I'm a big fan of using music to develop creative writing skills in class. Of course, you need students to participate with enthusiasm. Once you've convinced students that this will help their writing skills - and it's not always difficult - they'll find using music to inspire creative writing an enjoyable and profitable experience. I personally enjoy using bits of classical music to inspire students to write short descriptive paragraphs. The drawback to using classical music is that not every student feels very connected to this kind of music. If you're having problems getting results with classical music, any kind of music will do.
Aim: Improve creative and descriptive writing skills
Activity: Using music as inspiration for written assignments
Level: Intermediate to advanced
- Before the lesson, choose an excerpt of music and write a short descriptive paragraph to describe what you imagine via the music. For example, listening to the third movement of Chopin's Op. 35, no 2. (the "Funeral March") could easily conjure up a description of a somber procession through the streets of Paris.
- Introduce students to the idea of using music as inspiration for creative writing. This article on using music in the ESL classroom takes a closer look at the practice.
- Play the excerpt in class. There is no need to play the entire piece, one minute or so should suffice. Either write your paragraph on the board, or pass out a copy. It's important that students can read what you have written so that they'll have something on which to base their own work.
- Have students break up into small groups. Three or four students is usually best.
- Play the excerpt again and ask students to write up their own interpretation in the small group. Make sure to stress that students shouldn't copy what you have provided, but use it as a reference point to get started.
- Ask students to select a short piece in their groups. Request that one student be responsible for bringing in the piece to the next lesson.
- As homework, have each student from the group write a descriptive paragraph based on the short selection they have chosen.
- Have students get back into their small groups and compare their various paragraphs in the next lesson. Circulate about the room helping students with any writing issues they may have.