|Creative Writing Projects for Heterogeneous High School Classes
By Leslie Cohen
Given at the ETAI Conference – January 2, 2002
a. creative writing allows students to use written language for their own
b. creative writing projects focus students’ attention on practicing the
writing skill (classified as the domain of presentation in the new
c. creative writing projects are ideal for heterogeneous classes, as each
student can do the assignment(s) at the level at which s/he functions best.
Name of activity: Brief description: Skills practiced:
The sun, the moon, and the stars
What would I be
if I weren’t me?
(an object, an animal, a color, a sound, a place)
A chronological order essay
1. Projects based on the textbook (may be adapted from any textbook)
2. Independent projects:
The simplest projects start out by using pictures.
For this project, teachers must have a collection of pictures showing a
person dressed in work clothes distinctive to a certain profession, or
involved in performing a specific work task. The student’s task is to write
about the daily schedule of the person in the picture. This can be done
through a list of sentences in the present simple (“He works in a bank. He
goes to work at 8:30 every morning,” etc.) or through more complex sentences
which form a paragraph (“This man is a bank clerk. He wears a suit to work
every day. He arrives at work by 8:30, in order to be ready to greet the
public at 9 o’clock when the bank opens,” etc.)
When students have completed the task, the teacher collects the pictures
(mounted on heavy colored paper) and the compositions, and organizes them
into a binder which the students may borrow or read in class.
Other possibilities include working with:
a. folk tales
b. family matters
c. picture stories
d. community stories
Kibbutz Ein Hashofet
The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars
by Leslie Cohen
This college writing project was an outgrowth of a creative writing activity
that I used for many years in teaching sixth grade English (see attached).
Since it is intrinsically interesting for any age group, I have adapted it
for use in my freshman-year college writing courses at the Arab Teachers
College of Education, Haifa, where the students are native speakers of
Arabic, and English is their third language. In my college classes, I use
the activity to teach students how to write a comparison and contrast essay.
For several reasons, I find it especially useful to introduce academic
writing techniques through creative writing mini-projects such as this.
Firstly, my students feel freer to begin writing when their activity is
defined as “creative” rather than “academic.” In addition, many freshmen are
apprehensive about writing academic English and self-conscious about their
less-than-perfect grammar, especially at the beginning of the year. The
opportunity to work through the initial stages of any academic writing
technique via creative writing makes it easier for them to apply that
particular technique in an academic essay.
The following procedure introduces the students to the rhetoric used in
comparison and contrast essays, and gives them an activity for practicing
the comparison and contrast technique prior to using it in an academic
Define “comparison” and “contrast”.
List the words and phrases that are useful for making comparisons and
List and discuss the situations in which the students would need to use a
comparison and contrast technique in an essay. For example:
a. In a psychology essay, when comparing and contrasting siblings or pupils
b. In an education essay, when writing about specific pupils or whole-class
c. In a literature essay, when writing about characters in a short story, a
novel, or a play
The teacher draws three pictures on the board:
the sun: the moon:
The students are given a task. Using comparison and contrast words and
phrases, they must select two of the objects and write one paragraph
comparing them. They must write another paragraph discussing how these two
differ from the third object.
It should be stressed that there are no right and wrong answers, and
students are encouraged to use their creativity to make up an imaginary
setting or situation for their explanation. The purpose of the activity is
for students to become comfortable using the techniques of comparison and
contrast, so that they may apply these techniques to their academic essays.
A Sample Essay
From a scientific point of view, the sun is like the stars and the moon is
different from the sun and the stars because, by definition, the sun is a
star. Stars are burning masses of gas, which radiate heat. The sun and the
stars also give off their own light. They always have the same shape when
viewed from the earth, because we see them directly. Therefore, although the
sun does not look like the stars in the night sky, it is actually similar to
In contrast, the moon, like the planet earth, gives off no heat or light.
Like the earth, the moon is heated by the sun. Likewise, the moon reflects
light. In fact, we can see the moon only when it is reflecting the sun’s
light. That is why it appears to change its shape throughout the month.
Thus, the sun and the stars are alike, while the moon is different.
Examples of student work
The following examples show the great range of written work that it is
possible to generate with this assignment. One student wrote a story, while
the other compared and contrasted the sun, the moon and the stars in one
1. “The Similarities between the Stars and the Moon, and their Differences
from the Sun,”
a story by Enas Totary, a freshman at the Arab Teachers’ College of
(This story explains how the moon and the stars are alike, while the sun is
different from them.)
The moon and the stars have something in common. Once, they both went to
the sun at night, while she was asleep, stole some of her rays -in order to
shine - and ran away. When the sun woke up and realized what had happened,
she decided to separate herself from them. From that day on, the sun started
to shine in the morning. When she goes to sleep, the moon and the stars wake
up to twinkle all night. Thus, the moon and the stars are alike.
Furthermore, the sun is very active and hasty, while the moon and the stars
are calm, wise and romantic. Once, in ancient times, the sun and the moon
wagered which of them could make a young man and woman fall in love. The
sun waited until the young people left their houses to go for a walk. It
shone until it made them very hot, so they went indoors and turned on the
air conditioner. At night, the moon and the stars started twinkling in the
sky. The two young people came outside to enjoy the romantic scene in the
sky, and started talking to each other about how beautiful the sky looked.
In the end, they fell in love. Since that time, the moon and the stars have
become symbols of romance. Thus, they are different from the sun.
2. “The Three Luminaries of the Sky”,
a creative paragraph by a freshman student (who wishes to remain anonymous)
The three luminaries of the sky have common functions, but also several
differences. The moon, which is the source of light at night, is similar in
a way to the sun, which is the main source of light during the day. Although
the moon and stars share the same function as luminaries of the night, the
moon waxes and wanes every month, while the stars remain fixed in their size
and shape. Thus, the sun, the moon and the stars have similarities and
3. “The Sun, the Moon and the Stars” by Nabeha Nabhane
The sun, the moon and the stars are three sources of light. However, the
moon and the stars illuminate the earth during the night, while the sun
illuminates the earth during the day. The moon and the stars are associated
with romance, whereas the sun is not. Moreover, the strong light of the sun
may cause damage to us, while the light of the moon and the stars does not.
In addition, the sun looks much bigger than the moon and the stars. Thus,
these three sources of light have similarities and difference