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Creative Writing Workshop Model in First-Year Composition

Simone Savannah, MEd


How creative writing workshops can be useful for teaching first-year Composition

Patrick Bizzaro is a Creative Writing teacher who has never taken a Creative Writing Workshop. Before: He believed that his training in literary studies would help him to teach creative writing. In other words, the efforts in teaching Composition and teaching Creative Writing are similar. After presenting a paper conference, a fellow poet tells him that real writers spend their time writing not giving papers at conferences (286) After: He asked himself, How should I spend my time? Will my reflection on my teaching be rewarded with better poems by my students? Should I write this essay or finish a poem? Bizzaro then uses his colleagues advice as well as particular books to help guide his teaching of creative writing.

Should I Write This Essay or Finish a Poem? Teaching Writing Creatively

How does this relate to first-year Composition teachers?

We all would like to use theories or models that we have not experienced first-hand. How do we teach? How do we base our teaching?
Examine our own backgrounds and how we can use prior knowledge to facilitate writing. In our reflections, we might begin to ask questions, such as why we use a particular model of instruction and can we revise it.

Ask ourselves: Do we believe writing can be taught? And if so, how? (Bizzaro, 288).
Practical Concerns by William J Harris The bird and I talk about singing/very little about technique Letting go of the how to write and looking at what has been written or what a piece of writing is doing/what the writer is doing/thinkingthat is what is practical for teaching writing. This is the workshop model.

What Should We Do or Teach?

if writing cant be taught: Community and different ways to examine pieces of writing Bizzaro learns:
the community of writers can do more for each other than any teacher can do for individuals in a workshop (Bizzaro, 289) From Wallace Stegner
Imagining the classroom as a community and what that can do for our students

To examine a poem was to examine its constructionwith the ruthless skepticism of someone who might have constructed it differently (289) From D.G. Meyers
Examine how else it could be written. Really looking at the how.

How: We should bring poetry back to the people (Agustino)

Through workshop or the Creative Writing Model
Make the workshop model accessible to all students (in English departments)

Suddenly Sexy: Creative NonFiction Rear-Ends Composition

Wendy Bishop discusses the emergence of Creative Nonficiton in English departments. She notes the personal essay as a form of Creative Nonfiction, and many composition specialists fear that the personal essay will limit students ability to practice writing other forms, such as the critical essay. She argues, however, that creative nonfiction is a valuable speculative instrument (269).

I know that many of us who work with composition students hope to create authors who care to write in the required first-year class and who will continue to value writinglifelong. Therefore, as a teacher, Im eager to facilitate the seeking of a writable experience
She suggests ethnographic research in order to help students write creative nonfiction
She believes that instruction and (structured/sequenced) exercises provide sound learning experiences for student writers, particularly if the results of such work are studied, theorized, and revised and if we believe that our students are authors (270-71)

Could we use the Creative Writing Workshop???

Bring Creative Writing Back To The People: The Creative Writing Model in First-Year Composition Courses
Bishop asks: How do we teach the pleasures of essay writing and the civic possibilities of prose literatures? How do we create courses that allow writers to define interesting topics of reflection, and how do we create classroom cultures within which the essay needs to be written? Answer: We treat the student essayist as we treat ourselves, as essayists and authors of creative nonfiction.

Bizzaro, then, may suggest that students need to spend their time writing. Our students are real writers and need to spend their time writing Paired with Bishops idea of instruction, this writing needs to be surrounded by exercises that encourage/require examining, theorizing, and revising pieces of writing and that allow students to see themselves as writers.

Yes, the Creative Writing Workshop is a model for this type of instruction!

Creative Writing and Creative Composition

Creative writing classes usually establish a workshop atmosphere. They are places where students write and talk about their writing. The writing process is more important than the product, in that students' stories and poems are never really finished. How these pieces were written, what problems were met along the way, what themes and stylistic effects were attempted-these are the issues that dominate creative writing classes. The teacher is a writer/friend who is there to offer advice, but generally not to dictate. I have found this same strategy to work well in my composition classes. Randall R. Freisinger

a model

we begin with a rapid, expressive sketch of our "model," then work in stages toward greater value, proportion, and texture. Once we have reached a stage of reasonable completion, I ditto five or six papers, and we discuss them in the large circle. I write papers with them, showing the stages through which I have worked and discussing the problems I encountered My approach in the large circle sessions is almost al-ways inductive; I want students to arrive at their own conclusions from a study of peer writing, not have them dictated by me from behind a lectern. The point to stress here is that my class is student-centered and writing-centered. We call ourselves writers, we write, and we discuss what we have written.

Results and Goals: Enthusiasm and engagement

One important result from this classroom approach and this conception of writing assignments is a genuine sense of audience. This real audience is a requisite of creative writing classes and accounts for much of the student enthusiasm for the course. With only minor changes this audience can exist in composition classes and generate similar interest. The students in such a class know that their audience does in fact exist, that what they write will be read by someone other than the teacher. Under such circumstances, students tend to care more about the quality of their writing. One goal of a writing class should be to enable students to calculate the impact of their words on an actual audience. Without this measurement, students will regard revision as an academic exercise of the barest possible relevance. Creative writing classes provide this measurement; composition classes can too.

Creative Writing: Start with the Students Motive, Stephen Minot Why students may be drawn to the Creative Writing workshop/model 4 motives established by Stephen Minot that Freisinger believes are relevant to students in composition courses
Partially conscious therapy Entirely unconscious therapy Childish delight in language Ego Formation


Build a community of writers

Circles, group conferences Promotes audience awareness and peer feedback

Promote class readings/outside readings

Enthusiasm, engagement Promotes audience awareness and revision

Group conferences based on Freisingers workshop model

Stress that your students are writers Write with your students Have students talk about writing processes as well as what has been written Stress peer feedback

Structured Exercise: Silent Author

Have students email their essays to one another two days before class/the reading. Students should read each others essays before class. A student will read his/her paper aloud, then remain silent until his/her classmates are finished discussing it. The student will respond to questions, concerns, and ideas. The student may also ask questions about his/her piece of writing. Encourage each student revise pieces of writing until the end of the semester for the final portfolio.

Bishop, Wendy. "College English." College English. 65.3 (2003): 257-275. Print. Bizzaro, Patrick Should I Write This Essay or Finish a Poem? Teaching Writing Creatively. College Composition and Communication 49 2 (May 1998): 285-87. Print. De Mardaunt, Walter J. "Improving College and University Teaching." Improving College and University Teaching. 8.2 (1960): 60-1. Print. Freisinger, Randall R. "Creative Writing and Creative Composition." College English 40.3 (1978): 283-287. Harper, Graeme. "The International Journal for the Practice & Theory of Creative Writing." International Journal for the Practice & Theory of Creative Writing. 6.2 (2009): 85-89. Print. Karnezis, George T. "Reclaiming 'Creativity' for Composition." Teaching Writing Creatively. David Starkey (ed.) Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook Pub.; 1998: 29-42. Lardner, Ted. "College Composition and Communication."College Composition and Communication. 51.1 (1999): 72-77. Print. McCaw, Neil. "New Writing." International Journal for the Practice & Theory of Creative Writing. 8.1 (2011): 2534. Print Meyers, D.G. "Journal of the History of Ideas." Journal of the History of Ideas. 54.2 (1993): 277-97. Print. Swisher, Michael. "Teaching German." Teaching German. 24.1 (1991): 37-41. Print.