discover things for themselves about the language… and about themselves too, thus promoting personal as well as linguistic growth. Inevitably, these gains are reflected in a corresponding growth in positive motivation. Among the conditions for promoting motivation, Dornyei (2001: 138-144) cites:

  • “5. Create a pleasant and supportive atmosphere.
  •  6. Promote the development of group cohesiveness.
  • 13. Increase the students’ expectation of success in particular tasks and in learning in general.
  • 17. Make learning more stimulating and enjoyable by breaking the monotony of classroom events.
  • 18. Make learning stimulating and enjoyable by increasing the attractiveness of tasks.
  • 19. Make learning stimulating and enjoyable for learners by enlisting them as active task participants.
  • 20. Present and administer tasks in a motivating way.
  • 23. Provide students with regular experiences of success.
  • 24. Build your learners’ confidence by providing regular encouragement.
  • 28. Increase student motivation by promoting cooperation among the learners.
  • 29. Increase student motivation by actively promoting learner autonomy.
  • 33. Increase learner satisfaction.
  • 34. Offer rewards in a motivational manner.”  


  • All these conditions are met in a well-run CW class. The exponential increase in motivation is certainly supported by my own experience in teaching CW. Learners suddenly realize that they can write something in a foreign language that has never been written by anyone else before, and which others find interesting to read. (Hence the importance of ‘publishing’ students’ work in some form.)  And they experience not only a pride in their own products but also a joy in the ‘flow’ of the process. (Czsikszentmihaly 1997). 
  • Finally, CW feeds into more creative reading. It is as if, by getting inside the process of creating the texts, learners come to understand intuitively how such texts function, and this makes similar texts easier to read.  Likewise, the development of aesthetic reading skills ( Kramsch  1993, Rosenblatt 1978), provides the learner with a better understanding of textual construction, and this feeds into their writing.


And teachers?
I argued in the first article that teachers, as well as learners, should engage with extensive reading.  In the same spirit, I would argue that there are significant benefits to teachers if they participate in CW.

  • There is little point in exhorting learners to engage in CW unless we do so too.  The power of the teacher as model, and as co-writer is inestimable.
  • CW is one way of keeping teachers’ English fresh and vibrant.  For much of our professional lives we are in thrall to the controlled language of textbook English and the repeated low level error-laden English of our students.  As teachers of language, we surely have a responsibility to keep our primary resource alive and well.
  • CW seems to have an effect on the writer’s level of energy in general.  This tends to make teachers who use CW more interesting to be around, and this inevitably impacts on their relationships with students.
  • The experimental stance with regard to writing in general appears to fee back into the teaching of writing.  Teachers of CW tend also to be better teachers of writing in general                

My evidence for these assertions is largely anecdotal, backed by a survey of writing teachers I conducted in 2006.  One of the interesting facts to emerge was a widespread belief among teachers of writing that CW had a positive effect on students’ writing of Expository texts and helped them develop that much- desired but rarely-delivered ‘authentic voice’.

Space does not allow me to expand on these findings, nor on some of the possible activities teachers might try.  I will attempt to make good these omissions in some of my blogs during the month of December. I will also make reference there to ways in which CW intersects with some of our major current concerns. Meantime, anyone interested could sample some of the books from the list below: Fry (2007), Koch (1990), Matthews (1994), Spiro (2004, 2007), Whitworth (2001) and Wright and Hill (2009)


