One Day in The Life of The Creative Writing Classroom

Article Posted in: Research Articles

One Day in the Life of the Creative Writing Classroom

Paper by Anna Cates,

Published in the September 2015 Issue of Ashvamegh


You’ve been assigned to teach creative writing, an upper division, undergraduate level course, mostly populated by English and English Education majors, as well as those seeking an “easy” elective, who’ve denied their true academic passion to pursue what they hope will be a better paying career.  Your heart thuds and your thoughts swirl at the enormity of the task, at the seriousness of the situation.  How should you teach creative writing?  You take a few deep breaths to calm yourself.  Then, positing hypothetically that everything essential could be included in a single class period, you mentally factor down the entire semester’s worth of pedagogy into a single prototypic class session—reduce the macrocosm to the microcosm and thereby find the general components from which to structure class time:  1. Guided activities, 2. Examination of writing samples, and 3. The Writer’s Workshop.

Daily Exercise:  Daily exercise is good for the creative writing student.  As Katherine Haake explains in “What Our Speech Disrupts,” writing activities “have the power to surprise us, to take us up, where we did not expect to go, for that is the very nature of writing” (192).  You will assign exercises that vary from “Group Poetry” to editing to limit modifiers.  Today you tell the class:  “Each person give me a word, a good word, a juicy word, the best word you can think of!”  You have the class write down each word from each class member in a single column on a piece of paper.  Then, on a separate piece of paper, they must craft an original poem using each of those words, one per line.  Then they share.  After class, students may revise their poems.

Literary Models:  “Let’s examine Anne Sexton’s Cinderella on page 94,” you tell the class.  A creative writing course is not a literature course, and yet close examination of literary models guides student writing.  By discussing literary models, you will show students that good creative writing must be meritorious and “seen as valuable or interesting,” as stated by Linda Sarbo in “Creativity Research and Classroom Practice” from the “Colors of a Different Horse” anthology (134).  What kind of standard will you urge your students towards?  Perhaps “the books issued by the best American publishers,” as quoted in R. M. Berry’s “Theory, Creative Writing, and the Impertinence of History,” also from the aforementioned anthology (71).  Using models will broaden the focus from writing process alone to product also.

The Writing Workshop:  According to Joyce Carol Oates in “Telling Stories,” the writing workshop provides a stimulating atmosphere, allows writers to witness the impact of their work on a live audience, and develops preexistent skill (705).  Therefore, the workshop will comprise a valuable part of your course.  Not all students can read each class period, so you assign students particular days throughout the term, allowing everyone multiple opportunities to share their work and be critiqued.  “Today Maria, Tyrone, and John are scheduled to read,” you inform the class.

This one day in the life of the creative writing classroom could easily become every day.  Including these three pedagogical components will give you most, perhaps all, of the structure and materials needed to ensure your students success with writing.  You smile with confidence, knowing you’ve arisen to the challenge!




Works Cited

Berry, R. M.  “Theory, Creative Writing, and the Impertinence of History.”  Colors of a Different

Horse.  Eds. Wendy Bishop and Hans Ostrom.  Premium Source Publishing, 2007.  57-76.

Haake, Katharine.  What Our Speech Disrupts.  Premium Source Publishing, 2000.

Oates, Joyce Carol.  “Telling Stories:  An Anthology for Writers.”  New York:  W. W. Norton,


Sarbo, Linda and Joseph M. Moxley.  “Creativity Research and Classroom Practice.”  Colors of

a Different Horse.  Eds. Wendy Bishop and Hans Ostrom.  Premium Source Publishing, 2007.  133-145.




Introduction to the Author:

Anna CatesAnna Cates resides in Wilmington, Ohio with her two cats, Freddie and Christine, writes. She holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing, and several other advanced degrees related to English studies, and teaches English online for several universities. She is a regular contributor to short form poetry publications, and her first full-length collection of haiku and other poems, “The Meaning of Life,” from, is now available on Amazon.

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