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Writing as play: Designing a school-based creative curriculum for writing
School writing has become dominated by the notion that writing exists as proof of analytical skills and textual knowledge. Grammar drills, formulaic essay, paragraph and sentence structures and even teacher-written cloze essays for students to complete and memorise have come to suffice, in some schools, for an education in writing. Yet the Victorian Department of Education desires students to experience a ‘repertoire of possibilities’ (Myhill et al, 2016). The Australian Curriculum: English requires students to write for ‘enjoyment’, to create texts the primary purpose of which is aesthetic, and to write media texts, newspaper articles, fiction, nonfiction texts, poetry, drama, multimodal texts and imaginative texts. Instead, the pressure to write exam essays which preclude drafting, the oppressive ‘funnel’ of VCE pedagogy down the school and the fear of assessing creative work have nullified writing as thinking, writing as rhetoric and writing as play.
How do ambitious national and state English writing curricula become cookie cutter, cookbook, textbook and teacher-proof writing curriculum in schools? How do we develop school-based curriculum for writing that recognises, nurtures and rewards good writing, of all sorts, developed playfully, experimentally and in dialogue with peers, teachers and broader audiences? How can we avoid enacting neoliberal attacks on the arts, humanities and anything perceived as ‘subjective’? How do we assess diverse forms of writing? How do we resist metalanguage tickboxes and genre-based templates? This forum invites teachers, heads of department and schools to address these questions, most fundamentally, to support students to achieve their true potential as writers.
This forum also provides groundwork for future professional learning. In 2022, VATE will launch a professional learning series, Engaging with Writing in the Middle Years Classroom, responsive to the needs of teachers who wish to help students harness their voice in their creative writing pursuits. From understanding the benefits of introducing creative writing, to nurturing a writing culture, providing opportunities to write and edit creative pieces, as well as supporting teachers with the process of assessing creative writing, the series will guide teachers through the process of strengthening the creative writing culture in their contexts as well as develop their capacity to teach creative writing with confidence.
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