Writing for Academic Achievement
Studying a new language can be a daunting task. There’re so many rules to learn, as well as all that vocabulary. That’s why it’s so important to have a plan and set clear goals for academic achievement.
Creative writing has been widely studied as a way to organise your thoughts and help improve your mental health. It may also help students form a clear path from their past self to their future self, which is an important aspect of successfully reaching goals.
How it works
When we write, we’re able to tap into deep-rooted issues that are preventing us from getting ahead. This is especially true for students who are refugees or immigrants. There’s a lot of uncertainty in the minds of students who are new in a system and must learn the language to adapt to their new environment.
Offering these types of students an outlet like creating writing to express themselves could put them on a path to success. They may be able to identify (or at least a teacher can recognise) stresses or trauma that may be holding them back. Once their past is identified steps can be taken to make learning easier.
This strategy can be used with any student. Not just those facing difficulties because of traumatic life events. Any student that is able to recognise patterns in their past can make changes to succeed in the future.
You might also like: Helping your students through Metacognition techniques.
How do we use this idea in our classrooms?
Creative writing can work with any student that’s old enough to form words on a page. As teachers, we ask this of our students all the time. Getting students to write about their vacations, their ideal day and a time when they were happy for example. Asking young students to write about what they wish they could do, we might uncover a way to help them.
Ask students to write a short sentence or paragraph about something they want or need. Then ask them to explain why it’s important. Class discussions can open things up helping students understand that the things they want are similar to that of their classmates. Then, as a class, you’ll be able to discuss different ways to change the current situation and achieve future success.
For example, a student mentions that they would like their own room to do their homework in a quiet place. brainstorming other options as a class could be helpful for that student. They could listen to solutions other students have and think about how they can change their routines. They could then see a path to achieving their goals.
Likewise, using this activity with older students can bring even greater results. Teenagers and young adults are more aware of the struggles holding them back. Once they recognise the issue they can make solid plans to make changes for the future.
Talking about things as a class can be extremely helpful as well at this level. When students know that their peers are suffering in a similar way they feel a sense of relief and belonging. This can also go a long way in helping them reach academic achievement.
Jordon Peterson, of the University of Toronto, has done a lot of research on the topic of creative writing to achieve academic success and his findings are interesting, to say the least.
It seems that among the minority students studied, creating a narrative about their past and using it to shape their future, what he calls self-authoring, has had a significant impact.
Over a two year period, the minority participants were able to close the achievement gap between themselves and their majority peers a significant amount.
This can have great implications for working with ESL students and helping them reach their targets. Identifying obstacles and setting a clear path to achieve them is the best way to see results.
Too often in language classes, students are given sets of information and expected to memorise vocabulary or phrases in order to be able to build up enough language to be useful. But a lot of times there’s something standing in the way of student’s retention of the material. If we can identify what that is, as educators we can help develop a path to overcome it.
This isn’t the only strategy to improve student success but seeing what the studies are showing it’s worth a try in the classroom. You’ll at least learn a little more about your students and any attempt to help them succeed should make a difference.
Check out Jordon Peterson’s book Maps of Meaning where he asks why so many different cultures have developed similar traditions and what that says about how our minds work.