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Teaching Literary and Creative Writing in Hospital Settings

This is the first part in a monthly series written by NCTE member Mindy Daniels.

MindyDanielsWhile those of us teaching in hospitals are a relatively small group of teachers, we are nevertheless mandated to meet students’ needs the same as instructors teaching in conventional classrooms are. The biggest challenges, especially for those teaching in acute hospital settings, are that our students may be enrolled for one day to thirty days; our class sizes can vary from one child to ten or eleven; since students are discharged and new ones admitted daily, we as teachers cannot prepare extended lesson plans. Notwithstanding these exigencies, hospital teachers want and need to teach viable lessons that genuinely benefit, engage, and academically advance their students. Therein lies the rub and the purpose for this blog post.

For the past sixteen years I have learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t work with hospitalized students of diverse SES backgrounds, learning abilities, and motivation, with mental health issues that necessitated they be admitted to an acute treatment facility for one to thirty days. The purpose of my blog posts will be to share the numerous “one-day,” authentic, hands-on lessons I have compiled from researchers and experience that engage students educationally and emotionally.

Though brief, these monthly lessons are designed to enhance students’ broad academic and critical thinking skills by teaching them such strategies as how to use vivid, descriptive language in their prose and poetry and to use active rather than passive voice. Since the lessons focus primarily on writing, students learn requisite technical skills that include vocabulary, spelling, punctuation, etc., as well as creative writing techniques. Finally, because as a teacher I must be an active writer/modeler, I too find myself exploring and enhancing my personal creativity. Please join me in an active discussion designed to uncover and discover students’ tacit creative ability via nonthreatening oral and written lessons.

Mindy Daniels has a PhD in instructional leadership. For the last sixteen years she has taught in the children’s psychiatric hospital at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond. She is also the author of poetry and of a historical novel.