Creative Writing

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Course Description:

In creative writing, we will explore our hand at a variety of genres: poetry, short stories, one-acts/plays, and creative nonfiction. Class time will be divided into specific, focused writing and brainstorming tasks (independent work time), mini-lessons on different aspects of the writing craft, and peer revision and feedback. The best way to learn the art of creative writing is to write often, so you will have weekly writing assignments that culminate in a final project at the end of each four-week unit. In terms of developing our craft as writers, we will lean heavily on the general principles outlined in Heather Sellers’s The Practice of Creative Writing, which posits that that good creative writing is characterized by images, energy, tension, pattern, and insight.

Essential questions to be explored include: What is worth writing about? What makes a good subject? What is the relationship between limitations and creativity? What types of feedback are useful to writers as they revise? What can we do when we feel stuck or when we need to regain focus? How does reading make us better writers? What are some different approaches to generating ideas, drafting, and revising? What approaches work best for us as individual writers? What are the basic elements of poetry? What are the building blocks of narratives? What strategies can we use to create energy, tension, and pattern in our writing? What makes for interesting and engaging dialogue?

Check out our blog: GCAA Creative Writing: An Outlet for the Creative Genius

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GCAA School Wide Standards

  • As a school we have established a set of basic expectations that all of us are held accountable to. You are expected to follow these rules everyday. The GCAA School Wide Standards are:
  1. Report to class on time and attend all classes regularly.
  2. Accept responsibility for your learning:
    • Complete homework assignments.
    • Bring required materials to class each day.
    • Be attentive in class and listen, speak and discuss when appropriate.
    • Be open to acquiring and using new knowledge. Connect what you learn in one place to that which you learn in another.
  3. Respect the teacher’s position as leader in the classroom:
    • Follow the teacher’s direction.
    • Adhere to individual classroom guidelines.
    • Be positive about learning.
    • Build strong relationships with teachers and other students.
  4. Respect the authority of any adult in the building:
    • Comply with the directions and requests of any adult in the building, whether or not you know them.
    • Learn to value the dignity and worth of all individuals in the school community.
  5. Be considerate to and respectful of others:
    • Refrain from teasing, interrupting, or criticizing others.
    • Refrain from using vulgar or obscene language.
    • Refrain from acting out anger and frustration through fighting or other inappropriate behaviors. \
  1. Be considerate to and respectful of others CONTINUED:
    • Keep all food and drinks in the cafeteria except when authorized by a teacher and take responsibility for any wrappers, etc. of food eaten between classes.
  2. Cooperate with the specific rules of the school:
    • Dress in appropriate attire which does not distract or offend others (see Dress Code section of handbook).
    • Refrain from running in the halls, speaking loudly and banging lockers while classes are in progress.
    • Assume responsibility and accept consequences for your own behavior.
  3. Ask for help when you need it.
    • Your teachers, counselors, and administrators are here to help you; your activity sponsors and older students are resources.
  4. Respect the rights of others, especially to learn, by not creating excessive disruption in the halls, library, cafeteria and other common areas.
    • Obey the laws of society, including prohibitions against assault, theft, vandalism, possession of illegal substances and possession of weapons.

To honor and integrate the GCAA School Wide Standards into our classroom, we will adhere to the following rules in Musical Theatre Lit:

Listen the first time.
Follow classroom procedures.
Ask for help when you need it.
Express yourself in appropriate ways.
Come on time; come prepared.

Course Outcomes:
Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • Analyze the writing choices of both your peers and published authors and provide focused, helpful feedback.
  • Apply specific writing strategies to generate ideas, draft, and revise your work.
  • Define the principles of imagery, energy, tension, pattern, and insight in writing and apply these principles in your own writing.
  • Create vivid and gripping imagery in a variety of poem types as well as perform a poem for the class.
  • Apply the building blocks of narrative and dialogue techniques to craft several compelling short stories.
  • Write an autobiographical one-act, applying the principles of tension and insight.
  • Define the genre, creative nonfiction and apply the principles of pattern to craft a piece of creative nonfiction.

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Instructional Materials
The following materials and supplies will be needed daily:

The Practice of Creative Writing, by Heather Sellers
Three ring binder provided by the student for looseleaf paper and handouts
Pens and pencils

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Unit I: Poetry

Essential Questions: What is worth writing about? What makes a good subject? What is the relationship between limitations and creativity? What qualities make feedback useful to a creative writer? What are the major differences between creative writing and other types of writing? How does reading help you to become a better writer? What can you do when you feel stuck with your writing? What are some different approaches to generating ideas, drafting, and revising? Which approaches do you like best? What are the basic elements of every poem? What different types of poems exist? What are their “rules” and what is the value of these rules? How can you play with language to become a better poet? What are the building blocks of narratives? How do poems gain and/or lose meaning when read loud?

