Creative Writing

class info

Metaphor. Irony. Plot. Setting. Theme. Imagery. Symbolism.

These and other elements of literature should by now be familiar to you. They exist in all types of writing – from poetry to non-fiction essays, from novels to scripts. You have spent time studying them through the words of other writers. Now you get to try to use these tools for yourself. 

This class will be an opportunity for you to express yourself creatively through writing. You will get a chance to try many different genres of writing. You will get to help others improve their writing, and the favor will be returned to you with your own writing. By the end of the class, you will develop a portfolio of your best, most polished work.


Wednesday, 5/19

Today was the final day of the class. I collected the printed portfolios and everyone read a sample of their portfolio for the rest of the class.

Monday, 5/17

Today was a work day for the final portfolio. Please have your portfolio finished, shared on Google docs, and printed when you walk in the door on Wednesday. Please also have a short 3-5 minute reading from your portfolio prepared to share with the class. Homework: portfolio!

Thursday, 5/13

The final drafts of the short story assignment were due today. Students turned these in through Google docs and then workshopped them online. We also went over the details of the final portfolio, due next Wednesday. Homework: work on those portfolio revisions.

Tuesday, 5/11

I checked the short story rough drafts today for a grade. The remainder of class was work time for the final drafts which are now due at the start of class on Wednesday. We will be workshopping them then. Homework: get those stories written!

Friday, 5/7

Phase 2 of the short story assignment was due today. We worked on naming characters purposefully using baby name sites such as this one. Students had time to work on their rough drafts for phase 3, and then we talked briefly about dialogue some more. Homework: finish your rough draft for workshopping next class.

Wednesday, 5/5

Phase 1 of the short story assignment was due today, and I was glad to see that most of you had this at least partly completed. We worked on some pre-writing around further developing the characters you outlined in Phase 1. Homework: complete Phase 2 for Friday.

Monday, 5/3

After checking your eavesdropping homework from the weekend, we talked more about dialogue and characterization. We completed some more pre-writing from the Bernays/Painter text, and then I gave students time to start working on Phase 1 of the short story assignment. Homework: Phase 1 is due on Wednesday.

Thursday, 4/29

I started class by checking the homework from last time. I handed out the assignment for the short story project, and then we talked about Burroway’s ch. 3 and the film. Next, I handed out the eavesdropping activity/assignment, and I turned everyone loose into the school for the next 35 minutes to listen and jot down as much dialogue as they could. We debriefed from this and discussed the related homework assignment to complete over the weekend. Homework: complete the second part of the eavesdropping activity for class on Monday.

Tuesday, 4/27

Today we wrapped up the viewing of Stranger Than Fiction — just the last five or six minutes. We discussed the film, particularly the ideas of comic and tragic stories. We did some warm-ups, and then students began reading Burroway’s ch. 3 which the sub may or may not have assigned last class. Everyone needs to use the film to give examples for each of Burroway’s discussions of character in ch. 3. Homework: finish reading the chapter and connecting it to the film; also, choose any one Try This in ch. 3 and complete it.

Friday, 4/23

I was out today. Students watched Stranger Than Fiction in class. Homework: read ch. 3, “Character” in Burroway; pick one Try This from ch. 3 and complete it.

Wednesday, 4/21

Today we started with two more warm-ups from Bernays/Painter to try and help you see scenarios from more than one perspective or point of view. I also checked the homework due today. I passed out copies of Kurt Vonnegut’s short story “Souvenir” for students to read in class, and we discussed it in context of Burroway’s ch. 8. Finally, we started watching Stranger Than Fiction, an interesting film about a person who doesn’t know he’s a character in a novel.

Monday, 4/19

Today we did several warmups from the Bernays/Painter text. We also read and discussed “Bigfoot Stole My Wife” on p. 300 in the Burroway text. Homework: read ch. 8 in Burroway; then, complete any one of the Try This exercises in that chapter, using today’s pre-writing if it asks you to “take a story you’ve already written.”

Thursday, 4/15

After more short fiction warmups in the Bernays/Painter text, I split the class into three groups. Each group took a different portion of Burroway’s ch. 5 on story — Story as a Journey, Story as a Power Struggle, and Story as Connection and Disconnection — read their portion, summarized it, and talked about how our two professional examples fit into those patterns. Each group then reported back out to the entire class where we discussed these patterns and the stories some more.

Tuesday, 4/13

We started our last unit on the genre of short fiction today. We did several warmups from the Bernays/Painter text on fiction writing. I handed out copies of “Tooth and Claw” and asked students to write down their questions and observations through the first three pages of it. Because most students had not read “Interpreter of Maladies” as requested, I gave the rest of class for students to either catch up on that or finish “Tooth and Claw.” Homework: have both of these stories read for Thursday.

Friday, 4/9

Today was the last day of creative nonfiction workshopping. Homework: start working on your nonfiction revisions and read “Interpreter of Maladies” on p. 100 in Burroway to start our study of fiction.

Wednesday, 4/7

Today was the due date and first workshop day for the creative nonfiction pieces. Students workshopped them in small groups on Google docs. This took a little longer than expected, so we’ll definitely continue on Friday.

