At the end of May I took a step in a new direction and held a workshop on Creative Writing for mental health, as I mentioned in my previous post on this topic.
I thought it would be nice to share how the workshop went, and a bit of information on the content I used for my lesson plan for the workshop, so if anyone else is interested in doing a workshop you could use this as a starting point for planning your own class…
Before the event I prepared a lesson plan. Planning your workshop is important, you need to know you have enough activities to fill the time, and enough variety to make it interesting and worthwhile. Having mental health as a theme helped, but you could choose a different theme and tailor your activities to suit the theme. That said, it was hard to decide what to include and how long to allow for each activity, not having done a session like this before. I had a two-hour session booked so I needed to ensure there would be enough to fill the time without overdoing it or running out of things to do. I wanted to ensure the focus was on mental health, but in an indirect way, so that it was not triggering for participants who may have mental health problems. I chose four writing activities, allowing time at the beginning and end of the session for introductions and feedback.
To choose what exercises to teach I thought about different courses I have attended in the past, did some research online and then adapted things to make it my own. It’s important not to just copy things others have done (copyright and all that) but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from what you have experienced before. If you are going to use material from other sources, check if you are allowed to do so, ask permission if necessary, and always quote your sources so the original author gets the credit.
I purchased a small notebook and pen to give to each attendee, along with a pack of handouts for the exercises we would be doing.
The lesson plan looked a bit like this, I haven’t given full details of the exercises so you can use this to come up with your own:
Creative Writing for Mental Health – A Lesson Plan
Welcome, introductions – Including a little explanation as to the benefits of creative writing as a therapeutic tool for mental health, from my own experience.
Warm up – For my warm up I introduced a little bit of a Pilates warm up and a mindfulness relaxation exercise to get the participants into a relaxed and comfortable state to focus on writing.
Warm-up writing exercise – A free writing exercise
Exploring emotions in writing exercise – using an emotions handout, participants were asked to choose an emotion and ‘show’ a character experiencing this emotion, then we would try to guess which emotion they had written about.
Mindful writing exercise – in this exercise participants were asked think about an experience they have had (good or bad), I gave first day at school/a new job as examples, and to use what they had learnt from the emotions exercise to transfer that experience to a character rather than describing it from their own viewpoint.
Using a writing prompt – After explaining a bit about prompts and the many varied sources for them, each participant was given a postcard as prompt to write. I suggested they imagine this postcard replaced the page torn out of a book and they were to write that page.
Closing task – a mindfulness exercise handout to takeaway with a mindfulness breathing exercise and writing exercise.
Feedback – each participant was given a feedback form to complete and asked if they would be interested in attending a full course should I be in a position to offer one in future.
(c) SLGrigg 2018 – you are welcome to adapt this lesson plan for your own workshop
The centre at which I taught the workshop had a maximum capacity of 10 for the class. Unfortunately two people had cancelled, so there were just six in attendance.
The session worked well, everyone seemed to really enjoy it. The feedback I received was really positive, each person was keen for me to run a full course in future. I had timed everything just right (from the feedback received) allowing just enough time for each activity, without it being too long that they got bored. Each activity also gave them something to take away and expand on should they wish to do so.
In addition to being a good session for the participants it was also really good for me, it was a huge boost to my self-confidence and self-belief to be able to run a successful workshop that included topics very close and personal to me that would also help others.
I had an opportunity to talk a little about my own journey, from writing about my own mental health through to self-publishing. I took a few copies of my book and signed them for those that wanted to purchase a copy on the day.
As it was such a success I would definitely like to do more workshops, I could run the same one again in other venues for different groups. I have also looked into registering as a tutor with the local adult education scheme (as I do have a teaching qualification too). Now, I need to work on planning a course worth of lesson plans, so that I have the material ready should I get the opportunity to run a full course.
Have you taught a creative writing workshop?
What sources did you use to find material?
Have you shared your lesson plan to help others?