March 16, 2022
Building Skills and Community in Writing Club
Hopkins students mentor the next generation of creative writers
Why are similes and metaphors useful in creative writing?
“You get to share more feeling,” says Jordan, a fifth-grader at Furman L. Templeton Preparatory Academy. “I can express my imagination.”
Jordan is a member of Furman Templeton’s burgeoning writing club which, after launching through distance learning in the 2020-2021 school year, has grown from 10 members to 34. Every week, the club members come together to flex their creative muscles by writing short stories, poems, song lyrics, and acrostics — and engaging in brainstorming exercises that spark their imaginations.
“The students just love it,” says Kathy Benton, the school’s Intervention Coordinator. “They’re constantly asking, ‘When’s our next writing club?’ Writing is a point of difficulty for many of our students, and the club gives them the opportunity to formulate and fully explain their thoughts.”
Furman Templeton is the latest city school to partner with the nonprofit Writers in Baltimore Schools (WBS) to launch a writing club. Founded in 2008, WBS reaches 140 City Schools students annually with in-school, after-school, and summer creative writing experiences.
“Not only does creative writing bolster literacy, but there’s a strong social and emotional learning component that comes with self-expression and sharing your work with others,” says Patrice Hutton, Founder and Executive Director. “When students express themselves through the written word, they become more invested in reading and writing, and that’s crucial for academic success and lifelong learning.”
Key to WBS’s efforts to bring writing clubs to more city schools is expanding its roster of instructors. For Patrice, a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, a partnership with the schools’ creative writing program was an ideal way to cultivate talented instructors.
Since 2019, the course “Teaching Writing in Baltimore Schools” — prepares undergraduate students with the skills to become instructors at writing clubs and matches them with schools.
When they’re not studying for their degrees, junior roommates Valentina Popeil and Genesis Aire spend their time at Furman Templeton leading the writing club and serving as mentors, cheerleaders, and instructors,
“I’d heard great things about the class and writing clubs from other students in the creative writing program, so once it was possible to go into schools in-person, I jumped at the chance,” says Genesis. “The students are always excited to get into our activities. There’s a freedom for them. Valentina and I make it clear that we aren’t authority figures.”
“In fifth grade, students are still developing their writing and learning how to be comfortable with their voice,” says Valentina. “Depending on a student’s interest, whether it’s music or nonfiction, or anything else, we try to adapt the curriculum to fit their needs. It’s a place for students to try out new ways to express themselves. There are no grades. It’s an inviting space.”
With a successful club launched at the elementary school level, more students can cultivate their creative writing talents at a younger age.
“I just really like writing stories and songs,” says Raymond, a fifth-grader. “Sometimes when I have dreams, I like to make stories about them. Writing club is a good opportunity to get better at that. They give us activities to sharpen our skills. I’m glad I joined.”
To learn about the other programs offered by Writers in Baltimore Schools, including the Young Writers Studio camp, visit: http://writersinbaltimoreschools.org/