Hurrah for Helen! In a posting to my 13 September blog she added a description of her first class of the term. It's down there in the comments attached to 'The required number of students' entry, but so full of good sense and good ideas and the joys of teaching creative writing that I'm putting her comments right here in this entry -- inspiration for all of us. So thank you, Helen.
"I wasn't sure how it would work but I decided to follow your book's advice and gave them all a questionnaire to fill in and writing magazines to flick through while we got through the chaos of enrolment and late arrivals! Then, as you suggest, I asked them to bring their completed questionnaire up to me and I 'rewarded' them with a little chat and wrote their name on a name 'tent' for their desk. It worked really well! And definitely helped me remember everyone's name and 'welcome' them all individually.
"Then I did a couple of exercises that I've done myself - as a student and trainee on a PTTLS course this summer. Firstly, I asked each person to say their name and to tell the group something they wished they were brave enough to do. We had everything from 'have a baby' to 'bungee jump' or 'ride across America'. I told them that, through Creative Writing, they could do all those things! (bit cheesy but it got their attention)
"Then, in groups of 4, I asked them to discuss their 'expectations and concerns' for the course. I find -perhaps you do too [YES] - that people come to Creative Writing courses with all kinds of misconceptions about what it is and what it can do for them. Getting someone from each 'team' to present their comments to the whole class - and allowing me to respond where appropriate - meant that we covered lots of ground in an interactive way (not just me lecturing!) AND I was able to reassure them and answer queries. I also got across an important point: the best way to learn is to WRITE! I also found myself explaining my own 'expectations and concerns' for the course (which I hadn't expected to do!). By coffee break (and we did some wrting after that), the group was already gelling, laughing and chatting to each other. Definitely the best 'first night' I've ever had!"
Sounds ideal, Helen, thank you so much for this. Great use of small groups; I too love them as a way to air lots of material, to give everyone a voice (and some friends) and to not be 'Ms Teacher' talking at them. Your class next week is bound to be just as much fun, as the students are all warmed and raring to go.