It’s been so great to hear from librarians and teachers who are planning to set up creative writing groups in their schools, and some of them have asked for advice about whether to make it an afterschool group or a lunchtime one.
I know some of you already have groups running so I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this.
I’m sure there are pros and cons to both. My feeling is that afterschool is maybe better because it feels like time focused on writing, whereas lunchtime is really the only break the kids get in a long school day and the only chance to chat to their friends, so it might be harder to get them to settle, and also they wouldn’t have very long.
Our group runs after school (4-6pm) so we have 2 hours, which I realise is a luxury but even an hour would work fine. I read an article recently about how shorter lunchtimes are contributing to the demise of creativity in schools because you can’t really fit a meal and a creative activity into 35 minutes. I remember in my school it generally took a good 25 of our 35 minutes to get to the top of the canteen queue.
An afterschool group can be longer and the library may be quieter and the librarian less busy or distracted than at lunchtime. But an afterschool group also has the problem of kids needing to get picked up by parents or having other afterschool activities to go to. At least at lunchtime they’ve nowhere else to be.
So, pros and cons.
I think a lunchtime group is still fine, and I do know some schools run brilliant lunchtime writing groups. If afterschool isn’t an option or you’d prefer to use lunchtime you could:
- Allow the kids to eat lunch while they write
- Make the shorter time period a feature – e.g. make it a Flash Fiction group or a Haiku group or a Postcard Story Club.
- Use a separate, quieter space/room in the library so there are fewer distractions. This might even attract kids who are looking for the quietest available space in a noisy school to let their brain unclench over lunch (I was always that kid. I am still that kid). Libraries can be really important for kids who find the busyness of school corridors and playgrounds overwhelming. I know some schools have ‘library monitors’ which, as well as being a help for the librarian, can be a safe place for the quieter kids to hang out at lunch. I think this is a brilliant idea. A writing group could add another excuse for them to hang out in the library and they’d be boosting their creativity as well!
Of course, if you want to be fancy, you could do both! Even if you have an afterschool group, you could also designate a corner of the library a permanent “Writers Corner” for anyone who wants to come at lunchtime or breaktime or free periods and just write on their own. You wouldn’t need a group leader or anything. Just a space they can use.
When you think about it, libraries only exist because writers exist, but while there are many library desks for studying and computers for researching and sofas for reading, there are never areas specially intended for the people creating the books. It came as a revelation to me as a kid to realise that books were written by actual people. And it was only a small hop from realising those people existed, to thinking maybe I could be one of them.
And how special would it make you feel to have an area of the library just for you!
So make your writers visible to the school and give them their own Writers Corners or Writers Desks or Writers Room or Writers Space or Writer in Residence and invite them to be a writer!