When I began my creative writing class this past semester, I was looking for new and innovative ways to launch the new course. I like teaching semester courses because it feels like September in January!
Needless to say, I came across a great video by Donald Graves. His advice may seem simple or obvious, but is extremely effective: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZ_sXJKiiSA.
So, for the first two weeks of class, my writing classes have written a good amount, read their work to the class, and offered constructive feedback. In fact, I modified the workshopping process a bit to include:
1. A writer volunteers to read his/her work.
2. Another writer is called on to summarize the story.
3. The writer can clarify or other students can ask questions to make sure they understand the story.
4. Students offer constructive feedback.
I find that calling on students randomly to summarize the story helps keep students focused and attentive. However, I find that the real key to making this work is my participation. I feel like I have finally been able to stress that we are a writing community because I too wrote a story, read it aloud, and listened to my students for their suggestions and feedback. In fact, after I read, a student was chuckling a little to himself. I asked him about it and he smiled and said that it was kind of neat to be able to criticize the teacher. After jokingly reminding him who decides on the grades, I listened as my students offered some really good suggestions for ways I could add to my story and clarify a couple of parts.
How can I expect them to value writing and sharing if I don’t participate? I have a new-found respect for my students because we are part of this community together and I look forward to a growing as a writer with them this semester.