Preparing to Teach Creative Writing – Planning the Micro Teach

As part of my course, Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector, which I’m undertaking in order to give me a foundation in teaching skills, with the eventual goal of becoming a Creative Writing tutor, we have to deliver a micro teach. This is a 15-20 minute lesson in which we have to use all the strategies we have learnt throughout the course.

The most challenging aspect of this task is that the class will have a mixed ability and a mixed level of interest in regards to the subject taught. How can I deliver a short Creative Writing class to such a diverse group?

I’ve been thinking about this for a few weeks. At first, I considered tackling one of the major foundations of Creative Writing: what is a story? I had planned to teach the basic structure of a story (that it must contain a beginning, middle and an end, and have a conflict and sense of change) and provide the group with a series of short examples, including examples of what a story isn’t. I was then going to get the group to write their own one paragraph short story.

However, I think this might been too big a concept to deliver in 15 minutes, and it might be too daunting to get students to write a story – even a short one – if they have never done any Creative Writing or have no interest in it. I thought the lesson sounded a little bit dry.

I thought about exercises I had enjoyed, and remembered one called ‘101 Uses for a Button’ (or something like that), which I read in The Five-Minute Writer Margaret Geraghty. It encourages you to think creatively, outside the box, and come up with as many different uses for the simple button. An interesting task to start a lesson with, I think. Something easy and fun.

But how could I build on this concept? ‘Thinking outside the box’ can be interperated in a different way: avoiding cliche. Cliche often creeps into writing, especially for beginner or unconfident writers, and it is something that most people are familiar with, even if they are not a writer. So I would then provide the class with a few examples of cliches, writing them on a flipchart, and ask them to contribute some more. I might incorporate an exercise here, asking students to re-write a cliche or two.

Faces made of toilet role tubes! Characters created by ‘thinking outside the box’.

I would then develop this theme into a discussion on characters and stereotypes, including a little theory on flat and round characters (E. M. Forster), which would lead into the main writing task. I would provide photocopied photos of a variety of different people and ask each student to pick one. They will have five minutes to write a character sketch – I would provide a handout of prompting questions to help them if they are stuck. Then I might get the students to pair up and describe their characters to each other, or ask for volunteers to read out their character sketches to the class – I’m not sure which, yet.

I would end with a summing up.

These are just my inital thoughts for the micro teach. Over the next few weeks, before the micro teachings beging, we will be looking at course and session planning, so hopefully that will help. At the moment, I have a feeling this lesson is too long for a 15 minute slot, so I’m going to have to think about it some more.

Any feedback/suggestions would be welcome!

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7 thoughts on “Preparing to Teach Creative Writing – Planning the Micro Teach

  1. Hi Sophie

    I did my microteach last November and had the same concern about teaching to people who had no experience or even interest in creative writing.

    In the end, I chose “how to make an impact with your opening line” and gave examples of different types of opening – in medias res, big bang, humour etc. For the practical bit I asked them to choose the type they liked best and write an opening line in that style. Anyone confident enough to read theirs out could then do so.

    I can send you the slides I used if you want.
    Tom Conoboy recently posted..Here comes Lester

    1. Hi Tom, thanks so much for your comment. Opening lines sounds like a good idea to teach. I would love to see your slides, if only for inspiration and interest! My email address is sophieplayle @ googlemail (dot) com

  2. Hey Sophie,

    I agree – I think you’ve got a bit too much packed in there. I don’t think you’ll get round to the pair feedback. Do you need to include differentiation & stretch and challenge? How will you measure the learning? Perhaps having some adjectives on cards as prompts to help with weaker students. You could give them one picture and display it – then see what different character traits they come up with. I quite like the re-writing cliches idea though. I think this would be a 15 min slot by itself though without character stuff. Tom’s idea above looks good too – and the right amount for the time slot.

    For my 20 min micro teach which got me my present teaching job (A level English) I looked at attitudes and values in The Scarlet Letter by pre-selecting quotes on cards (often single words) and getting the students moving around and sticking them up on the white board, grouping them etc, according to various criteria. Observers like it when they move around. Whatever you come up with – it will be too long! You can always provide links and extra activities on a sheet or on the course site to leave with the group for later stretching which will give you bonus points.

    Good luck!
    Claire Huxham recently posted..AS QUICK AS BOILED ASPARAGUS

  3. I think presenting an enjoyable exercise is a great start. There are multiple avenues that you can stem that topic off into, like you mentioned. I know my favorite times in class were the times where active participation was involved. Plust it takes a lot of stress off of you, the teacher, when you place some of the lesson into the student’s hands. Whatever you choose to do though, I’m sure it’ll be great. You’ve always done an awesome job on this blog.
    Voidwalker recently posted..Math Attack

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