Gaining the ability of writing effectively is really hard to get but it is so important for a native speaker to assist in his both personal and academic life. Therefore, we should trigger students' writing skills as early as possible and help them reach sufficient writing skills by attracting their attention. 9th grade is the most appropriate level to start this process because 9th grade students suddenly encounter more comprehensive literary genres like novel, poem, diary, theatre, story etc. than the genres which they see at the earlier grade levels and teachers expect from them more professional writing skill but unfortunately a lot of students have problems because they think that they can't write sufficiently and avoid writing. During this process, creative writing activities are good instrument to support their writing skills by making them love writing. The aim of this study is reveal how creative writing activities affect 9th grade students' writing skills using five teachers' ideas about this issue.
When students graduate from primary school and become high school students, they are introduced with different 21 literal genres and they are required different expressions. A lot of them confront with the writing problems on Turkish lessons because teachers expect more them professional writing skills like different narrations appropriate with different literal genres, deep vocabulary, well structured sentences with conjunctions, no spelling and punctuation mistake, supporting their ideas giving suitable examples and looking from different perspectives, well structured writing plan, fluent and original expression and so on. They can't express themselves exactly and hesitate to write because they think that they have a lot of mistakes like spelling, punctuation, wrong usages of some words, planning and organization, inappropriate language usage with the narration type etc. and this hesitation can affect their attitudes toward writing activities.
To prevent this situation and make them more successful writers, we need something which can really attract their attention and creative writing activities are so useful to accomplish because writing skill can be improved by a lot of practice which is done by students enthusiastically. In this research, I will try to reveal the benefits of creative writing activities on 9th grade students' writing skills from five teachers' observations. In my paper, I will focus on these questions:
What kinds of activities do teachers use to support 9th grade students' writing skills?
What kinds of benefits do creative writing activities have on 9th grade students' writing skills?
The strict rule based writing process breaks at the end of the 1980s and process-centered writing activities which trigger students' creativity with flexible rules takes over. Therefore, all the researches about creative writing were done after 1980s, intensely in 1990s and great amount of them are new (Maltepe,?). Although, there are many academic resources about creative writing, there is limited appropriate research that gives reliable and numeric results by using valid experiments on students in Turkey about how creative writing activities are effective on students' writing progress. Authors generally mention on what is writing and what kinds of requirements it needs, the purposes of writing, general writing problems and reasons among students, history of creative writing, some types of creative writing activities and their application process and some ideas and observations about how they are effective on students' writing process.
Making students gain appropriate writing level can't manage just by imposing them some writing rules. Teachers should give them chance to use their imaginations in their writings. The main requirements to reach originality in their writings are that they perceive the world, be aware of some details of their observations and recreate these details their mind and put them in different written forms. Therefore, the creative writing activities are really useful. (AÅŸÄ±lÄ±oÄŸlu, 1993:146)
Creative writing activities help students internalize writing process, give them chance to practice at each step of the writing process, supply integral learning by using their all senses - they don't aware of that they are actually in learning process-, facilitate collaborative learning, address the different learning types, support students give examples in different writing forms and can be use in broad range of discipline art, history, music, math etc. (Maltepe,?. Cited from Böttcher, 1999)
Small research done by Bozkurt and AyyÄ±ldÄ±z mentions the general writing problems among Turkish high school students at by interviewing with 20 teachers in Van high schools and some educational faculty students from Van University in 2002. Although the observations of 20 teachers are not enough to determine detail writing problems among students, it gives an idea about the general problems. The writing problems which are given by my interviewees are also similar with these problems. According to this research the main writing problems among students can be grouped like that:
Spelling and punctuation
Suitable expression with the literal genres
There are two well-qualified research about how creative writing activities are effective on students' writing ability. First one is done by Kuvanç Kapar in 2008. The aim of the study to determine the affects of creative writing activities on students writing ability and attitudes toward Turkish lessons. To reach this aim, she use pretest and post test method on 68 5th grade students in experimental group and 68 5th grade students in control groups in Ä°zmir Buca Hüseyin Avni AteÅŸoÄŸlu Primary School in 2008. She applies 16 different types of creative writing activities to experimental group and classical writing activities to control group. For experiment group, creative writing activities are applied 2 hours a week during 12 weeks. Control group, normal writing activities are applied 2 hours a week during 12 weeks. According to findings: the big difference in the average has been seen the last test points the experiment groups got in Turkish Course Attitude Scales. The experiment group last attitude score is 94,05 but control group is 85,67, The experiment group last test success point for Turkish Course Achievement Test is 16,79 but the control group is 9,55. According to vocabulary, experiment group learned more 30 words than control group. This results shows that 16 creative writing activities which is applied to experimental group affect students writing ability and attitudes toward Turkish lessons meaningfully.
