The classroom is silent. Students are writing alone. They are sitting on chairs,  using only pen and paper. The teacher directed the task and everyone is working alone. This might seem like a prescriptive, teacher-directed activity lacking in creativity but a lot more is going on than meets the eye. Students are actively engaged in an activity that has multiple learning, personal and mental health benefits.

Traditional teaching methods shouldn’t be overlooked.  With the rise of technological gadgets, the use of numerous educational apps, and the focus on student-centred learning, allowing students to express themselves through creating writing exercises is beneficial to the student and the educator.

While recently doing online training as part of my global assistant examiner role for secondary school examinations, I had to complete an online training course about safe-guarding issues that focused on the physical, mental or emotional well-being of an individual. At a first glance, I wasn’t aware of the issues that could arise for students when doing examinations. I started to understand the importance of writing as a vehicle for understanding the well-being of students.   .   

Creative writing provides an important outlet for individuals. Students may use writing time as an outlet for stress relief or to express aspects of themselves including their feelings, thoughts, and experiences. Helping students to understand their journey in life and create the narrative for their personal storytelling is an important life skill. I strongly believe our most important writers and creative thinkers were given opportunities to express themselves in unstructured, non-threatening environments. Creating the conditions for personal, creative, and academic growth provides students with the skills and strategies to become resilient individuals. 

As Intermountain Healthcare stated in 2018 “ expressive writing can help to relieve stress, boost immune systems, elevate moods, keep memories sharp and improve emotional health.  The infusion of creative writing opportunities can have great benefits.

I recently assessed an exam completed by high school students. They had to simply read a passage and answer open and closed questions. The open question was very basic. It read as follows: 

Are video games good or bad for our health? 

Students were required to justify their answer after deciding which side they agreed with. Some of their answers are below:

  • Computer games are my friend and I play them when I feel lonely.
  • When I am depressed I like to play computer games.
  • I get really bored then computer games make me happy.

With regards to the above answers, it was clear that the use of electronic devices is important for students, providing much needed stress relief and a sense of connection and community. It allows us to get to know our students better and also encourage them to see writing as an important tool for expression.Balancing the reality of the world we live in today with pen and paper exercises/activities is important. After reading this I would simply encourage students to get outdoors and exercise; do things they enjoy. It simply requires the teacher to acknowledge some unhealthy habits and then to provide recommendations or promote healthy habits.

If you are home schooling in a self- isolating environment, do not be afraid to try traditional methods of learning. It is okay to take away the E for a day.

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