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 and practice the writing process. 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.


End of the Semester

Students finished and workshopped their short stories. Everyone had a couple of work days to finalize revisions on all pieces from the semester, and then students turned in, and did readings from, their final portfolios on the last day of class.

Monday, 5/2; Tuesday, 5/3

I checked Phase 1 of the short story assignment as well as the weekend eavesdropping assignment today. We did several character-related warmups to help students continue developing the characters in their short stories. We also did some exercises with naming the characters in the short stories using baby name websites like this one. There was also a little bit of time to start Phase 2 towards the end of class. Homework: Phase 2 is due next class.

Friday, 4/29 (Gold day only)

Students completed the Eavesdropping Assignment today, and we spent a good deal of time talking about where you went and what you heard. We also talked about ch. 3 in Burroway (Character), using it to discuss direct and indirect characterization, and students spent time starting on Phase 1 of the Short Story Assignment. Homework: Phase 1 and the weekend eavesdropping activity are both due on Tuesday.

Thursday, 4/28 (Red day only)

Students completed several warmups in Burroway’s Ch. 3 (Character) to start class. We talked a lot about direct and indirect characterization using Ch. 3 to guide us, and students spent a little bit of time starting on Phase 1 of the Short Story AssignmentHomework: Phase 1 and the weekend eavesdropping activity are both due on Monday.

Wednesday, 4/27 (Gold day only)

Today was a short period because of ACT this morning. We went over the short story assignment, including the checkpoint dates along the way, and then we talked about eavesdropping and the eavesdropping assignment. Homework: phase 1 of the short story assignment as well as the eavesdropping assignment are both due next Monday.

Tuesday, 4/26 (Red day only)

After reviewing the Short Story Assignment — and the different due dates for progress on the stories — students participated in this eavesdropping activity so that we could start talking about writing good dialogue. Homework: Phase 1 of the Short Story Assignment as well as the eavesdropping assignment are both due on Monday.

Friday, 4/22; Monday, 4/25

Several more warmups today to start class. We discussed the rest of ch. 5 and students read “Bigfoot Stole My Wife” on p. 300. Homework: read ch. 3 in Burroway.

Wednesday, 4/20 (Red day only)

Today started with several warmups from the Bernays/Painter text (numbers 7, 10, and 11) as well as one short one from the Burroway text (start of ch. 5). We continued our discussion of comedy and tragedy from last class, discussing the ambiguous ending of “Tooth and Claw” (and it’s ambiguity of comedy/tragedy), and finally talked some about “Interpreter of Maladies” as well. We also started talking about ch. 5, particularly plot as a power struggle and the beginning/middle/end plot diagrams everyone learned in middle school. Students mapped the events of “Tooth and Claw” on a plot diagram, but we ran out of time to discuss them.

Thursday, 4/21 (Gold day only)

Once again, I was absent from school today. The sub started you off with several warmups from the Bernays/Painter text (numbers 7, 10, and 11) as well as one short one from the Burroway text (start of ch. 5). He also discussed with you the plot-as-a-power-struggle of ch. 5 and the beginning/middle/end plot diagrams everyone learned in middle school. Students mapped the events of “Tooth and Claw” on a plot diagram.

Monday, 4/18; Tuesday, 4/19

Today we finished Stranger Than Fiction, and used the film to discuss the classical notions of comedy and tragedy in drama/film/literature. Students had time to finish “Tooth and Claw” so we could talk about comedy and tragedy with that text as well. Homework: last chance to read the story and two chapters that have been assigned for days and days....

4/11 - 4/15

I was in Michigan all week for my grandmother’s funeral. Monday (Gold day) was day two of nonfiction workshopping. Tuesday/Wednesday were spent doing fiction-related pre-writing and reading “Tooth and Claw.” Thursday/Friday were viewing days for the film Stranger Than Fiction

Homework for next week when I get back: make sure you’ve read “The Interpreter of Maladies” on p. 100, ch. 5, and ch. 8.

Friday, 4/8 (Red day only)

Today was day two of nonfiction workshopping. Many students used the entire time, but others started on the reading for homework or revisions to their essays. Homework: read “The Interpreter of Maladies” on p. 100 if you haven’t yet; ch. 5 and ch. 8 will be due later on next week, so start on those please.

Wednesday, 4/6; Thursday, 4/7

Students completed their first day of creative nonfiction workshopping today in groups (B6 with a sub, as I was gone for a day of English department meetings). Homework: please read “The Interpreter of Maladies” on p. 100.

Monday, 4/4; Tuesday, 4/5

Today was a work day today for typing and finalizing the creative nonfiction essays. I checked students’ rough drafts, gave suggestions, and helped students get their final drafts in order. We will workshop these essays next class. Homework: finish your creative nonfiction essay for workshop.

