Creative Writing


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.

Friday, 12/14

Rather than take a final, since the portfolio should be complete and submitted at the start of class, everyone did a 2-3 minute reading from his or her portfolio.

Wednesday, 12/12

Today was the work day for the final portfolio. We went over the requirements one more time as well as the specifics of turning it in via Google Docs. The rest of the time was for working on revisions. Homework: the portfolio is due at the start of the finals period on Friday; everyone must also have prepared a 2-3 minute reading from his or her portfolio, including a hard copy of the piece(s) to be read.

Monday, 12/10

Workshop day for the short story — students workshopped in small groups using Google Docs. I also talked a little bit more about the portfolio. Wednesday will be a portfolio work day and it is due at the start of class on Friday. Homework: revise your stuff!

Thursday, 12/6

After checking Phase 2 of the short story assignment, today was a work day to complete Phase 3, which was due at the end of class. I also handed out the details for the final portfolio in case anyone wants to start working on it early. Homework: bring in a workshop draft of your story (electronically) on Monday.

Tuesday, 12/4

Today was our first work day for the short story project. I checked Phase 1 at the start of class and then Phase 2 at the end of class. In between, I made suggestions for helpful pre-writes from the Bernays/Painter text and helped students individually establish solid conflicts and think about their stories holistically before diving into the details. Homework: continue working on your story, and make some progress on the rough draft (Phase 3), which is due at the end of class on Thursday.

Friday, 11/30

I gave students a long list of possible pre-writes today and briefly reviewed each one. Then everyone chose from the list to fill three 10-minute warmups. Afterwards we discussed comedy and tragedy, linking this concept to “Tooth and Claw” as well as our developing characters. The end of class was for getting organized in Google Docs and spending more time working with online resources to help name characters. Homework: Phase 1 of the short story project is due at the start of class on Tuesday.

Wednesday, 11/28

I started class by handing out and discussing the short story assignment, including the various checkpoints and when they will be due. This is a good opportunity to both make up some points and also to lose points — please take these checkpoint assignments seriously. Students then finished reading “Tooth and Claw” and we used it to discuss the various ways of looking at character in ch. 3 of Burroway. We then focused on character names, what they mean, and what they indicate about a character. After a warmup in the Bernays/Painter text, we used a baby name website as well as Google searches to research the meaning behind and some data about specific names. These will be tools students will continue to use as they flesh out their characters. Homework: Try This 3.1 on p. 81 of Burroway.

Monday, 11/26

Students did fiction-related warmups, we discussed eavesdropping and dialogue some more, and then everyone started reading “Tooth and Claw,” which some students will finish reading next class. Homework: read ch. 3 — “Character” in Burroway.

Wednesday, 11/14

Today we started talking about writing dialogue, and students completed an eavesdropping activity around the school for most of class. I checked this for a grade and gave everyone a related assignment to complete over break. Homework: I’ll check this eavesdropping assignment the first day back from Thanksgiving break.

Tuesday, 11/13

After one warm-up, we worked our way through ch. 5 talking about Burroway’s concepts of story as a journey, a power struggle, and connection and disconnection. We talked more about “Bigfoot Stole My Wife” and how it fits each of these concepts. Students then read “Souvenir” by Kurt Vonnegut and we talked about how it also fits these concepts.

Thursday, 11/8

Today we started our third and final unit — short fiction. Students read “Bigfoot Stole My Wife” on p. 300 in Burroway and completed three warmups from ch. 5. Then we discussed the story and briefly introduced Burroway’s three different ways of looking at story/plot. Homework: none specific, but start thinking about what kinds of stories and characters in short fiction, novels, films, and television interest you.

Tuesday, 11/6

Today was a workshop day in the Wired lab for the creative nonfiction essays. Essays not complete at the start of class today are late.

Friday, 11/2

Today was a work day for typing the nonfiction essay in Google Docs. These essays must be complete in Google Docs at the start of class on Tuesday. Homework: finish up the nonfiction essays if you didn’t get done in class today.

Wednesday, 10/31

I checked outlines today for the creative nonfiction essays. We completed a few final nonfiction-related warmups and finished talking about ch. 4 on setting. The rest of class was work time for the nonfiction essay rough draft due next class, when we will be in the Wired Lab for typing. Homework: have a rough draft ready to go for next class.

