Friday, May 15, 2015

Q&A Friday: How to manage class time as a writing teacher

Hi, everyone! I have something new that I am excited to debut on the blog today. 

Often I get emailed questions about writing, teaching, editing, book recommendations, and general questions about the literary life, and I was thinking that other people might be interested in these questions, too! So I had an idea to start a new feature on the blog called "Q&A Friday" where I will answer one of these questions every week or so. I hope you find it to be helpful and inspiring!

If you have a question, please feel free to email it to me at dallaswoodburn <AT> gmail <DOT> com with "Q&A Friday" in the subject line. Also, if you have thoughts to add to my answers, I would LOVE if you would share your ideas in the comments section below! My aim for this blog is for it to be a positive resource and community-builder for readers, writers, teachers, and book-lovers of all ages!

Question: When teaching a creative writing class, how do you manage the class time?

My answer: It depends on how long the class is, but I like to mix things up every 20 minutes or so. Usually we do a short "freewrite" prompt at the beginning to get kids in the "writing zone" -- for example, at my Summer Writing Camp, I have a prompt written on the board when kids come in. When everyone has arrived and has written for 5-10 minutes, I give time to share if anyone wants to read what they've written.

Then, we spend another 15-20 minutes or so going over the topic/lesson of that day -- maybe it's a class discussion about favorite literary characters and how we think the writer created such a memorable character, or talking about ways to re-start the story's plot if you're feeling stuck, or a compilation of descriptive-writing prompts to really delve into the setting. It's great to do class brainstorming where you write down what students say on the board so you have a wonderful list at the end full of ideas.

For the remainder of class, I  usually use one or two writing activities/prompts that relate to that topic -- for example, dialogue activities or character-creating activities, with time in between for students to share their writing if they wish. A lot of the younger kids REALLY enjoy sharing and it is a big motivation for them, so if you can it's great to build in that time.

Of course, during sharing it is important to only encourage positive comments and positive feedback. As a teacher, you can set this environment by asking, "What did you like about xxx's story/poem/etc?" and have the class raise their hands to share compliments. It's a great way to build each other up. And of course you the teacher should give them compliments, too! It means a lot to them, believe me. They will be looking up to you!

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