A Chapter and SIG Collaboration: Creative Writing in Language Teaching Contexts

Luke Draper, Mary Hillis, & Tara McIlroy

Collaboration is a cornerstone of JALT activities and the same goes for SIGs. While many people often think of collaboration within a SIG, there is an ever-growing amount of collaboration between SIGs as well as among SIGs, chapters, or other groups. This year, the SIG Focus column would like to highlight SIG collaboration in all its forms. Please feel free to contribute or suggest ideas by emailing us at jaltpubs.tlt.sig.focus@jalt.org.

As SIGs and JALT chapters adapted to the new situation of COVID-19 in 2020, activities moved online and new ways of organising and co-hosting events in the JALT community emerged. In this short SIG Focus article, we report on one collaborative event - Creative Writing in Language Teaching Contexts - held on 29 November 2020. The theme of our event was methods of applying creative writing (CW) to the language classroom, a topic of interest to teachers working with learners at different levels and in different contexts. The planning of the event began with Kyoto JALT, but the pandemic necessitated rescheduling so that it was co-hosted with Tokyo JALT. Both chapters offered continuous support and encouragement to bring about the adapted online event, and the SIG gives credit to both Kyoto and Tokyo for supporting the planning. Here, we discuss how SIGs and chapters may try to collaborate in the new conditions we find ourselves in the wake of the COVID-19 situation.

Collaborative events may seek to explore relatively new areas of interest and research. The  Literature in Language Teaching (LiLT) SIG aims to provide opportunities for teachers and researchers working with all kinds of creative texts (poetry, fiction, film, drama) to discuss teaching and learning with literature. One underexplored area of language learning with literature in Japan is creative writing. CW as an academic discipline is deeply established in the field of humanities, though is comparatively underrepresented as a medium to enhance the language classroom. Recent arguments for its place in the second language (L2) classroom have focused on its capacity to help learners appreciate English as a communicative tool (Hanauer, 2014) and explore their L2 voice and identity, leading to greater motivation (e.g. Maley, 2009; Zhao, 2015).  Learner writing is itself a kind of literature, and methods such as workshopping and revising texts is likely to involve uses of short stories, poems, travel writing or excerpts from novels. This event brought together five speakers who teach creative writing as a means of acquiring and producing the target language, in each case, English.

Bringing together speakers from different parts of Japan has typically been one of the more challenging logistical aspects of event planning. The co-hosts were based in Tokyo but session participants, including several new members of the SIG, joined the event from various other prefectures. The online format for this event had some obvious advantages from the perspective of providing a more accessible experience for SIG members. Speakers from any location can join online events more easily, and JALT members from the more rural parts of the country have much to gain from this situation.

For those considering a collaborative event with other SIGs or chapters, hosting events online will help to bring together speakers and audiences from around the country. The five speakers at this event were based in different areas of Japan; Suzanne Kamata in Shikoku, Iain Maloney in Gifu, Cristina Tat and Luke Draper in Kansai, and Atsushi Iida in Gunma. Kamata presented on some of the varied creative writing activities she successfully uses with her education undergraduates. To show the importance of characterization in fiction writing, Maloney provided anecdotes from his own writing. Tat used her experiences from her multilingual reading background to illustrate how extensive reading and creative writing can be used in combination for L2 learning. Draper’s presentation used examples from international CW workshops to discuss the suitability of workshops for L2 learners. Iida focused on the COVID-19 pandemic and explored how he has used poetry writing as a meaningful literacy practice during this difficult time.

As a smaller SIG with an average of 70-75 members, LiLT membership is spread throughout Japan and interests are varied. A recent membership survey revealed that members are most interested in opportunities to present and write about their literature-related language teaching. Gathering in one location for a weekend event may bring certain advantages in terms of direct contact, but online meetings and collaborative events with host chapters may allow for greater connections between communities of JALT members. The SIG welcomes future collaborations between CW colleagues and all those working with creative texts in L2 contexts. We can be contacted at liltsig@gmail.com and http://www.liltsig.org.


Hanauer, D. I. (2014). Appreciating the beauty of second language poetry writing. In Disney, D (ed). Exploring second language creative writing: Beyond Babel. John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Maley, A. (2009). Creative writing for language learners (and teachers). Retrieved from British Council: http://teachingenglish.org.uk/article/creative-writing-language-learners....

Zhao, Y. (2015). Second language creative writers: Identities and writing processes. Multilingual Matters.