Friday, 3/25 (Gold day only)

We started class with some final nonfiction-focuses warmups, reviewed the details of the Creative Nonfiction Essay assignment, discussed setting some more, and then had some work time to flesh out the outline handoutHomework: bring in a mostly complete rough draft of your essay the first day back from spring break.

Thursday, 3/24 (Red day only)

Our last CSAP-shortened day, we did one quick warmup, reviewed the details of the Creative Nonfiction Essay assignment, and then had some work time to flesh out the outline handout. Homework: bring in a mostly complete rough draft of your essay the first day back from spring break.

Wednesday, 3/23 (Gold day only)

I was absent today. The sub should have lead you through completing your choice of two of the Try This exercises from ch. 4. You should have then received copies of the  Creative Nonfiction Essay Assignment, including due dates as well as the Creative Nonfiction Outline HandoutHomework: begin work on your outline handout, which will be due at the end of Friday’s class.

Tuesday, 3/22 (Red day only)

Another class shorted by CSAP today. We started out with a couple new nonfiction warmups. I then discussed the details of the Creative Nonfiction Essay assignment, including due dates, with the class as well as the outline/sample scene handout that we will work on next class. We then talked more about setting (particularly using scene to set mood/tone/atmosphere as well as writing scene as one would film a movie). Homework: begin work on your outline handout, which will be due at the end of Thursday’s class.

Monday, 3/21 (Gold day only)

More nonfiction-related warmups to start today, followed by a brief discussion of the photographs you wrote about. We finished talking about the elements of nonfiction essays. Then students read “At the Dam” and “Wind From the North” in class and we started discussing setting using these two essays. Homework: complete either Try this 7.6 OR 7.7 OR 7.8.

Friday, 3/18 (Red day only)

We finally had some time today now that CSAP testing is over for the week. We did lots of warmups to keep generating ideas for your creative nonfiction essays, and we also talked about the photography warmup from last week and shared some stories students had been writing about. Students read “At the Dam” and “Wind From the North” in class and we started discussing setting using these two essays. Homework: do the research portion of Try This 7.6 which we started today OR complete Try This 7.7.

Thursday, 3/17 (Gold day only)

Still more nonfiction warmups to start the shortened class today for CSAP testing. Students then read “Red Sky in the Morning” in class and we started  the balance between fact vs. truth in creative nonfiction. Homework: read ch. 4 on Setting and also “The Knife” if you haven’t yet.

Wednesday, 3/16 (Red day only)

Still more nonfiction warmups to start the shortened class today for CSAP testing. We then discussed “Red Sky in the Morning” and the balance between fact vs. truth in creative nonfiction. Homework: read ch. 4 on Setting

Tuesday, 3/15 (Gold day only)

We completed more nonfiction warmups to start the shortened class today for CSAP testing. Most students still hadn’t read “Inheritance of Tools,” so there was reading time at the end of class. Homework: Complete Try This 7.4 and finish “Inheritance of Tools” if you haven’t yet.

Monday, 3/14 (Red day only)

We completed more nonfiction warmups to start the class, followed by a brief discussion of “The Knife” and and some of the specifics of this genre of creative nonfiction from ch. 7. Students read “Red Sky in the Morning at the end of class. Homework: please complete Try This 7.4

Friday, 3/11 (Gold day only)

I was absent today. The sub led students through some warmups designed to help start generating ideas for the creative nonfiction pieces. The rest of class was reading time to finish up “An Inheritance of Tools,” read ch. 7, and start on the homework. Homework: read “The Knife” on p. 262.

Thursday, 3/10 (Red day only)

We started today with some warmups designed to help students start generating ideas for their creative nonfiction pieces. We also discussed “An Inheritance of Tools.” There was also a little bit of time for students to work on revisions to their poems from the first half of the semester. Homework: read “The Knife” on p. 262.

Wednesday, 3/9 (Gold day only)

Our second day of workshopping for Poems 2 & 3 was today. Students sat in groups and shared their poems with each other via Google Docs. Feedback was given electronically (using the built-in commenting features) and verbally. Students who finished early started work on their revisions to Poems 2 & 3. Homework: finish up your revisions to all three poems before next class.

Tuesday, 3/8 (Red day only)

Our second day of workshopping for Poems 2 & 3 was today. Students sat in groups and shared their poems with each other via Google Docs. Feedback was given electronically (using the built-in commenting features) and verbally. Students who finished early read ch. 7 in Burroway to compliment “An Inheritance of Tools.” Homework: read/finish ch. 7.