  • Carter, Ronald.  (2004)  Language and creativity: the art of common talk.  London: Routledge.
  • Cszikszentmihalyi. M. ( 1997) Creativity: Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention.  New York: Harper Perennial
  • Cook, Guy (2000)  Language Play: Language Learning.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Craik, F.I.M  and R.S Lockhart   (1972)  ‘Levels of processing: a framework for memory research’  Journal of  Verbal Learning and Verbal Behaviour.  11.  671-685
  • Crystal, David (1998) Language Play. London: Penguin
  • Dornyei, Zoltan (2001)  Motivational Strategies in the Language Classroom.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Fry, Stephen (2007)  The Ode Less Travelled.  London: Arrow Books.
  • Koch, Kenneth. (1990)  Rose, where did you get that red?  New York: Vintage Books.
  • Kramsch, Claire (1993)  Context and Culture in Language Teaching.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Matthews, Paul (1994)  Sing Me the Creation.  Stroud: Hawthorne Press.
  • Rosenblatt, Louise  (1978)  The Reader, the Text, the Poem. Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press.
  • Spiro, Jane (2004)  Creative Poetry Writing.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Spiro, Jane (2007)  Storybuilding. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Tannen, Deborah. (1989)  Talking Voices: Repetition, dialogue, and imagery in conversational discourse.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Whitworth, John.  (2001)  Writing Poetry.  London: A and C Black.
  • Wright, Andrew and David S.Hill.  (2009) Writing Stories.  Innsbruck: Helbling


By Alan Maley

Please note Alan's now finished writing on the site and will not be able to reply personally to your comments.


Submitted by Shef on Fri, 12/18/2009 - 03:26


Dear Alan,

Though the 'communicative' method is pre-dominant where I work, I do include a lot of simple creative writing exercises - diamond poems, shape poems, rhymes, English words (lyrics) to be set to a given popular tune etc. and these activities are well received by the adult learners who I work with.

At the intermediate level, the participants do activities like listening to a piece of music and writing their thoughts or a script involving cartoons or two mythological characters etc. With these learners there is a scope of improvement in grammar but in the case the pre-intermediate learners, it has more to do with vocabulary.

This said, I am glad you wrote this article as it once again emphasizes playfulness in language acquisition!

Best wishes,




Dear Shefali,


Thanks again for your supportive comments.  By the way, could you tell me which country you work in and what kind of institution?  It sounds to me as if you have found ways of circumventing, to some degree, the kinds of institutional constraints that many teachers work under.


And the idea of using music as a stimulus for writing is brilliant.  At the last IATEFL conference in Cardiff, I ran a symposium on The art and Artistry of ELT.  One of my co-presenters was Ben Russell, who gave us some highly creative ideas on how music can be used to develop creative writing.  (The write-up is in the Cardiff Conference selections.)


With best wishes



Dear Alan and all

I think you might find this blog entry by Nina Mustafa worth a read. In two parts, Nina describes her introduction to and first experience of working with haibun in her creative writing class. She decided to take her class out for a walk:

My 19 CW students are undergraduates at a very impressionable age of 20-22.  They are very colourful, a mixed of ability and attitude. But one thing in common is that they all love writing.  When I first mentioned to them that we were going out of the class for a short walk around the faculty - something unconventional for a language class here in my country - it was received with a mixed reaction.  The more easy-going and adventurous ones were really elated to the ceiling and received it with a "Yesss!!  Alllrightt!!"; the follow-the book ones were a little hesitant and worrisome, receiving it with a "Walk? Outside?  Is it legal?"; the vanity fair ones who are not too keen to expose themselves to the bad 5 pm rays without sf sunblock went "You mean now, as in now?".

I then discussed with my students on what haibun is, citing Alan's brilliant piece.  And since in haibuns, narratives are intertwined with short poems, so I went on to touch a bit on writing poems.  The students were a little more worried on the poem part.  I tried not to intimidate them, so I assured them that in writing the poem bit of the haibun ,anything is acceptable, that there is no right or wrong.  If their poems are not understood, treat it as an abstract - abstracts are not meant to be understood anyway. That made them feel a whole lot better.

You can read the conclusion and an example of one of Nina's students' work in her second blog entry.

Have you ever tried anything similar? (Alan, I'm imagining you have!)

