Taking the Time to Teach Writing

When I was a little kid, I didn’t like to write. I was good at it but I just didn’t like to put the pen to paper. I had plenty of teachers that helped me and taught me however, things never clicked. While in middle school, I came to writing of my own accord. I began writing short stories. From that point on, I loved to write. That love only deepened as I had great writing teachers. Learning to love writing on one’s own isn’t typical of your average student. For most of us, we retain a bad taste in our mouth about writing. It seems to be a necessary evil. However, I believe that by taking the time to teach writing on a one-on-one basis work miracles in helping people to learn to love writing.

Teaching One-on-One in a Classroom Setting

In high school, I took a few creative writing classes. My teacher was the headmaster of the school and a Shakespeare scholar. He loved writing, acting and everything in between. His writing class is what changed my outlook on writing the most. In class, we would talk about principles of writing, play improv games, and work on our individual pieces. That’s it. The class was very relaxed, but I learned more about writing in that semester than in all my other classes combined. He taught us principles, showed us how to apply those by acting, and then set us loose to implement it in our writing. Overarching each of these “phases” was a lot of individualization.

In the teaching phase, he took characters or plots from students’ work and used them in his examples, often helping the student(s) write their piece in the process. In the showing us phases, he’d explain what we did well in the improv games and applied that to principles we learned. Finally, he’d walk through the classroom while we each worked on our writing and stop by and help us as much as we needed. My teacher’s knowledge and capabilities, coupled with his desire to work one-on-one with us, made all the difference. He turned what would’ve been a tedious subject into a fun way to explore the world around us.

 How to Teach Writing in a Small Group Setting

Often times, teaching small groups can be more difficult than teaching in classrooms. With classrooms, you are expected to teach to the masses and are not worrying too much about the individual. If there is time, you are able to work one-on-one. However, when teaching small groups, that personalization and individual help is expected. Finding the balance between teaching everyone and teaching the individual can be difficult. My writing workshops often consist of four people or less. Knowing what to teach the class as a whole vs. the one person can be hard. My approach is to teach overarching principles and then work one-on-one with students to apply those in their writing. I have found this method works well.

When you can sit down with a student and talk to them about the nuances of their own writing, even if they may not see it, their minds expand. The best example I can think of is with a movie production class I recently finished teaching. The students wrote their own movie scripts, directed, acted in, and edited their own movies. I asked them what they would do differently if they could go back and do it all again. They said they would choose a different type of movie to make (half of the movies were about Star Wars). Helping them experience the possibilities of cinematic storytelling allowed them to see beyond just making a lightsaber dueling movie. I was getting feedback for making westerns, adventure movies, and other types.

The Love of Writing Starts With Caring

I grew to love writing because I had a teacher who cared about writing. Not just his own, but the writing of the students he taught. Due to his willingness to work one-on-one with me, my love for writing continues to this day. In the same thread, I hope my students’ love of writing continues as I work one-on-one with them in their efforts. Caring about students and the writing projects they are working on is the key. Without which, writing will continue to be a niche talent that only a few are good at, and even less like.

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