Monday, 10/29

Students read ch. 4 in Burroway, which deals with setting. We discussed some of her thoughts on setting (Setting as the World, Setting as a Camera) and completed related pre-writing exercises. I also handed out details of the nonfiction essay and a development worksheet to help everyone get started. Homework: complete the development worksheet for next class.

Thursday, 10/25

Students read “At The Dam” (p. 143) and “A Wind from the North” (p. 145) silently to start class while I checked the homework due today. We then did a lot more pre-writing to prepare for the nonfiction essay students will be writing next week. The last part of class was spent discussing the essays students read at the start of class. Homework: complete one other Try This exercise from ch. 7, one that you haven’t done yet.

Tuesday, 10/23

We discussed “An Inheritance of Tools” and students did a bunch of pre-writing to prepare for the nonfiction essay. Homework: Try This 7.7 on p. 245 of the Burroway text.

Friday, 10/19

We tackled three warmups in Burroway’s ch. 7 before discussing the attributes of the nonfiction essay and our first professional example, “The Knife.” Students began reading “The Inheritance of Tools” (p. 93) at the end of class. Homework: please finish “The Inheritance of Tools” for next class.

Wednesday, 10/17

Today was workshop day for Poem #3. Students again workshopped in medium-sized groups just like yesterday. Anyone who finished early continued reading in Burroway. Homework: Finish “The Knife” on p. 262 and ch. 7 on p. 237.

Monday, 10/15

Today was workshop day for Poem #2. Students workshopped in medium-sized groups to get through them more quickly while still allowing students to get feedback from several classmates. Anyone who finished early started reading “The Knife” on p. 262 of Burroway and ch. 7 on p. 237 of the same text.

Wednesday, 10/9

Today was a work day for typing up Poems #2 and #3. Poem #2 adds an additional focus on figurative language, and Poem #3 layers poetic sounds on top of everything else we’ve done. Anyone who didn’t get either poem finished by the end of class needs to bring in 15 copies next class for workshop.

Monday, 10/7

We talked through Shakespeare’s Sonnet XVIII as an example of a poem that adheres to a very strict form. We talked about different aspects of that form (number of lines/stanzas, end rhyme, end-stopped lines, syllable and scansion), and then we began working on writing our own sonnets by developing a rhyme scheme together for everyone to use. Students then worked by themselves or with a partner to create a sonnet working within the confines of the rhyme scheme and other elements of the Shakespearean form. After sharing some of these, we talked about rhythm, rhyme, and other elements of poetic sound. Homework: please bring a draft of Poem #3, along with your draft of Poem #2, to class on Wednesday; we will be typing in the Wired lab.

Thursday, 10/4

Students read the rest of the Poetry chapter in Burroway so we could start talking about poetic sounds. We read and did an activity with another Plath poem — “Lady Lazarus” — to look at how she chooses her line and stanza breaks. We ended class with a couple of pre-writing activities. Homework: start thinking about Poem #3 — a rough draft will be due next Wednesday.

Tuesday, 10/2

After some new warm-ups, we talked through the details of Poem #2: essentially the requirements are the same as Poem #1, with the added expectation of more obvious attempts at figurative language. We practiced writing some metaphors by starting with physical objects and drilling down to linked abstractions, and then students had time to start going through their journals to pick material for Poem #2. Homework: a rough draft of Poem #2 is due next class.

Friday, 9/28

We spent the day in the Wired Lab working on various revision exercises for Poem #1

Wednesday, 9/26

With Poems #2 and #3 coming up soon, it was time to jump back into pre-writing every day — students completed three exercises from the Smith & Greenberg text. Afterwards, we read the Sylvia Plath poem “Stillborn” from the Burroway text and started talking about parts of the poetry chapter there. Homework: bring all copies of your workshopped Poem #1 to class on Friday; we will meet in the Wired Lab. 

Monday, 9/24

We finished our last day of workshopping Poem #1 today. Overall, I think workshop went very well, and I hope everyone has good comments to use to help them improve the poems during revisions. For the last 30 minutes of class, we started talking about personification as the easiest type of figurative language to write and did an exercise where students personified poetry itself. Homework: if you haven’t yet, please spend some time reviewing the suggestions made on your Poem #1; make sure you bring all of your workshopped copies of your poem to class on Friday when we will complete several revision activities.