Hi sir,

first of all thanks a lot for ur wonderful article basically i hails from india and working as a english teacher here i completed my MA in english. But sir i don't know sir still i have problems in my grammar areas because of this I am not able to deliver even a speech please give me

Submitted by jvl narasimha rao on Fri, 12/18/2009 - 06:01


Dear Alan,

                         Thank you very much for your extremely useful and highly productive article On creative writing for learners and teachers. In fact I am looking for a great person of your stature who will guide me in my poetic and writing pursuits. I have already requested you to have a look at my poems and you have read them but not offered me suggestions or compliments. I hope you will read my other 2 poems The street children and the typical Indian railway journey and send your comments either to my e-mail or express them in your comments as response.

You have given a detailed information about creative writings and expository writings,how they are useful to the students and teachers,which books they should refer to and which activities they should attempt very clearly and lucidly. I hope you will talk more about in your ensuing blogs.

I believe in constructivism and so your articles appeal to my art. Language acquisition is the need of the hour in non native english speaking countries like India. Since I am text book writer for Andhrapradesh, I would like to interact with you further. I hope you will help me improve my poetic and creative writing skills.

With kind regards,

Yours sincerely,


Submitted by Ivona Ivahohe on Mon, 12/21/2009 - 11:42


"Perhaps most notable is the dramatic increase in self-confidence and self-esteem ... "

I agree.

"... which CW tends to develop among learners. Learners also tend to discover things for themselves about the language… and about themselves too, thus promoting personal as well as linguistic growth."

I absolutely agree. Once they discover things for themselves, they are more memorable to them.

"And they experience not only a pride in their own products but also a joy in the ‘flow’ of the process."

I could not agree more. And when you 'publish' or display their own 'products' in any form (i.e. show them to other students, to other people), the students indulge in the attention their 'products' get and then even ask for more of such activities.

I am a big advocate of CW because i think that in today's predominantly logical-mathematical world, creativity (i.e. divergent thinking) is not given enough of attention and, therefore, should be encouraged in our students.

In line with the comment that mentioned music playing a big part in creative writing, here's an example of what i did with one of my students:

ESL imaginative writing - A Rom. Fr. Ks

Submitted by zaiw on Mon, 12/21/2009 - 12:50


Enjoyed Alan's CW article;  short and comprehensive.  I use creative writing projects all the time in my ESL classes and the recent addition of a croaky antique tape recorder has been a valuable addition indeed.  I grinned wide and deep when I read the phrases "guilt free atmosphere", and the suggestion to encourage risk.  I teach robust and hormone-driven teenagers and my early and naive injunctions to "be free" brought instant reminders that I would have to do some of that smooth and subtle back-tracking that us teachers are so good at.

A big thumbs-up for the comment about teacher participation in these activities.  I have written short novels, stories and poems with my students.  During peer editing and feedback sessions they enjoy pronouncing my efforts Yucky and Weird, often with sound reason.  This helps create the democratic atmosphere which is such a big part of language motivation in the classroom.


Submitted by Alan Maley on Wed, 12/30/2009 - 10:09

In reply to by zaiw


Dear Zai,


Sorry for the delay in acknowledging your posting.

I can see why 'guilt-free' might raise a smile, if not quite a grin!  But as we both know, 'guilt-free' doesn't mean they can do what they like!

As you say, teacher participation is a must.  it puts us all on the same level, and opens up the atmosphere in the most amazing way.

All the best for 2010.



Submitted by Alan Maley on Tue, 12/29/2009 - 12:14


Dear bloggers,

I felt I should add some more information about a small Creative Writing project which my Malaysian colleague, Dr Jayakaran Mukundan, and I have been involved in for the past 7 years.  If  nothing else, this shows how something practical can be achieved in the area of CW.  The ‘Asia Teacher-Writers Project’ is, we believe, interesting for a number of reasons.  It is a grassroots / bottom-up initiative. Participation is entirely voluntary and the project is independent of institutions.  It is also predicated on the principle of ‘small is beautiful’ (Schumacher 1974).  There is no ambition to effect sweeping, large-scale changes, such as the many failed government initiatives which litter the educational landscape. It has a local focus with no global ambitions. It works, if it works at all, through persuasion at the personal level, and through the commitment of a small number of individuals.  Small phenomena can nonetheless have large effects, as Chaos Theory teaches us. (Gleick 1988)


