An Interview with Khalid Bari

Khalid Bari has taught in primary schools in Singapore and was previously a Teaching Fellow at the Centre for Research in Pedagogy & Practice in the National Institute of Education (NIE). After leaving NIE, he held the position of a project officer at the Curriculum Planning and Development Division of the Ministry of Education (MOE). He graduated from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) with a Master’s Degree in Education, specialising in English Literature. He currently conducts creative writing classes.

Khalid is the author of the book Upper Primary English Creative Writing Made Easy. This book helps students by encouraging them to express their imagination in a way that helps them to present their stories creatively through writing. Some might have the understanding that a good composition has flawless grammar, punctuation and spelling. Those are the basic expectations from any English teacher of a student’s composition, but it misses the mark on what makes for truly great writing that can command the reader’s attention.

In today’s post, he shares more about how students can learn to be more creative writers.

About your book

Upper Primary English Creative Writing Made Easy by Khalid Bari

1. How will this book help students to master creative writing effectively?

Everybody has a story to tell. But not everyone finds it easy to present their stories in writing. This book gives young writers the right writing process to bring their story ideas together and to present them as something unique and creative.

2. What are some of the main components of creative writing?

I would try to sum them up in one sentence. Creative writing involves a believable story with an interesting main character exploring a new adventure with a surprising outcome.

3. Of these main elements, can you share which are the ones that contribute the most to a well-written piece?

All well-written compositions have one universal trait: a clearly organised storyline supported by logically structured sentences. With that, the reader can follow the story smoothly – like a hot knife through butter.

4. How important is a student’s imagination when they are brainstorming for creative writing?

Einstein once said imagination is more important than knowledge. Imagination is the seed of any marvellous creation. Be it a tool, an artwork, or a solution to a problem.

Worlds and realities are created by imagination. It isn’t easy to be creative without having a colourful imagination. You cannot write a creative story without having an imagination.

5. How can children improve or develop their imagination/creativity?

One way is to have a playful mind. Allow the imagination to go wild. There is no right or wrong when it comes to creative imagination. But it would be wrong to limit a child’s imagination.

6. How can parents help their children to develop their creativity?

Allow them to play. For instance, allow children to play with their toys. By doing so, the children are given the opportunity to create realities for their toys. If they have outgrown playing with toys, allow them to express their ideas in other ways. Allow them to draw, dance, act and share whatever comes to their mind. Give them the opportunities to exercise creativity. For instance, allow them to plan a family outing or ask them to rewrite a story they read or a movie they just watched.

Be a listener and not a critic. Do not judge a child’s imagination and be critical about it. Having a pink polar bear as a pet could be silly to you, but it could be magical to a child. Play along with them and be the guide to expand their imagination and creativity.

7. Are you able to give a ‘preview’ of the tips and tricks that can be found in your book?

Sure. This book will share an effective way to create a balanced yet interesting character for a story. Most compositions tend to give a one-dimensional character who’s usually a reflection of the writer. Introducing a “flaw” allows for a more interesting take on that character. Thus, it makes his or her story more exciting to be read.

About Yourself/Work/Expertise

Author Khalid Bari M.Ed. (NTU), B.A. (NTU)

1. Why did you choose to specialise in English Literature?

I was exposed to English Literature when I entered junior college. I had no idea what the subject was all about as I was more of a Science rather than a language student. And I thought English Literature was a language subject. Until I realised it was not precisely that. It involves deep understanding, critical analysis, forming opinions – which were all foreign to me as I was never exposed to those skills in my secondary school years. After months of trying to grasp the subject, I realised how diverse English Literature was.

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to English Literature. That’s the beauty of that subject. There are only opinions and viewpoints. This encourages critical thinking and, more importantly, allows us to see alternate views beyond our own. This helps us to be wiser by exposing and embracing different viewpoints.

2. Would you encourage students to study Literature at the tertiary level and beyond? Why?

Yes, definitely. Students should not see Literature as an “artsy” or an “atas” subject. English Literature encourages you to see things critically. It allows us to interpret the world in unique ways. It helps you to develop analytical skills and a deeper understanding of context and meaning. It will inspire you to be a unique individual with a unique, creative and expanding mindset.

3. How important is Literature in igniting the student’s imagination/creativity, and in helping them to become more creative writers?

Creativity involves creating something based on an original idea. Reading Literature exposes students to a myriad of stories, which inspires them to try out various ideas without having fears or doubts. With this, their thoughts and creativity becomes limitless.

4. Could you share with us some of the books that have inspired you/you would recommend to students to read?

One book that I would recommend to anyone is The Magic of Thinking Big by David J Schwartz. The book helped me overcome doubts and achieve my goals by teaching me how to start believing in myself. The more you believe in yourself, the more creative power is released. And this creative power helps you to overcome even the most difficult challenges.

5. What are some of the strengths and weaknesses that you have observed in your students’ creative writing?

I do not see weaknesses in a student’s writing, but limitations. Be it limitations in their word choice or constraints in their ideas. And it is the role of teachers, tutors and parents to address and remove these limitations to improve the student’s writing.

One common limitation that I often see in students is the conformity of ideas and presentation. And, unfortunately, this is due to their English teachers in school. Some teachers prescribe a “model” composition for students to follow religiously, be it to start a story with a flashback, having specific phrases plastered incoherently in their story or having an abrupt moral message appearing at the end of the story.

My message to fellow English language teachers and tutors is this – please guide the student’s writing process. Do not force the students to follow one type of writing. Instead, expose them to various styles of writing. Let them choose one and help them master that style. Please do not force them to use a set of fixed phrases. Teach them a range of good vocabulary words and allow them to choose their favourite ones. 

6. How do you think students can be spurred to have an interest in English Literature?

One way is to use popular culture to connect the students’ lives with the ideas they encounter in Literature. For example, recent movies may provide great avenues into relevant discussion topics. A recent example is Avengers: Endgame, which is excellent for talking about the idea of Choice and Fate, or the question of justifying the means to an end. What is evil and good? Where do we stand on our beliefs, and what does that tell us about our view of the world?

Following the iceberg theory, students will find a deeper meaning of a story beyond its surface as they engage in discussions, critical analysis and critical thinking. And this exciting learning process is the basis of English Literature.