Thursday, 3/3; Monday, 3/7

Today was the first day of workshopping for poems 2 & 3. We practiced commenting on blog-posted poems with a poem I was urged to write by one of you. Then students double-checked that their poems were posted to the blog and, in some cases, adjusted their group tags to account for the number of students absent today. Everyone then read the other poems written by their group members and commented on the blog. Towards the end of class on Thursday, groups got together, shared their poems through Google Docs, and began more in-depth workshopping there; we didn’t quite get that far on Monday. Homework: please read “The Inheritance of Tools” on p. 93 in Burroway to prepare for the start of our creative nonfiction unit.

Tuesday, 3/1; Wednesday, 3/2

Students had time to type their Poems 2 & 3 today in Google Docs. I provided a list of writing exercises if folks needed more material from which to write their drafts. I also asked students to use the final Accomplishing a Draft activity on p. 333 in Burroway to take a closer look at their use of figurative language and poetic sounds. Red day students also posted their two poems to the Creative Writing Blog. I sent e-mails to everyone’s school e-mail address with more information on how to tag their poems so that each student’s group would be able to easily find the relevant poems. Homework: any of this that did not get finished in class must be done by the start of next class so we can workshop in groups.

Monday, 2/28 (Gold day only)

I was absent today. Poems 2 & 3 are due, typed, at the end of class on Wednesday, and everyone should have rough drafts done for homework before Wednesday. With the sub, students did pre-writing and had drafting time for these two poems. Homework: finish up those drafts!

Friday, 2/25 (Red day only)

We finished up our discussion of line breaks with “Lady Lazarus” today, and I talked more about my expectations for Poems 2 & 3 — continued use of imagery, increased focus on figurative language, and more attention to poetic sounds. Then students did some pre-writing and had time for drafting. Homework: try and have at least partial drafts of these two poems ready for next class.

Wednesday, 2/23; Thursday, 2/24

We discussed syllables and rhythm more today using Shakespeare’s “Sonnet XVII” as an example. Students then wrote their own sonnets using a rhyme scheme devised by the entire class. Following this, we talked about the importance of thoughtful line and stanza breaks. I gave students a copy of Sylvia Plath’s “Lady Lazarus” with all of the breaks taken out and asked them to put the breaks back in — a single slash for a line break and a double slash for a stanza break. We will discuss students’ choices in Plath’s poem next class. Homework: start thinking about poems 2 & 3, which will be due next week.

Tuesday, 2/22 (Gold day only)

After a warmup, we discused Burroway’s ch. 9 today by examining syllables/scansion as well as other sounds (rhyme, alliteration, etc.). We also further discussed the intersection of imagery and metaphor as well as compression of language in poetry with Silvia Plath’s Stillborn. Homework: start thinking about poems 2 & 3, which will be due next week.

Friday, 2/18 (Red day only)

After some warmups, students practiced writing cinquains to help them start paying more attention to syllables. Then we continued discussing Burroway’s ch. 9 today by examining syllables/scansion as well as other sounds (rhyme, alliteration, etc.). We also further discussed the intersection of imagery and metaphor as well as compression of language in poetry with Silvia Plath’s Stillborn.

Thursday, 2/17 (Gold day only)

To start today, I had students play around with their Poem #1:

  • 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.

After this, we tried to get the creative juices flowing again with a couple pre-writing activities from the Smith & Greenberg text. I then had students practice with personification and action by reading and trying to write their own version of the Ruth Forman poem “Poetry Should Ride the Bus” — though, in our poems, I asked students to actually put poetry into action, make it do something (more, “Poetry Rides the Bus”). Homework: finish your “Poetry Rides the Bus” practice and show it to me on Friday.

Wednesday, 2/16 (Red day only)

Today we tried to get the creative juices flowing again with a number of pre-writing activities from the Smith & Greenberg text. We began discussing ch. 9 in Burroway, talking more about figurative language, density of language, and poetic action. To this end, I had students practice with personification and action by reading and trying to write their own version of the Ruth Forman poem “Poetry Should Ride the Bus” — though, in our poems, I asked students to actually put poetry into action, make it do something (more, “Poetry Rides the Bus”). Homework: finish your “Poetry Rides the Bus” practice and show it to me on Friday.

Tuesday, 2/15 (Gold day only)

Workshop for Poem #1 wrapped up today. After a quick de-brief on the experience of workshop, students had time to begin compiling notes from their classmates on what kinds of revisions they might make to their poems. I also reviewed the commenting and revision history features of Google Docs which could be very useful during this revision process.

Monday, 2/14 (Red day only)

Workshop for Poem #1 wrapped up today. After a quick de-brief on the experience of workshop, I had students play around with their Poem #1:

  • 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.

Friday, 2/11 (Gold day only)

Workshopping of Poem #1 continued today. Homework: read ch. 9 in Burroway and bring the workshopped copies of your poem to class next week.

Thursday, 2/10 (Red day only)

We split class today between continuing workshop on Poem #1 and beginning some pre-writing for Poems #2 & 3. Homework: please read ch. 9 in Burroway and bring the workshopped copies of your poem next week.

