Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Creative writing & technology, I did it

Interesting to experience the trajectory of critique. We writers ourselves know about it from personal experience of workshopping our writing and getting feedback, or getting rejections on submitted work (if we are so fortunate as to get feedback instead of the routine 'no thanks' slip).

Here's the pattern:
Oh, no! Wrong-wrong-wrong-wrong-wrong. Sulk a little. Time. Weelll, maybeeeee... okay I guess I could consider it. Oh well, grumble, how the hell can I... oh! (light bulb) I can think of a way! And then (later), hey, it works!

And our scene, dialogue, chapter opening or whatever (in this case, next teaching session) is, by incorporating the critique IN OUR OWN WAY, indeed improved. Exhilarating, actually.

So here's what I did. Instead of a verbal reprise to the class at the start of the session, and reminder of the overall 'map' of the course, I used the Interactive White Board (known as IWB) flip chart, and had the students call out and direct me on the Hero's Journey. This way they were reprising themselves - Hero, Ordinary World, Threshold, Mentor (a few prompts from me of the 'what else' sort), etc.

This map of the journey goes along Aristotle's incline of dramatic tension (3-act play) which they have seen throughout the course. (It's in Creative Writing: the Matrix, and lots of other places.) I quickly ran out of space so, presto, a click of the light-pen and on the map went to the next clean page, and then a third. Okay, it could have been a normal white board or flip chart, but now we are in 21st c technology mode.

So the students took me on the journey, we did it together. Much better than just verbally reminding them. Better too than standing up front and putting them on the spot by straight out asking them to recount. And being electronic, no waste of flipchart paper or need to erase felt-tip marker.

Also, at the end, I projected the college's website to (a) show up-coming creative writing courses, (b) show how easy online course evaluation is.

Thank you to the comments in support on last week's moan. And may I add woof-woof. (Think dog, old, tricks, yes you can.)

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Technologies in teaching creative writing

Yug. Got some crit on my observation report. For one thing, can I ask YOU,

how much or in fact HOW do you use interactive white board and projector I.T. in teaching creative writing?

And the above question particularly in the context of short courses, two hours per week, with no exam or qualification on offer nor of interest to the self-selected adult students.

Myself, I think writing in class, bouncing creativity off each other, and getting feedback from reading out and/or from tutor are chief methods in the writerly mode.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Increasing student production rate

Jury's out on my observation. I await the feedback appointment. Unfortunately the observer came for the Shadow part of the session -- always a sticky subject.

Meanwhile: wrapping up our marking creative writing topic with the related issue of getting students to write outside class and hand writing in. Remarkable how so many do not take advantage of getting feedback, who do not use the stimulus and goals to get on and write. I can completely understand a writer not wanting to use precious time and energy simply doing homework for teacher -- we are not in that kind of teaching. So I devised a flexible scheme to cover several levels of writer. It's the Alpha, Beta, Delta assignment.

For the details I refer you to the whole actual description from Creative Writing: the Matrix, which is this term's tutor tip on the book's website at A freebie.

Here's another link to look at, with a freebie of sorts. It's the Institute for Learning, which is, as FE tutors, our very own organisation -- very big, recognised and official on over 18 AND UP, UP, UP learning. You kinda-sorta-gotta join if you are teaching in a publicly funded institution (community, prison, as well as FE colleges), because we all have to be registered nowadays. And we have to do CPD -- Continuous Professional Development.

That's where their freebie part comes in. Turns out that simply reading their monthly emailed On the Agenda news bulletin can count towards your annual CPD requirement. How easy is that!

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Can you mark creative writing? Part 2.

I was going to tell you about my secret grade scheme, for my files and institutional admin only, having talked last week about feedback on students' creative writing.

But also I ran into the how much do you criticise issue. And How can you best help a writer to improve without squashing? As a professional writer and self-editor I have to force myself to ignore, or give only slight mention to, grammar and puncuation and spelling errors. I mean, not if they are really really bad -- then I'd have to take the student aside and see about getting help... or... what? So much depends on the level of the course and the students. Even little errors, even typos... I do make a few marks in the margins -- but I let some go by.

My perfectionist editorial self really objects! But I have to tell it/me -- this is a creative writing class, the students are not here to be perfect at grammar but to begin or continue to tell stories, or make poems, convey a mood, create a character etc. However, if their language skills interfere... the skills are so interwoven, ugh, I'm getting a stomach ache just writing this: I feel torn!

So I will leave you with that, and move on to grading, and am very curious to hear from you how you do this. Because I have made this up for myself. In the coursebook, to satisfy any management who look, I put
1 for excellent/very good/hardly any weaknesses
2 for good, some weaknesses, satisfactory
3 for some competence, but many weaknesses
4 for weak, but made an effort
0 for made no effort
It is still a matter of very personal judgment and the student's own level and the course expectation. But at least it's got a number on it for those bosses and computers who can only think in numbers. And guess what, I am being observed as part of the regular cycle tomorrow night, so we shall see if my secret scheme meets with management's approval. What grade for me?