As part of my Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector course, I had to present a twenty minute lesson on my chosen subject. Deciding what to teach was a difficult task. The hardest part was planning the mini lesson into the short time frame. My orginal ideas were far too long, and I had a feeling that the lesson I prepared would over-run, too. Eventually, I just had to go for it, realising that it was as much a learning experience for me as it was for my pretend students. I wanted to use the opportunity to test out a particular notion on a group of students, so I went for the idea: What is ‘Good’ Writing?
My lesson aim was:
To develop a discussion around what constitutes ‘good’ writing and help students realise there are subjective and objective ways of analysing creative writing.
I thought this would be a good way to start any writing course as it helps students realise that there is no ‘correct’ way of doing things when it comes to creative writing, but that there are some criteria that are used in a more objective sense to assess creative writing. Therefore it (hopefully) relaxes students who fear judgement on their writing, and also helps them understand how their writing might be marked.
Now, I had a few hiccups the morning I was meant to present. My printer is out of ink so, knowing this, I aimed to be at the college an hour early to give me time to print my resources in the library. Unfortuntely, the usual fifteen minute drive took me an hour due to exceptionally bad traffic (I think there was an accident somewhere, which caused a lot of people to re-route). I still arrived with twenty minutes to spare. I dashed to the library and started printing – and then the fire alarm went off!
We had to evacuate the building. Fifteen minutes later and I was grabbing my print-outs and rushing to the classroom. I had planned to re-arrange the tables into a ‘U’ shape to provide a more discussion-orientated layout, so did this quickly with the help of my peers. All in all, I had everything prepared just in time.
The chaos actually distracted me from my nerves. The relief I felt in overcoming all the obstacals thrown into my path before the lesson seemed to help!
I started with a brief introduction to the lesson, then launched straight into the first task. I had printed three extracts from novels and, after asking for volunteers to read them outloud, got the class to pair up and rank them in order of preference, emphasising that there was no right or wrong answer. I moved around the class and listened to the types of things being discussed. Once everyone was finished, I opened it up to a group discussion and noted the various criteria people had used to judge the extracts on the whiteboard (subject matter, language, genre, accessibility, etc). I only revealed the novels the extracts were taken from after the discussion was complete (more for the sake of curiosity).
I used a slideshow presentation to structure the lesson, and after the task I talked through the differences between subjective and objective ways of assessing writing, using the presentation as a focal point. Then I issued a mini three-question quiz and asked people to volunteer the answers before revealing them.
As expected, the lesson over-ran a little. But that was okay. I knew that, really, the topic needed longer as discussion always needs as much time as possible, and creative writing is such a discussion-based subject. I recived really good feedback, with the main criticism (other than I over-ran on time) being that I should have focused more evenly on the subjective/objective split and provided a more engaging task to involve students in the objective element of the lesson – I knew this would be the case, and I would have definitely done this if I’d had more time.
If anyone wants to use and/or adapt my power point presentation, feel free to do so but please leave the credit on the first slide. It would also be nice to hear if anyone finds it useful, so please leave a comment below. Click the link to open the presentation in Microsoft Power Point.
Power Point Presentation: Introduction to Creative Writing – What is ‘Good’ Writing?