Tuesday, 2/8; Wednesday, 2/9

Workshopping of Poem #1 continued today. Homework: read ch. 9 in Burroway and bring the workshopped copies of your poem to class on Thursday (Red)/Friday (Gold) as well as next week.

Friday, 2/4; Monday, 2/7

Workshopping of Poem #1 continued today.

Monday, 1/31; Thursday, 2/3

We began workshopping every student’s Poem #1 as an entire class. We will continue this for the next several days.

Thursday, 1/27; Friday, 1/28

Students worked on typing their first poems for workshopping today in Google Docs, sharing them with me through their Creative Writing folders to turn them in. We then posted these poems to the Creative Writing blog that both classes are using together. We also talked a little bit about workshop, which we’ll start next week.


Wednesday, 1/26 (Gold day only)

To make sure students had ample material for workshop poem #1, we spent the bulk of class today on prewriting — Try This 1.4, 1.7, 1.8 in the Burroway Text. We talked a bit about the importance of doing so much practice before “performance.” And then, because this class is larger and will probably need more time for workshop, I had students begin on their poems on paper today. Homework: continue working on a draft of your first workshop poem.

Tuesday, 1/25 (Red day only)

After the counseling office presented to the class regarding scholarships, we went over the details of the assignment to write the first workshop poem. We followed this with prewriting from the Burroway text (Try this 1.6, 1.7, 1.8 and 1.9). I checked homework for today, and we discussed how to begin the first workshop poem, using Burroway’s suggestions at the end of ch. 1 (p. 34) to help. Homework: start working on a draft of your first workshop poem.

Monday, 1/24 (Gold day only)

After the counseling office presented to the class regarding scholarships, we did prewriting from the Burroway text (Try this 1.6 and 1.9). I checked homework for today, and we briefly discussed the successes and challenges students had in writing their practice poems last class. We went over the details of the assignment to write the first workshop poem. We also discussed the remaining imagery poems from a few days back. Homework: start working on a draft of your first workshop poem.

Friday, 1/21 (Red day only)

We finished talking about the three imagery-rich poems at the end of Burroway’s ch. 1 today. Students also completed some prewriting from Smith/Greenberg. After this, students attempted writing their first cohesive poem from some part of their journal over the last two weeks. Sections of the Smith/Greenberg text that may help start on p. 20 and p. 189. To end class, we discussed the difficulties folks had with the first attempt at poetry today. Homework: remember to do the “Quilting” exercise described in the post from last class — this is due Tuesday.

Thursday, 1/20 (Gold day only)

I was absent today for all-day English department meetings. With the sub, students should have completed prewriting exercises in the Smith/Greenberg text on p. 37, 60, and 67 — 10-15 minutes on each one. After this, students were to attempt writing their first cohesive poem from some part of their journal over the last two weeks. Sections of the Smith/Greenberg text that may help start on p. 20 and p. 189. Homework: remember to do the “Quilting” exercise described in the post from last class — this is due Monday.

Tuesday, 1/18; Wednesday, 1/19

We worked on some warm-ups out of the Smith/Greenberg text to start off class today. We then spent a little bit of time reviewing Burroway’s chapter 1 before beginning to discuss the imagery (and connected figurative language) in the three poems at the end of the chapter that were homework for today. Homework: 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. This is due Monday for period B6 and Tuesday for period A1.

Thursday, 1/13; Friday, 1/14

We discussed the Williams and Hughes poems from this handout today, again practicing close reading and looking for Imagery, Figurative Language, and Sounds of Poetry. I went over the highlights of the introduction to the Burroway text, and we did some pre-writing from the first chapter. 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.

Tuesday, 1/11; Wednesday, 1/12

We started reading and discussing these three poems, practicing close reading/paraphrasing and looking for Imagery, Figurative Language, and Sounds of Poetry. We got done with Frost and started Williams — we’ll finish those up next class. Students also got their copies of the Burroway text and read the Invitation to the Reader (p. xxi-xxvi) in class. We did Try This 0.2 on p. xxvi as pre-writing today towards the end of class. Homework: read ch. 1 on Image in Burroway for next class.

Friday, 1/7; Monday 1/10

I handed out and reviewed the class norms and guidelines to start class. We revisited Collins’s “Introduction to Poetry” and used it to review imagery, figurative language, and sounds of poetry — three poetic elements you all will focus on in your poems this unit. Using the Smith & Greenberg text, students did their first pre-writing activity, and we talked about what everyone should be trying to do during every pre-writing session.

Wednesday, 1/5; Thursday, 1/6

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 noted observations about Billy Collins’ poem “Introduction to Poetry.” I will use this poem and discussion next class 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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