I taught the course of Creative Writing TSLB3252 to 47 TESL pre-service teachers from the U Unit, which consisted of U5, U6 and U7. They were placed at their fourth semester of the 4-year Bachelor of Teaching programme at the Institute of Teacher Education Ipoh Campus, Malaysia in 2021. The inclusion of this wonderful course in the degree programme provided all pre-service teachers opportunities to produce creative writing entries. As a kick off, I created the Creative Writing TSLB3252 Google Classroom, one for each of the classes. An example of the Google Classroom that I created for U6 (see Figure 1) is as below:
Figure 1: U6 Creative Writing TSLB3252 Google Classroom
At times of COVID-19 pandemic, Google Classroom has replaced the normal face-to-face classroom interaction in many educational settings. This happened to my classes with the three classes of pre-service teachers too. Important topics included in Creative Writing TSLB3252 Google Classroom are as such:
- Course General Guidelines
- Main References
- Other References
- Coursework/Continuous Assessment
- Week 1 to Week 15
Pre-service teachers turned in the attendance of the day online. The materials prepared for the particular lesson were uploaded in PPT Slides section. Tutorial task for the respective weeks were also prepared for pre-service teachers to work on, either individually or as a group work task. The consistency in the layout of the weeks and tasks eased pre-service teachers in attending synchronous classes, turning in their attendance, obtaining materials and completing tutorial tasks assigned to them throughout the whole semester (see Figure 2).
Figure 2: A Part of the 15 Weeks of Classes
Pre-service teachers wrote different types of creative writing entries throughout the 15 weeks. The creative writing entries included flash fictions, short stories for young learners, poems (e.g., concrete poems, haikus, free verse, “Sad I Ams” versions and acrostic poems), memoirs, blogs and e-books. The course provided a stepping-stone for pre-service teachers to embark on their writing journey; they wrote different genres of creative writing, they identified their voices in their writing and they partook the writing process to reach the final written products. It was a wonderful discovery for all; when the writing process was done adequately, the final products turned out to be big surprises for all. This was in line with Flower and Hayes’ (1981) notion on writing (see Figure 3), which included three main cognitive processes of planning, translating and reviewing, in which pre-service teachers experienced when they wrote on and throughout the whole semester to produce different types of creative writing entries.
Figure 3: Flower and Hayes’ (1981) Structure of the Writing Model
It was worth noting that all pre-service teachers worked together, exhibited energy and were enthusiastic about the course and the creation of various creative writing entries. As a result, “Colours of Life: A Book of Short Stories” was published, which was a successful compilation of all short stories. Apart from writing the short stories, pre-service teachers also designed their own illustrations to represent the main characters found in their short stories. Many thanks to the wonderful sharing of Jeff Kortenbosch in his Youtube channel (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o7VwDCe0r44) and for the free illustrated characters’ moulds in which pre-service teachers used as the base for their characters’ creation. Some of the illustrations (see Figure 4) created by pre-service teachers are as such:
Figure 4: Three Characters Created by Pre-Service Teachers
I also designed the cover for the e-book (see Figure 5), it consisted of a stainless-steel bowl full of colourful sweets and the reflections cast on the stainless steel bowl made it looked more special. The collection of short stories penned by pre-service teachers, lecturers as well as invited national and international writers, was “colourful”. Genres such as fantasy, adventure, romance, modern, mystery, horror, thriller and others were represented in the work. As a result, “Colours of Life: A Book of Short Stories” emerged as a collection of all short stories. The short stories in this collection demonstrated the pre-service teachers, as well as lecturers and all national and international writers’ wide interests and abilities in constructing creative writing entries for readers of different age. To promote the book, a promotional poster (see Figure 6) was designed by Madam Hadzrawiah Binti Abu Kasim, a senior lecturer of English Studies Unit, Language Department at the Institute of Teacher Education Ipoh Campus.
Figure 5: Cover for Colours of Life: A Book of Short Stories
Figure 6: Promotional Poster of Colours of Life: A Book of Short Stories
Pre-service teachers produced wonderful short stories, which are compiled as an e-book. As one example, Chin Tze Yie wrote the narrative of “Life of A Young Woman” (see Figure 7), which can also be found at http://jb.ipgki.my/2022/04/blog-post_23.html.
Figure 7: Life of A Young Woman by Chin Tze Yie
To further explain, the short story started with a captivating introduction to the protagonist named Lang. Chin Tze Yie included a generous number of adjectives (e.g., cool, dry, coarse, sweat-slicked, backbreaking and work-tensed) to vividly gain the readers’ attention. She wrote her short story in paragraph form and there were altogether six paragraphs. She included some rich vocabulary in phrases such as “Lang had scoffed and stomped away when he whistled at her” and “...she gripped her daughter’s tiny hand in her calloused one”. She used different senses such as sight (...his clothes were unkempt with sweat stains), touch (...tears were running down her calm expression) and hearing (...and the winds blew unforgivingly) to successfully capture the readers’ attention.
The plot structure was intriguing, with events moving from the present to the past and then back to the present, indicating the presence of flashback in the short story. The short ended with the inculcation of moral value. Apart from relating to the readers that it was a painful moment for Lang as she suffered the loss of a loved one (i.e., her husband, Wong), it was more important to continue leading life and to persevere, especially for the sake of her loved one too, whom was still living on in this world and in her life. Apart from “Life of A Young Woman”, each short story included in the compilation is unique and worth a read too.
To conclude, the writing journey was a stepping-stone for all pre-service teachers (see Figure 8) to get along with the world of writing and publishing short stories as an e-book. In times of COVID-19 epidemic, the combination of digital technologies and process writing appeared to be the ideal option for pre-service teachers to overcome the problems of producing creative writing entries. This initial exposure would pave the way for pre-service teachers to be more engaged in writing and publishing short stories as an e-book in the future.
Figure 8: TESL Pre-Service Teachers of U5, U6 and U7 at Institute of Teacher Education Ipoh Campus
Flower, L., & Hayes. J. R. (1981). Plans that guide the composing process. In C. H. Frederiksen, & J. F. Dominic (Eds.), Writing: The nature, development, and teaching of written communication. vol. 2, Writing: Process, development and communication (pp. 39-58). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
Article written by:
Kee Li Li, PhD
Institute of Teacher Education Malaysia Ipoh Campus,
31150 Hulu Kinta, Perak Darul Ridzuan, Malaysia