‘Celebrating Stories’ is an initiative that started in 2019. It encompasses both in-person, and virtual activities that promote the use of creative writing as a means of enhancing expression, developing understanding, and encouraging enterprising/inventive behaviours.
At its core ‘Celebrating Stories’ is a creative writing programme. However, from regular school visits, it was found that children in upper primary school (or ‘elementary school’ in some areas) often demonstrate considerable interest in the practical aspects of publishing. To encourage and build on this interest Celebrating Stories includes a comprehensive enterprise component.
Beyond a simple Literacy task
Not only do children write stories; they are encouraged to develop these stories and hone them into something that can be published or exhibited within the school environment. For many children, this may be their first direct experience of a young-enterprise activity and the curriculum areas covered stretch far outwith those typically dealt with in a simple writing activity.
There are positions within this activity for children to thrive regardless of their skillset. If writing isn’t their thing, then there are multiple roles that could suit them better. ‘Celebrating Stories’ aims to show children that the diversity of their interests and skill set is not a bad thing and that it can instead help in exciting and unforeseen ways.
A Healthy Habit
As with any skill, practice makes perfect. Regular writing will make you a better writer. However, there are considerable mental-health benefits to be found in allowing your subconscious to stretch a little in an imaginative setting. It allows us to create a narrative that we have control over and is a fantastic way for people to process difficult emotions. (See this post by the University of Kent, which provides links to various studies detailing the mental health benefits of writing)
Good for Your School Career
First and foremost, regular attention to a psychologically beneficial activity will undoubtedly help in many unforeseen ways. However, creative writing is also known to specifically assist students in harbouring and developing a growth mindset towards their learning. The somewhat low-risk components of storytelling allow pupils to recognise their development and see areas that could improve without failure feeling like a bad thing. (After all, it’s just a story)
Writing about struggles in sports or academic learning has been seen to help students process complex feelings and develop greater resilience as a result. This article from The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley details multiple ways in which creative writing can enable pupils to develop a growth mindset.
Good For Your Post-School Career
Looking ahead to their life after school, there can be clear tangible benefits to a young person developing the habit of writing regularly. Journalling and other regular writing behaviours have been found to offer psychological benefits that lead to tangible increases in an individual’s chance of finding employment. In just one example, a study on a group of professionals looking for work found a more than three-fold increase in full-time employment between those who journaled and those who didn’t. By the end of an eight-month period of job searching, 53% of the journalling individuals were employed full time, as opposed to 14% full-time employment in those who didn’t journal.
One can only speculate, but this study seems to offer up the idea that a clear understanding of one’s experiences and goals will help in the pursuit of the right positions. Considering the increase in emotional wellbeing described above, we could also hypothesise that more emotional stability might also make an individual more attractive to prospective employers.
Benefits in the Here and Now
For the pupils
Even ignoring the long-term benefits of a writing habit, we can still see the benefit of a programme like ‘Celebrating Stories’ in a school environment. There is a remarkable breadth of skills required for a class-level project like the publication of a book of short stories, or the exhibition of a collection of poems, or whatever other creative writing projects the class settles on. This offers a teacher the opportunity to engage in new ways with pupils who might otherwise be hard to reach.
The coming together of so many different skills and ideas is a great way for a new class to bond as well. Rather than being grouped by ability, pupils are grouped by the role they play in the final project. This allows pupils to interact with each other in new ways and develop new working relationships with their classmates.
For the Teacher
From the teacher’s perspective, there are a number of ways in which a ‘Celebrating Stories’ activity might lighten their workload. The degree of usefulness will depend on which of many ways they choose to engage with ‘Celebrating Stories’.
There’s a ‘Celebrating Stories’ website where pupils can upload their own stories and comment on each other’s work. This offers a very open approach to writing, providing a venue for regular writing activities that should help build the habit of writing for them.
There are also a couple of set courses available for teachers. These have been designed to meet learning criteria drawn from the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence and should also map fairly comfortably onto other curricula. The core skills revolve around Literacy, Design, Computing, and community engagement, but there are more activities involved in these projects as well. These courses are free to use but they are also unsupervised so the bulk of the organisational and evaluative work will fall on the teacher.
There is also the opportunity for more closely supervised ‘Celebrating Stories’ activities. This supervision can take the form of physical visits or virtual support from author John Bray. John is not a qualified teacher but his skillset should offer teachers access to insights on the writing, editing, publishing, and publicity components of the activities. The degree of supervision can be tailored to a teacher’s (or school’s) requirements so please get in touch for details about pricing and availability.