Writing for well-being in schools

At a recent workshop for a writing group in a Dorset village, I presented the task of ‘free-writing’ (see blog: ‘Silencing the Inner Critic’, June 2017). This exercise is a bit like limbering up before a work-out, designed to get the creative juices flowing. Participants are asked to ‘just write’, non-stop for around 5 minutes, without thinking too much, or pausing – which can allow the inner judgemental critic to jump in, assessing what’s being written, and spoiling chances of a more intuitive ‘free-flow’ of what might lie just under the surface and be itching to spill out onto the page.

An ex secondary-school English teacher shared a very interesting story: that they used to use this technique at the start of lessons, with pupils. And it had the striking effect of calming disruptive behaviour down, allowing students to work in a quieter, more focused way. Such was the success of this technique that teachers from other subjects across the board, such as Maths, went on to succesfully adopt the process.

Of great importance is the confidentiality aspect of this exercise: a waste-paper bin was passed around at the end to collect the scrunched up pieces of paper, but nowadays this could perhaps work in the form of a class shredder!

Writing on the page in black and white really does have a calming and clarifying effect, allowing the mind to process any thoughts or feelings that may sit just on the periphery of awareness, ready to clear mental head-space for focussing more sharply on the task ahead.

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