Fay Weldon says that creative writing can teach children moral and ethical issues in this recent post in the British Telegraph.
I hear teachers discussing the merits of teaching creative writing in these days of video gaming, Ipod listening, Internet surfing media consumers. “Who has time for the leisure of creative writing, or of reading good literature?” they ask. According to this article, it can be a valuable way of instilling good character traits.
That makes sense to me. In literature, a protagonist faces a problem that may seem insurmountable. At the elementary level, where I teach, most of the novels reward good behavior and good always wins over evil, giving students a satisfying ending. A discussion of why a chosen path is better than another is a terrific way to teach ethics in the classroom.
A good story prompt will pose a problem. For instance, a boy goes on a vacation to the beach and he finds a buried treasure of 13 Spanish doubloons. What should he do?
To write an excellent short story about that, the students must think through what actions the hero should take. It’s revealing to read what they create.
We read stories together before I give the students story writing assignments. By reading first, I find that it helps the students create works that have more depth and complexity.
Right now, my class is reading Witches by Roald Dahl. The young boy in the book is burdened with the job of destroying all the witches in England. Why? Because they are determined to kill all the children of the world. Yet, why is killing witches morally upright when killing is wrong?
Posing this type of question leads to deep discussion and thinking about how we as a society choose what is right and what is wrong. This deep thinking can lead to better choices in their future.