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Creative writing is subjective.  Teaching creative writing is also subjective.  When you do teach a class in writing, it’s important that its knowledge you’re trying to impart, not your own subjective sense, choices or taste.

Here are some simple tips that will help you keep that balance as you are teaching something you truly enjoy.

Your students should be in the same age or life experience situation. Students in junior high obviously have different experiences than a college student.  The comprehension level will be different.  The skill levels will vary broadly.  This similarity between students will allow you to create appropriate challenges that will meet the needs of most of your students.

Never assume a skill level. Check with your students so you know how strong their grammar and other language skills are.  If you need a quick catch up session, it’s best done at the beginning of the course, not after students have labored over papers, only to find that their grammar skills are lacking.

Giving someone a specific assignment should be reserved for chemistry class.  In writing, you want the students to have fun and explore a variety of ideas.  Assigning work on a student’s “best summer vacation” may be too structured.  The scope is limited.  On the other hand, writing about the “silliest thing you remember about your grandmother” may offer more opportunities.

Teach in steps. Success in teaching a skill means you don’t necessarily start at the top.  For example, if you’re teaching skiing, you first teach someone how to turn and stop, then you start adding challenges along the way, one at a time, as your student goes higher and higher up the mountain.  For writing, start with paragraphs and then work you way through short stories.  Building on smaller successes is the best way for a student to develop.

Take the time to read students’ works out loud.  Be patient with someone reading their own work in front of a group for the first time.  If they’re shy, have someone else read the piece.  Always allow someone to opt out of the reading exercise.

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