Seventh-graders at Edison Intermediate/Larson Middle School don’t need any urging to write.
All the members of the school’s creative-writing club need is a prompt.
The club meets each Friday during the school’s Students Taking Advantage of Resources period.
The STAR initiative integrates intervention and enrichment into the school day.
“A lot of my students love to read, and writing is an extension of that,” said seventh-grade language arts teacher Carl Acton.
Acton said he created the writing club to give seventh-graders “the opportunity to hone their skills as creative, expressive writers.”
The program replaces the Power of the Pen program at the school.
About 25 students regularly attend the writing club’s sessions, representing almost one-third of the seventh-grade class, Acton said.
“Seventh grade is a perfect time for a creative-writing program,” he said, as the writing curriculum involves students sharpening their narrative writing skills, including plot development, using descriptive and figurative language and adding detail.
The club is directed by Marble Cliff resident Christina Mattingly, an Edison/Larson parent whose older children participated in Power in the Pen, as well as writer Gwynyth Mislin of Upper Arlington.
“We both go to the Thurber House together and think they have such wonderful programs for young writers,” Mattingly said. “It’s important to inspire students to aspire to be creative writers. That’s what the creative-writing club is about.”
Students need encouragement to explore their creativity, Mislin said.
“What’s so impressive to me is the passion and dedication they bring to our writing sessions,” she said. “They’re just looking for some time to be able to write and express themselves.”
During each session, students are given prompts and can choose their own writing format to respond.
“It can be poetry or rap, fiction or nonfiction, narrative or experimental – it’s all up to them,” Mislin said.
On a recent Friday, Mislin and Mattingly showed students a portrait of an anonymous woman. Students were asked to come up with their own interpretation of who the woman might be just by viewing her face.
The writing club gives students a chance to stretch their writing skills in a less-restrictive way than in the classroom, seventh-grader Norah Taylor said.
“In a class assignment, there may be a certain way you’re being asked to write,” she said. “Here, we’re just given a prompt and we can take it anywhere we want. We get to choose.”
Beau Mattingly said he likes to use the writing exercises as a way to live vicariously through the characters he creates.
“I can create new times and places and it’s like a way I can do things I would love to do by having my characters do them,” he said.
“I love to read and this is a way to improve my writing skills.”
Bella Reed said she enjoys the chance to express herself through her writing.
“It gives me a way to talk about controversial topics in the format I want,” she said. “That’s the fun part of writing – it gives you an outlet to express who you are and what you feel about things.”
One of the benefits of the writing club is that students are getting more comfortable sharing their writing with their peers, Acton said.
“Everyone is supportive of each other in the club,” he said, “so students who were shy about their writing are more at ease reading their work to the other students or having other students read it.”
Each student will choose their favorite piece of writing for a journal the creative-writing club will publish at the end of the school year, Acton said.
On Feb. 23, Columbus writer Ruth Emmie Lang, author of the novel “Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance,” visited the school for a Q-and-A session with the club. She also spoke to the entire seventh-grade class.