The second one is done by KoçyiÄŸit Karabay in 2004. The aim of the study to improve the writing skills of students with the help of creative writing studies formed with abilities of perception, discovery, thinking, interpreting and making synthesis and to determine their development in the process in accordance with the defined criteria. To reach this aim, they prepare a book called "My Stories". The book has three separate parts: Creativity, Writing Six Story and Deep Sight. This study is applied to 270 students from grades 4th and 5th during 21 lesson hours in one month. Students write six different stories embarking from some pictures and at the end they compose one story from six stories. Stories are assessed using both peer and teacher assessment criteria and expect students to improve their stories allowing for their feedbacks.
According to findings, students show big interest to writing stories and recover their writing problem allowing for their teachers and peers' assessments. The rubrics are so effective for students to know how they will write and plan their stories. There are some comments from students who take part in this study and all the comments are about how they enjoy this creative writing activity and they seems to be more enthusiastic to write.
Both these studies give considerable and meaningful results to show how creative writing activities are effective on students' writing ability. There is another research which is done by Maltepe in 2006 about the evaluation of writing processes and productions in Turkish lessons in terms of creative writing activities. She uses both qualitative and quantitative method. For quantitative results, she works with 85 6,7,8th grade Turkish teachers who work in BalÄ±kesir and 712 6,7,8th grade students in BalÄ±kesir. This means that she works with the all 6, 7 and 8th grade teachers and students in BalÄ±kesir. For qualitative results, she works with 266 students from the schools which is successful at the level of low, middle and high. There are a lot of results related to the sub problems of the research but the most meaningful for our research project are that the applications of the creative writing activities are not enough at the schools and interestingly, when she compare the teachers and students ideas about how the creative writing activities are applied during lessons, she notices meaningful difference. On the one hand teachers claim that they use sufficient number of creative writing activities in their lessons on the other hand students don't find the number of creative writing activities sufficient. . This shows that although the a lot of research claims that creative writing activities are so effective on students' writing progress, some schools in our country are weak in during the appropriate application of these activities. When I think about that my research is based on teachers' ideas without any student, I consider this point while I interpret my interview questions especially in their responses about how they use creative writing activities and how these activities are successful to address students' writing progress.
Interview is used as a methodology for data collection. I chose this method because a lot of literature teachers have to have life experiences on application of creative writing activities and their responses are so beneficial for me to show affects of creative writing activities on 9th grade students' writing skill. Another reason why I chose this method, to see the similar and difference perspectives of teachers about affects of creative writing activities. Because of the MEB procedures, I had difficulty to interview with enough number of teachers for this research. I have five informants. Three of them were from BLIS and I interviewed with during out of school time and not at the school. Two of them were from Bilkent University Academic Staff. One of them was the high school teacher until last year and this was also good for me because she had fresh observations about 9th grade students. Nevertheless, the number of five informants isn't enough to reach sufficient results about the research topic but when I look the responses, they are so similar to each other therefore the number of the informants can't be disadvantages for this research.
During interviews, I asked four questions which support my research questions. I avoided yes/no questions because I wanted to learn them deep observations about effects of creative writing activities on students' writing skill. I also asked some supporting questions when they had difficulty to respond. During my analysis, I focused on the similar and different responses from these questions:
What kinds of writing problems are there among 9th grade students?
What kinds of creative writing activities do you use to improve students' writing skill?
What are the affects of creative writing activities on students' writing skill?
What kinds of problems could occur during the application of creative writing activities?
First question is related to writing problems. The responses are sufficient. All five interviewees agree with the same writing problems among 9th grade students but there are some different responses from BLIS teacher because the school is international and some students have really serious problem about Turkish. One of the interviewee mentions that:
"During the primary and secondary years, we fulfill the students with a lot of grammatical knowledge but when they get 9th grade, we expect them to apply their knowledge in their writing more professionally. But unfortunately, most of them become unsuccessful during the application process and began to hesitate writing activities because they didn't have enough experience on writing in different forms beside theoretical knowledge in the primary and secondary years. So that, we confront with a lot of writing problems among 9th grade students." (02.04.10, Translated by B.Åž.)