However, it is also significant because it intersects in important ways with some currents of contemporary professional concern. The role of the NNS continues to preoccupy scholars of the spread of English, as does the development of English as an International Language, no longer the sole property of the metropolitan countries ( Rubdy and Saraceni 2006).  This project is intimately linked with such concerns. It promotes the notion of NNS teachers able to find their own place and their own idiom in this rapidly-changing global movement.  The project also reasserts the importance of the place of affect (Arnold 1999), of visualisation (Tomlinson  1998, 2001) , noticing (Schmidt 1990), personalisation, Multiple Intelligences (Gardner 1985), motivation (Dornyei 2001), authenticity, extensive  reading (Day and Bamford 1998), the teaching of expository writing in a second language, and creativity in general (Boden 1998, Carter 2004)


The project started in 2003 with a small workshop in Bangkok.  Teacher/writers from a number of Asian countries gathered to discuss the desirability of writing creative materials in English for students in their countries.  A collection of papers was the outcome (Tan 2004), together with some stories which were also eventually published by Pearson Malaysia (Maley and Mukundan 2005).


This first event was followed by workshops for roughly the same (but ever expanding pool) group in Melaka (2004), Fuzhou (2005) and Hanoi (2006), Salatiga (2007), Kathmandu (2008), Ho Chi Minh City (2009) and Jakarta (2009).  Each workshop produced poems and stories which were published by Pearson Malaysia (Maley (ed) 2005, 2006, 2008), as well as another volume of papers (Mukundan 2006)


As already noted above, the group is noteworthy for being independent of any institutional support, and is entirely voluntary.  Financial sponsorship was obtained from Assumption University, Bangkok in 2003, from Pearson Malaysia in 2004, from UBCHEA and Hwa Nan Womens’ College Fuzhou in 2005, from The Open University Hanoi in 2006, from local sponsors in Salatiga and Kathmandu, from :Pearson and the Open University in Ho Chi Minh City, and from SEAMEO in Jakarta.. Each year, a volunteer takes on the responsibility for organising the workshop in a different venue in Asia.  Plans are already afoot for another workshop, in Nepal in 2010.


The rationale and objectives of the group can be summarized as follows.  The group operates in the belief that NNS teachers are not only capable of but are also uniquely well-placed to write literary materials for use by their own and other students in the Asia region.  By virtue of the fact that they share their students’ background and contexts, they have an intuitive understanding of what will be culturally and topically relevant and attractive for them.  What they all too often lack is the confidence in their own ability to write interesting material.  The group operates to dispel this misconception.


The following rationale underpins the activities of the group:

  • A belief in the value of creative writing in English for teachers as well as for students.
  • A belief in the ability of teachers in the region to produce their own English teaching materials.
  • A belief that these materials will provide useful input for promoting reading (and other activities) in English.
  • A belief in the value for professional and personal development of forming a closely-knit, Asia-wide, mutually-supportive learning community of teacher/writers.


The objectives are:


  • To produce poetry and stories appropriate in level and content for use by Asian students of English at secondary level.
  • To publish and promote these as widely as possible, thus creating a wider awareness of the value of CW.
  • To develop materials and activities for the teaching of creative writing.
  • To run creative writing conferences and workshops for the wider teaching community wherever possible.
  • In this way, to boost the self-esteem and confidence of teachers of English in Asia.


The intended outcomes are:

  • A set of stories for extensive reading and related language work.
  • A set of poems intended for language work, and to stimulate creative writing by students.
  • A set of teacher-generated creative writing activities.
  • Publications, website and conferences for teachers in the region to raise awareness of the value of creative writing activities.


In other words, the project aims at three main audiences:

   ~  a small group of writers who produce the materials, and in so doing develop

       professionally and personally. (The group hovers around the 30 mark at present, which is ample.)

