Creative Writing and Storytelling: making it up as we go along.

Creative Writing and Storytelling: making it up as we go along.

Last Monday I had the honour of being invited to give a paper to open an event at the University Institute of Technology of Montpellier-Sète, dedicated to the exchange of teaching practices between English language teachers at the University of Montpellier, including teachers and researchers from Montpellier management school, law school, medical school, the faculty of pharmacy and the science university.

This presented somewhat of a challenge as I had to try and explain why I believe storytelling and creative writing are relevant, not only to students in the humanities, but also to scientists. I began by reassuring colleagues that despite the title of my communication, I never ever make things up as I go along. And that I never ever encourage any hapless student that happens to cross my path to make things up as they go along…. but that I do very firmly believe that there is nothing remotely whimsical in an approach that aims to encourage and develop creativity to facilitate and enrich foreign language learning.

And we carried on from there.

As well as briefly talking about creative writing and storytelling in general and how they may be used in different teaching contexts, I explained the specific context of the creative writing classes at Paul Valéry University, how they function and the content of these classes, paying particular attention to errors and feedback and finished up with a presentation of the online blogging class that any regular reader of this blog already knows about.

As promised to the colleagues present, here is the slideshow that accompanied my talk.

I also used the occasion to experiment with mixing in a bit of my own storytelling and fiction writing which was quite fun (well for me anyway).

In the afternoon teachers shared ideas. One of them that fitted in particularly nicely with the theme of storytelling (albeit oral) was the improvisation game, Nonsense. Hélène Morzadec (University Montpellier 2) has very kindly shared with us her lesson plans and work documents. If you are interested in having a look, I have uploaded her documents into Resources (listening skills). If you wish to use them don’t forget to credit accordingly and perhaps even send an email to Hélène, providing feedback on how you used/adapted them for your classroom situation. The basic aim of this activity is for the student to tell a 1-minute story about a given situation, slipping in a secret word as he/she does so and for their opponent to guess the secret word. This reminds me very much of a game we used to play at school to wind the teachers up. See the attached file for more detail.

Celine Fabre of the IUT also shared with us her lesson based on Famelab, aimed at improving students’ oral presentation skills and encouraging them to think about how to explain complicated ideas simply. Her sequence concludes with students creating their own chemistry on a subject of their choice. Celine provided us with examples of her students’ work including a chemistry of old books, a chemistry of pastiche and a chemistry of happiness. She also authorised me to share her documents which you can find on the resource page (listening skills) See comments above regarding sharing.

I will certainly be using and adapting these ideas to my own teaching context.

So a very big thank you indeed to Cathy Gouchault, Céline Fabre and the other members of the very dynamic and welcoming team at the IUT, for organising this meet.

Photo by fig_tart on Instagram

2 Replies to “Creative Writing and Storytelling: making it up as we go along.”

  1. How wonderful! I agree. Creative writing and Storytelling are a window not just to the soul…but a window (or conduit )to the brain and cognitive function and problem solving. All scientists need stories and vision to synthesize their empirical results to arrive at an Einstein moment!!! Indeed…Einstein wrote that he used to picture himself riding a light beam. ( obviously a cowboy riding a new idea!)

    Again. Wonderful work. Xxx

  2. Heehaw!
    And as Isaac Asimov is supposed to have pointed out, the standard scientific response to a breakthrough moment is not ‘Eureka’ but ‘That’s odd’.
    Thank you Zaro.

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