The responses can be grouped like that:
All interviewees agree with the problems about organizing ideas. They say that they usually think a lot of things but they can't organize their ideas in a written form. They seems so complicated before they write. Because they can't organize their ideas, they can't conclude their ideas, start to feel anxiety and can't use the writing time affectively.
Constructing writing plan
Because they are weak in organizing ideas, they have difficulty while they are constructing their writing plan. They know the theoretical information about the rules for introduction, body and conclusion but they have problems during the application process. They tend to jump from one idea to another without meaningful transitions.
Interviewees complain about that students don't have deep vocabulary, they use simple words. This situation also affects their writings. BLIS teachers also mention that because their students more tend to speak English, they can't find Turkish words beside English one and they have also very weak Turkish vocabulary. Sometimes, they use some English words in their writings and this is very bad situation.
All the interviewees mention that students usually construct simple and short sentences. Or some of them try to construct long sentences but not become so successful. BLIS teacher mention that because of the English affects, students construct some sentences considering English beside Turkish syntax.
All interviewees mention that students can't support their ideas by giving appropriate examples, looking from different perspectives, giving place some masters' ideas by paraphrasing or using some quotations. Some of them are not aware of the importance of plagiarism and this also big problem for teachers.
Requirements and rules of literal genres
9th grade students are introduced with 21 different literal genres as previously mentioned. Interviewees say that students usually can't express themselves in different literal genres. They know theoretical information about the genres but they can't apply their knowledge.
Spelling & Punctuation
All the interviewees strongly agree with the problems with spelling and punctuation. Students have so many spelling and punctuation mistakes in their writings. Sometimes, they spell some word like how they use in speaking. For example, they write "yapÄ±yom" besides "yapÄ±yorum" or " yapcam" beside "yapacaÄŸÄ±m" BLIS teacher also mention that some students use the "w" beside "v" or they don't know how they write some Turkish words.
Using some idioms and proverbs
All the interviewees say that a lot of students don't know sufficient number of idioms or proverbs and that's why they can't support their writing. Especially, BLIS students are again weaker because of the English affects. They sometime have difficulty to understand the metaphorical meanings of idioms.
Second question is about the creative writing activities which are used by them. Unfortunately, interviewees couldn't give me sufficient responses. They talked about the activities which they used generally. All of them focus on that they can't limit the activities which they use. But the most important point is that all of them mention that they use creativity as a tool to increase students' motivation. They give them freedom which is based on some rules. For example, if they write an essay, they should use their creativity sonciderinf the rules of essay genre.
There are a lot of creative writing activities allowing their purposes. For example, one the interviewee from BLIS emphasizes that:
"We usually consider the IGSE expectations while applying creative writing activities. IGSE asks us to introduce students with the different kinds of genres as possible as, therefore we focus on the activities which force them write considering different genres. For example, we make them listen a music, organize a brainstorming and ask them write their own story. Or we give some information related to a restaurant and ask them its advertisement text using this information. Sometimes, we give a word list and ask them to write something using all these words, this activity is for students who have difficulty to find Turkish words besides English one."
But we can group these activities allowing their purposes and analysis the responses more meaningfully like that (Maltepe,?. Cited from Böttcher,1999):
1. Concurrence Method: Brains storming is a kind of activity which is used by all interviewees at the beginning of the writing process in this section.
2. Writing Games: None of the interviewees mention writing games but BLIS teacher say that sometimes they use word puzzle to make students comprehend some literal terms in literature lesson but not for writing activities.
3. Writing on Considering some Rules & Method: Only BLIS teachers mention this kind of activities. They say that they prepare a word list which is consist of the Turkish words which the students don't know or have difficulty to understand their meanings and ask them to write something by using each word from the list. Therefore, students enrich their Turkish vocabulary.
4. Writing on Considering Literary Genres: An interviewee from Ã-BL mentions the some newspaper activities which force them write considering different genres like news, essay, column, poem, story and etc. and also she emphasizes the importance of the creative writing workshops in terms of support students' writing level. BLIS teachers also mentions transformation activities between genres like transferring a story to poem etc.