   ~  English teachers in the region at large who will use the materials and hopefully go on

       to develop their own in due course.

   ~  students of English in the region who will use the materials, and will themselves 

       produce texts which  can be fed back as input to other students.


So what, then, actually happens during the workshops?  The procedure which has evolved organically is as follows:

  ~  a few months before the workshop, participants are asked to submit a draft of one or more short stories and poems, and to prepare at least one teaching activity involving creative writing.  These are submitted to the organising group.

  ~   at the workshop, participants peer-edit these texts. They are then passed to the editor before being forwarded to the publisher.

  ~   there are also input sessions when new ideas for activities are shared.  There are now a number of published sources for such ideas (Koch 1990 , Matthews 1994, Rinvolucri and Frank 2007, Spiro 2004, 2007). These ideas are then refined and collated for diffusion via the website.  Two handbooks of resources, for writing stories, and writing poems, are also in preparation.

  ~ one day is set aside for a writing field-trip to an atmospheric place.  This may be a scenic beauty-spot, a place of pilgrimage, or an outstandingly interesting site. Participants write all day long, recording through poems their observations, sensations and reflections.  These are then also passed to the editor.

  ~ it is customary for participants to present a workshop or paper at the conference held for local teachers, either just before or just after the main workshop.


The group remains small (which is one of its declared intentions).  One of the strengths of the group is the close bonding which can happen only in a relatively small community. Contributors have come from some 10 Asian countries to date.


The following are the tangible outcomes so far:

  • Publications to date include 9 volumes of stories and /or poems published by Pearson Malaysia, and two books of papers.
  • There are plans to publish the ideas for teaching activities and other relevant material on the website and in two free-standing resource books.
  • Conferences for local teachers have been run in Melaka, Fuzhou, Hanoi ,Salatiga, Kathmandu, Ho Chi Ming City and Jakarta promoting an awareness of the value of CW activities among the local community of teachers.


We would certainly not claim, as Candide might have done, that we are living in the best of all possible worlds.  The project is a modest one, and even its modest aims are not always fulfilled.  Problems are of three main kinds:

1. Funding. 

We have so far been fortunate in finding generous sponsors willing to underwrite a large portion of the costs.  These include accommodation, workshop space and equipment, and administration.  However, participants themselves have had to make very real sacrifices to attend the workshops, for example by paying their own airfares.  The continuing success of the workshops depends on finding sponsorship, which makes the whole project somewhat precarious.


2. Outreach.

Although some interesting materials have been produced, they are not sufficiently well-known, even in the region.  The publisher can do only so much to ensure that the materials come into the hands of those for whom they were intended.  So far, the group has not been especially successful in popularising and publicising the materials, and this is a weakness.  The possibility of setting up local groups of creative writer/teachers are being explored (in Malaysia in particular).  This is a welcome initiative but others need to be taken to involve larger numbers of teachers in the CW movement.


3. Quality.

This is a sensitive issue.  Writers are almost always in love with what they have written, and tend to resent it if their materials are radically edited or even excluded from publication.  Fortunately, the group members have been mature enough to consent to their work being subjected to critical scrutiny.  Even so, it has to be admitted that not all the work we publish is of the highest standard. The project is in the nature of an experiment, so that we sometimes need to leave some latitude for work which is interesting but not always as polished as we might wish.   Long-term this is a problem we shall have to address however.


The project I have been  describing here is small-scale, modest in its aims, and relatively insignificant.  Its importance resides in the high degree of commitment by young, energetic professionals to its aims.  Ultimately, change in our teaching practices will not come from top-down ministerial decrees, or from academic articles castigating the iniquities visited upon the NNS teacher,  but from the commitment of individuals with a belief in the practical value of their actions.  A journey of 1000 li begins with the first step.



Arnold, Jane.  1999.   Affect in Language Learning.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Boden, Margaret.  1998.  The Creative Mind.  London: Abacus.