Thursday, 9/20

Day 3 of workshopping. We tried something new today and had two smaller workshop circles going simultaneously. It worked pretty well, and we got through many more poems than we would have as an entire class. Homework: if you’ve already had your poem workshopped, please spend some time this weekend reviewing all of the suggestions you received.

Tuesday, 9/18

Day 2 of workshop on everyone’s Poem #1.

Friday, 9/14

We held our first Poem #1 workshop day today. We read and commented on the poems of students who volunteered to go first. We will continue this activity for the next several days.

Wednesday, 9/12

After a visit from the counseling department, we had a work day for writing/typing Poem #1. Students typed their poems in Google Docs and shared them with me. Anyone who hadn’t completed and shared their poem by the end of class will be counted late and will need to provide 30 hard copies when turning it in.

Monday, 9/10

After some warm-ups, we reviewed the details of Poem #1 and talked a bit about how to decide what pre-writing would lend itself to good poetry. Students spent a few minutes combing through their journals for ideas for this poem. We then discussed our third imagery poem, the Komunyakaa at the end of Burroway’s ch. 1. Homework: be ready to type Poem #1 on Wednesday.

Thursday, 9/6

After going over the details of the assignment for Poem #1, we completed three new warm-ups in the Smith & Goldberg text. I also checked the homework due today at this time. Following this, we talked a little bit about abstractions and generalizations and how to make them come alive through the use of concrete, vivid details. We finished talking about the Collins poem in the Burroway text, and very briefly began the Komunyakaa. Homework: pick some previous pre-writing from your journal and spend 20-30 minutes extending it.

Tuesday, 9/4

I mentioned the upcoming Poem #1 assignment today, about which everyone will have more information soon. To continue generating material for this first poem, students did three different warm-ups from the Smith & Greenberg text. While students were writing, I checked the homework due today (imagery from three poems). We then started discussing the imagery poems, finishing the Hughes one and getting part way through the Collins one. Homework: from the ‘Caught Up in the News’ exercise on p. 84 of Smith & Greenberg — “Look through several issues of newspapers and magazines and copy down leads and headlines that strike you as provocative, amusing, or absurd. Link them together [think mashup] in semi logical ways.

Thursday, 8/30

At the start of class, I checked out copies of the Burroway text. Every student needs to have this book with him or her every day that class meets. We did some pre-writing from this book (Warm-up at the start of ch. 1 and Try This 1.6), and students read ch. 1 to themselves. We discussed ch. 1 and I read to them the Hughes, Collins, and Komunyakaa poems on p. 26-29. Homework: please re-read these poems to yourself and find 3-5 examples of imagery in each one.

Tuesday, 8/28

While I checked the homework from last class, students read the Invitation to the Writer from the Burroway text. They then completed pre-writing from that same section of the book, and we talked about her guidance for getting the most out of a class like this one. We also read together and discussed the Hughes poem on the “three poems” handout.

Friday, 8/24

To reinforce the importance of logging data about pre-writing exercises, we returned to Wednesday’s exercise and added to it. We also completed a couple other new exercises. We discussed the Williams poem on the “three poems” handout, particularly noting how so much can be said with only 16 words. Homework: please complete the “Quilting” exercise as described on p. 63 of the Smith & Greenberg text (students copied this down during class). In a nut, 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.

Wednesday, 8/22

Today I introduced journaling using the Smith & Greenberg text. We talked about the importance of doing all pre-writing in the same notebook and logging important information each time a pre-writing exercise is done — the time, date, and place; the name of the exercise; initial reactions to the prompt; reactions to and discoveries from the writing; and ideas for further writing on this topic. We did a practice pre-writing exercise to try it all out. We also took a look at the Frost poem on the “three poems” handout, again paraphrasing and looking at our three categories of poetic elements.

Monday, 8/20

After yearbook/ID photos, we continued paraphrasing and discussing the Collins poem today. We also started talking about the three elements of poetry we’ll be studying during the first unit — Imagery, Figurative Language, and Poetic Sounds. We looked for examples of these in the Collins poem too.

Friday, 8/17

For our first day of classes, students completed a writing sample and we began paraphrasing together the Billy Collins poem “Introduction to Poetry.”

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