5. Stimulating Writings: All interviewees say that they use any kind of material like music, videos, pictures, photos etc. to stimulate students during the creative writing process.
Third question is totally related to my topic: how do creative writing activities effect students' writing progress. For this question, all interviewees agree that if activities are organized and applied well, the problems which mentioned in the first questions decrease in time. One of the interviewee claims that:
"Because creative writing activities increase the students' motivation to the writing activities by triggering their creativity and giving them freedom on their writing, we can see meaningful writing progression among students and the problems which we confront at the beginning of the term are decreasing in time but we shouldn't expect them immediate progressions, they need time and guidance by teachers. Usually I give very detailed individual feedback to my students and record their mistakes. If some of them don't try to recover their mistakes, I arrange a meeting with them and inform about that if they continue this, I will decrease their grades. This method works on considerable number of students and they both recover their writing problems and reach the appropriate level of writing skill."
Through these activities, interviewees also mentions that students gain to ability of using their language more powerful, thinking from different perspective and finding examples which support their thesis. Moreover, because teacher gives them a chance to improve a thesis during creative writing activities, they learn to develop original ideas.
Considering on all responses, benefits of creative writing activities on students' writing activities can be summarized like that
Students internalize writing process.
They have a chance to do practice on each writing step.
They have freedom and create original texts.
They can work with groups.
Creative writing activities address different learning types and decrease writing problems.
Forth question is about the some possible problems which can occur during the application of creative writing activities. In fact, interviewees couldn't give detailed example but they generally mentioned some problems could occur during the preparation, application and evaluation processes. Planning and preparation process is so important and any kind of deficiency occurs in this process effects whole activity. According to responses, tasks and expectations should be defined clearly. During the application process, some students hesitate to write something. Teacher should find some ways which incorporate the student to the activity. Finally, the evaluation plays a important role during the progression of writing process. Teacher should give detailed feedback about his mistakes with some suggestions to improve his writings. He also should record these mistakes and follow each students' progression considering his own progression scale. If teacher can't do these steps, a lot of problems can occur and creative writing activities become meaningless and not address to students' writing progress.
Focusing on interview responses, there are some planning writing structure, organizing and supporting ideas, vocabulary, spelling and punctuation, well structured sentence and appropriate expression with the literal genres problems among 9th grade students. Sometimes the reason of the problems can be different like BLIS students have because of the English affects. All the interviewees find the creative writing activities helpful to recover these writing problems and apply these activities to their students considering their writing problems by using creativity as a tool. Therefore, they increase students' motivation and make them love writing process.
There are so many creative writing activities which are applied by the teachers. Although responses are general and not detailed, they mostly apply the activities about the literal genres like advertisement text, newspaper activity, transferring the story in a poem etc. But especially BLIS teachers also apply some activities considering on some rules and methods which enrich students' Turkish vocabularies. An interviewee from Ã-BL offers creative writing workshops for the students who have serious writing problems.
The most important affect of the creative writing activities is that student internalize the writing process while they are enjoying. Students internalize writing process. They have a chance to do practice on each writing step. Because they have freedom, they create more original texts. During application of creative writing activities, they have chance to work with groups. They share their ideas and trigger their creativity. Creative writing activities address different learning types and decrease writing problems. Teacher can design any kind of activity considering his students learning types, using some music, photos, pictures, films etc.
The responses related to question about any problems can occur during creative writing activities are not sufficient. But preparation, application and evaluation process have the same importance. If teacher does any mistake in a process, this mistake effects whole processes and activity become meaningless. While the Ã-BL teacher mostly emphasizes the preparation process, BLIS teachers mostly focus on the importance of evaluation process. If a teacher can't monitor students' progress and mistakes with detailed feedback after activities, the purpose of the activities becomes unsuccessful. One of them from BLIS teachers especially focus on the importance of the precautions considering the any possible problem which can occur during the application of creative writing activities.
Finally, we shouldn't forget that the methodology of this research is based on just 5 teachers' observations -one of them was a high school teacher many years ago- This number isn't enough to reach exact results. I also couldn't have chance to interview with the students because of the MEB procedures. This is a big deficiency in terms of the evaluation of the responses from just teachers' perspective. To reach the more reliable and accurate results, we need more researches which have both quantitative and qualitative result like Maltepe and Kapar did. Nevertheless, the 5 teachers' responses guide us to have an idea about how creative writing activities are effective on 9th grade students' writing progression.