Carter, Ronald.  2004.  Language and Creativity: the art of common talk.  London: Routledge.

Cook, Guy.  2000.  Language Play: Language Learning.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Day, Richard and Julian Bamford.  1998.  Extensive reading in the Second Language Classroom.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Dornyei ,Zoltan  2001. Motivational Strategies in the Language Classroom.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gardner,   Howard. 1985.  Frames of Mind.  London: Paladin Books 

Gleick, James. 1988.  Chaos.  London:Sphere Books

Koch, Kenneth. 1990. Rose, where did you get that red?  New York: Vintage Books.

Krashen, Stephen  2004 second edition. The Power of Reading.  Portsmouth NH: Heinemann

Maley, Alan (ed) 2006 Asian Short Stories for Young Readers.  Vol. 4. Petaling Jaya: Pearson/Longman Malaysia

Maley, Alan (ed)  2006  Asian Poems for Young Readers. Vol.5. Petaling Jaya:Pearson/Longman Malaysia.

Maley, Alan and Jayakaran Mukundan.  (eds) 2005  Asian Stories for Young Readers, Vols 1 and 2.  Petaling Jaya: Pearson/Longman Malaysia. 

Maley, Alan and Jayakaran Mukundan (eds) 2005 Asian Poems for Young Readers. Vol. 3.   Petaling Jaya: Pearson/Longman.

Matthews, Paul. 1994. Sing Me the Creation.  Stroud:Hawthorn Press.

Matthews, Paul.  2007. Words in Place.  Stroud: Hawthorne Press.

Mukundan, Jayakaran.  (ed) 2006 Creative Writing in EFL/ESL Classrooms II.  Petaling Jaya: Pearson Longman Malaysia

Rubdy, Rani and Mario Saraceni (eds) 2006. English in the World: Global Rules, Global Roles.  London/New York: Continuum.

Schmidt, Richard 1990.  The Role of  Consciousness in Second Language Learning.  Applied Linguistics. Vol. 11, No. 2 129-158.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Schumacher, E.F.  1974.  Small is Beautiful.  London: Abacus/Sphere Books

Spiro, Jane 2004.  Creative Poetry Writing.  Oxford: Oxford university Press.

Spiro, Jane.  2007. Creative Story-building.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Tan, Bee Tin (ed) 2004. Creative writing in EFL/ESL Classrooms I.  Serdang: UPM Press.

Tomlinson, Brian  1998. Seeing what they mean: helping L2 learners to visualise.  In B.Tomlinson (ed). Materials Development in Language Teaching.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.  265-78

Tomlinson, Brian (2001) The inner voice: a critical factor in language learning.  Journal of the Imagination in L2 learning.  VI, 123-154.


Submitted by Neli Kukhaleishvili on Wed, 12/30/2009 - 16:08


Dear Alan,

Thank you for  raising such important issues.   I feel the necessity  of creative writing   and think it is  so  important  as  I  experienced  the  negative trends of Soviet methodology where no creativity was encouraged and   ELT writing was understood   mainly as dictation - translation.   I hated writing because of this  and when I started teaching , my students hated it as well . I felt the necessity of   changing and inventing something .In those days   such  books were not available.

I wholly agree with you that..

  • ‘Reading and writing do not have to be a prison house. Release is possible. And maybe language play can provide the key.’  I think if we take into consideration not only our students' heads but also their hearts or feelings , we will be able" to release "them.
  • I would like to add to your conditions   for providing  motivation    one more which is improvisation  because trodden paths are demotivating.
  • I try to vary writing tasks , make them more creative and  my students love writing because of interesting tasks . As you say we both benefit : students  because learning  to write   is enjoyable  for them , I benefit because   I feel the need to improvise , to make writing more attractive to my students and   think of  and look for  more creative task                        

With best wishes                    

Neli Kukhaleishvili 

Dear Neli,


Thanks for reminding usa that improvisation is a key - not only in CW but in everything we do.  Improvisation should not be mistaken for lack of preparedness.  Only those who are wewll-prepared can have the confidence to depart from the script.