Monday, 4/5

Welcome back from spring break! Today we used the English department netbooks in my classroom to begin writing the creative nonfiction drafts. Drafts must be typed in Google docs, with a filename of “<yourlastname> Creative Nonfiction,” and shared with me. I spent a little bit of time at the end of class to go over the assignment and the formatting one more time, but mostly it was time for everyone to just write. Homework: finish those drafts so we can workshop them on Wednesday.

Thursday, 3/25

Today was a work day on organizing the creative nonfiction essays. We used the English department’s new netbooks to work on this in Google docs in my classroom. Homework: over break, start working on your drafts; we’ll continue working on these the first Monday back, followed by workshopping on that Wednesday.

Tuesday, 3/23

After more setting-related warmups in Burroway, we discussed setting and how it’s more than just time and place. I then gave out this worksheet to help students begin organizing their creative nonfiction as well as beginning that work on setting.

Friday, 3/19

I started today by handing out and explaining the creative nonfiction assignment. We did several warm-ups from Burroway’s ch. 4 while I checked the homework for today. We also discussed “The Inheritance of Tools,” which students read in class previously. This is definitely my favorite essay in the Burroway text, and I think it’s an excellent example of many of the things I’m looking for in your essays and memoirs. Homework: read ch. 4 on setting for next week.

Wednesday, 3/17

I checked the homework from yesterday, and then students completed Try This 7.6 in Burroway as a warm-up. We then read “The Inheritance of Tools” on p. 93 in Burroway. I asked students to consider these questions after they read: 

  • Is this an example of a memoir or a personal essay? Why?
  • What does the author do to pull you in?
  • How does the author connect all the pieces of the essay together?
Homework: If you didn’t finish the essay or questions, please do so for Friday; also, please complete Try This 7.8, but only do pre-writing, don’t try to write a whole essay yet.

Monday, 3/15

After starting with some warmups today, we finally got around to defining creative nonfiction. We used the professional examples students were supposed to read last week along with bits of Burroway’s ch. 7 to talk about the distinguishing characteristics as well as the two most common types — memoir and personal essay. Homework: complete this pre-writing activity, adapted from p. 105 of the Smith/Greenberg text — empty everything from your backpack, purse, or wallet onto a clean surface and examine it as an objective third person; imagine they belong to someone else, and write about who this person is and why you can learn about these items; pick one item that is most surprising and explore the significance of this one item.

Thursday, 3/11

I had to miss school again today. The sub should have assigned Try This 7.1 and 7.5 in ch. 7 in the Burroway text. Then, everyone should have read “At the Dam” (p. 143) and “A Wind From the North” (p. 145) in Burroway and then spent 10 min. on Try This 4.8, found immediately after these readings. Homework: Make sure you've read “Interlude” and “The Knife” in Burroway (assigned Tuesday in class).

Tuesday, 3/9

I was out today. The sub assigned two pre-writing activities from ch. 7 in Burroway. Afterwards, everyone should have read “Interlude” on p. 261 and “The Knife” on p. 262 in the same book. Reminder: make sure to read ch. 7 on creative non-fiction as originally assigned for today.

Friday, 3/5

Today was a workshop day for poems 2 & 3. I split the class into three groups for workshopping, and we got through nearly all of them. We will probably take part of the next class to finish these poems as well as some for the students who were absent today. I also recommend that you try and get additional feedback on your own outside of these workshop groups — whether that’s from other students in the class or possibly people outside of class (friends, other teachers, etc.). Homework: please read ch. 7 in Burroway.

Wednesday, 3/3

Today was a work day for typing your poems 2 & 3 in the computer lab. If I did not get poems for you, they will be a zero till I do, graded late when you turn them in, and I will not have copies made for you for workshop on Friday.

Monday, 3/1

Today we revisited our discussion of Shakespearean sonnets one more time. As a class, we determined the same rhyme scheme, and then students created a sonnet around this scheme, paying close attention to the meter and rhythm of their poems. We also briefly reviewed Wednesday’s writing practice and I quickly introduced the pantoum form. Then there was writing time for poems #2 & #3. Homework: bring drafts of poems #2 and #3 to class Wednesday for typing.

Wednesday, 2/24

Because of difficulty in scheduling lab time, the typing day for poems 2 & 3 will now be next Wednesday. As this is a late start day, you must have drafts ready to type when you arrive to class. If you are absent that day, you need to bring 10 copies of each poem to class with you on Friday for workshop. I had a meeting to attend today, so students got to hang out with Mr. Martin today. Everyone practiced some more with syllables and rhythm using the poetic forms of cinquain and haiku. Everyone also practiced some more with personification using a Lucille Clifton poem as a model. Homework: continue work on those poem 2 & 3 drafts for next week.

Monday, 2/22

Today I checked the remixed poems that were homework for today. I also talked about the drafts of poems 2 & 3 that would likely be due for typing next Monday — although now, due to lab availability, we will probably be pushing that back a day. We did some pre-writing for these poems, and then we went over some notes on various types of poetic sounds. I then used some examples to explain and discuss these sound tools. We examined meter and end rhyme in a Shakespearean sonnet and line breaks, free verse rhythms, and more subtle rhyming in a Silvia Plath poem. Homework: work on developing ideas for poems 2 & 3.