Very best wishes for 2010.



Submitted by Neli Kukhaleishvili on Mon, 01/04/2010 - 10:18

In reply to by Alan Maley



    Dear Alan,

   1. Thanks a lot for your great talk and ideas that  evoked in me more ideas   on how to make my teaching more appealing and creative.

   2. Your description of creative writing     workshop  made me feel envious of the partipants . But I know the experience accumulated in one part of the world  will be transferered to another. I hope such things will be done for the teachers of Caucasian  countries  such as Georgia, Azerbaijan, Amenia.

                          With best wishes, Neli


Dear Neli,

Thanks for your kind comments.

Let's hope that you are right, and that the ideas spread more widely among our professional community.

Best wishes,




Submitted by nina_mustafa on Thu, 12/31/2009 - 04:53


Dear Alan, Thank you so much for your useful and informative article on the CW Workshop. It makes me look forward to be a part of the team even more! Have a smashing 2010. Happy Happy Happy New Year Alan! Best wishes. Nina

Dear Nina,


Many thanks for your kind message.  I am sure you too will have a fulfilling and creative year!.


As you know, my mandsate as Guest Writer exopired on 1 Jan. so I will not be fronting up here very much after this.


All the best



Submitted by Shef on Fri, 01/01/2010 - 08:27


Dear Alan,

Thank you for directing me to the IATEFL Cardiff site.

By the way, I work in Trivandrum, Kerala at a local language school. I also teach Business Communication in two B- schools under Kerala University and freelance as a teacher-trainer for the British Council.

I have been very fortunate to have good bosses who are open to 'creativity' in the classroom as long as the results are good and the syllabus is completed!

Dear ? Batook?

Just to let you know that we are still hoping to run a workshop on CW somewhere in India in 2010 (Maybe CIEFL)  Do stay in touch and I'll,let you know.

I have happy memories of Trivandrum...the old British Council Library, and the Uni. where at the time, Prof. Ayyappa Pannikar was head of Dept.

it's good if you have open and understanding bosses.  Long may that last.


Best wishes for 2010.



Submitted by iris2011 on Sat, 02/12/2011 - 06:11


What a brilliant article both for teachers & learners!!! It's quite useful and informative(I've never heard of logical & intuitive faculties of the brain)

I totally agree with you:CW provides development at all levels:grammar,vocabulary,etc.And it really increases self-confidence in language learning.

Ilike the idea of  'motivating students in CW'.You have given 13 useful steps,and undoubtedly, if teachers follow you they will have a well-run CW class.

And reading your article I've found the states which I partly disagree with. To my mind creative writing refers to the production of texts which have an informative,pragmatic as well as aesthetic purpose.For example, blogs, essays can also be informative(as your blog is).

But you've done a good job.Your clear examples from your own experience and suggested literature for readers are quite remarkable. You have  perfectly described the benefits of CW.But don't you think paying more attention to the CW can make students GET BORED? And how can we know if CW is motivating for them?


With kind regards


Yours sincerely

Gulnora Abdullaeva


Submitted by pushpa jabbar on Mon, 03/26/2012 - 13:38


Hello Alan Sir,

I am a PGT English serving in Andaman &Nicobar Islands,India.Ur article very educative &informative.I regrett why i didnot read this article previously.Its really a boon for my teaching profession.One point from ur article which will never erase from my memory is-'Teaching tends to focus on left side of the brain & creative writing puts emphasis on the right side of the brain'.


Thank You

Submitted by davidjones12 (not verified) on Mon, 09/09/2013 - 11:45


"willingness to play with the language" indeed this is a key importance of Creative Writing (CW). After spending age sin field of writing and specially being an English teacher, I can say that CW is not what any one can do. Its an art. Despite of the fact that it is a mandatory part of our curriculum , many students struggle to have perfection in this skill.

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