Thursday, 2/18

Today we did some work with revising Poem #1. At the start of class I asked everyone to take their poem and:

  • Write one sentence to describe what your poem is about. Write it in one word. Describe it in one image (or draw it!).
  • Expansion: pick one line — the best line, your favorite line, someone else’s favorite line — write a whole new poem from it, or at least do some free writing from it.
  • Compression: cut your existing poem down by at least half — remove words or even whole lines — without changing the meaning significantly.
We then worked through parts of ch. 9 doing some pre-writing as well as more revision with your first poems. Homework: pick any poem in any part of the Burroway text; re-write it in some way — use her suggestion for a replacement poem, or maybe steal a line or an image or a metaphor, and then turn it into your own.

Tuesday, 2/16

Today was the final day for Poem #1 workshopping. We spent a little bit of time afterwards de-briefing the entire workshop experience. Students also did a little bit of pre-writing in preparation for Poems #2 & #3, coming soon. Homework: read ch. 9 of Burroway if you haven’t already; also, make sure to bring Poem #1 and all of the workshop feedback you received to class on Thursday.

Thursday, 2/11

The first half of class today was taken up with a visit by a representative from DeVry University. We made good progress on poem workshopping during the second half of class. We should finish those up soon.

Tuesday, 2/9

Today was our third day of workshopping poem #1. We will try and finish up within the next class or two.

Friday, 2/5

Today was our second day of full-class workshop for poem #1. It went well, and we got through many poems. Good work! We’ll pick up here next week.

Wednesday, 2/3

Today was our first day of whole-class workshopping of everyone’s first poems. This will continue for the next few days. Homework: not due till next week sometime, but you could get a start on reading ch. 9 in Burroway — “Poetry.”

Monday, 2/1

Today is the work day for Poem #1. Workshopping will begin on Wednesday. Some reminders for today:

If you missed class today, you need to get me this poem ASAP. If your absence was unexcused, you will receive half credit for the assignment.

Thursday, 1/28

Today we did lots of pre-writing — three exercises in the Smith/Greenberg text as well as a few exercises among the professional examples at the end of the Burroway chapter on poetry — in preparation for your first poems for workshop being due at the end of class on Monday. Homework: bring in a rough draft of your poem to refine and type in class.

Tuesday, 1/26

Today was punctuated by visits from our counseling department as well as a representative of the Art Institute of Colorado. We did squeeze in some pre-writing (Try This 1.6 and 1.9 in Burroway) and also discussed the assignment of the first poem for workshop, which will be due at the end of class next Monday.

Friday, 1/22

We spent the beginning part of class working on prewriting using prompts from the Smith/Greenberg text. We briefly discussed figurative language after that, using the imagery chapter in the Burroway text. We discussed the three poems that were for homework, identifying imagery and tying the imagery to the figurative language.

Homework: 1.) Do the “Quilting” exercise from Smith/Greenberg p. 63. In a nutshell, look through your closet, dresser, wherever you keep old clothes. Create a list of the clothes that have special meaning for you. Then, label the event(s) that each item on your list makes you remember as well as feelings each item evokes for you. Optionally, try and write a poem with each stanza being a different piece of clothing. 2.) Try and write a poem from any of the prewriting we did in class today. Look for words that have vivid images that already exist in that prewriting.

Wednesday, 1/20

We spent the beginning part of class working on preewriting, mainly using prompts from the Smith/Greenberg text. We then discussed imagery using the Burroway text and did some of the exercises in ch. 1 in journals. Homework: read the Ted Hughes, Billy Collins, and Yusef Komunyakaa poems on p. 26-29 in Burroway; find and list 3-5 examples of imagery from each poem.

Friday, 1/15

I handed out the class norms today and we went over them as well as this Web site. We then did the “What is Poetry?” activity followed by some pre-writing to round out the class. Homework: please read ch. 1 on Imagery in Burroway.

Wednesday, 1/13

Today we reviewed the Burroway reading that was homework for today. We also read and discussed pre-writing in the Smith & Greenberg text, and practiced one pre-writing assignment. We wrapped up by wrapping up the three poems from Monday.

Monday, 1/11

We reviewed and discussed “Introduction to Poetry” today, reviewing the three concepts of imagery, figurative language, and poetic sounds. I then handed out these three additional poems for students to paraphrase and look for examples of these three concepts. We started to discuss these towards the end of class, and we’ll continue to do so on Wednesday. Homework: read the introduction (Invitation to the Reader) in Burroway, p. xxi-xxvii.

Thursday, 1/7

Today we started the course with an introduction to Skyline’s Google Docs as well as a writing inventory. After this, we read, paraphrased, and notedobservations about Billy Collins’ poem “Introduction to Poetry.” I will use this poem and discussion next week to introduce the three components of poetry we’ll be examining and practicing in our first unit: imagery, figurative language, and poetic sounds. Homework: finish these two in-class assignments if you were unable to do so during class.


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