At the end of this unit, you will be able to: analyze the nuances of language in published poems, analyze the choices made by your peers and provide specific, focused, helpful feedback, create vivid and gripping imagery in your poems, apply the building blocks of narrative to write narrative poems, apply writing strategies to generate ideas for poems and generate first drafts, apply revision strategies to make more specific and intentional choices with language in their poems, recall the qualities of selected poem “recipes”: villanelles, sestinas, abcedarius, and anaphora, write poems according to the rules of selected poem “recipes,” and perform a poem for the class.

Your end-of-unit project will be a revision of one of four poems that you have written throughout the unit, and a performance of your revised version either in the form of a dramatic reading, spoken word, or a song.

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Unit II: Short Stories

Essential questions: What is the relationship between limitations and creativity? What can you do when you feel stuck with your writing? What are some different approaches to generating ideas, drafting, and revising? Which approaches do you like best? What are the building blocks of narratives? What creates interesting, engaging scenes in narratives? What strategies do writers use to create interesting and engaging images? What strategies do writers use to create energy in their writing? What strategies do writers use to create tension in their writing? What strategies do writers use to create patterns in their writing? What brainstorming and drafting strategies can you use to generate short stories? What strategies allow writers to create interesting and engaging dialogue? How does the process of writing graphic novels compare to the process of writing short stories?

At the end of this unit, you will be able to: analyze the content and craft of published short stories, analyze the choices made by your peers and provide specific, focused, helpful feedback, apply writing strategies to generate ideas for short stories and generate first drafts, apply revision strategies to make more specific and intentional choices in your short stories, apply the building blocks of narrative to your short stories, create vivid and gripping imagery in your narratives, recall the principles of energy in writing and create energy in your short stories using these strategies, recall the principles of tension in writing and create tension in your short stories using these strategies, recall the types of pattern in writing and create deeper meaning in your stories through the use of artful, intentional repetition. 

Your end-of-unit assignment will be to write a new short story OR revise a short story written previously into either a graphic novel or an illustrated children’s book.

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Unit III: Plays & One-Acts 

Essential Questions: What is the relationship between limitations and creativity? What can you do when you feel stuck with your writing? Which of your life experiences have enough tension and energy to turn into a play? What are some different approaches to generating ideas, drafting, and revising? Which approaches do you like best? What are the building blocks of narratives? What creates interesting, engaging scenes in narratives? What strategies do writers use to create tension in their writing? What strategies do writers use to create insight in their writing? What brainstorming and drafting strategies can you use to generate plays? What strategies allow writers to create interesting and engaging dialogue? How does the process of writing narratives in script form compare to the process of writing narratives in prose form? 

At the end of this unit, you will be able to: analyze the content and craft of published plays, analyze the choices made by your peers and provide specific, focused, helpful feedback, apply writing strategies to generate ideas for plays and generate first drafts, apply revision strategies to make more specific and intentional choices, apply the basic building blocks and structure of narratives, create vivid and interesting dialogue, recall the principles of tension in writing and create tension in your plays using these strategies, recall the principles of insight in writing and create plays with insight into human behavior using these strategies, perform a dramatic reading of a scene from a one-act play.

Your end-of-unit assignment will be to write a one-act play.

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Unit IV: Creative Nonfiction

Essential Questions: What is creative nonfiction and why is it worth reading and writing? What are the different types of creative nonfiction? What different formats or “recipes” are available to you when composing creative nonfiction? What can you do when you feel stuck with your writing? What small, specific topics are you an expert in? What brainstorming and drafting strategies can you use to generate creative nonfiction? What strategies do writers use to craft interesting and engaging personal essays?

At the end of this unit, you will be able to: define creative nonfiction and analyze how examples meet this criteria, imitate the style of a piece of creative nonfiction, maintain focus during sustained “writing bursts” in class, problem solving as you encounter challenges in the writing process, analyze a piece of creative nonfiction for its use of pattern by ear, set specific, focused goals for in-class writing time, analyze your own work for its use of pattern by ear and by eye, provide specific, helpful feedback to your peers, recall the definition of personal essays and the qualities of strong personal essays, apply brainstorming, drafting, and revision strategies to craft your own personal essay, analyze the nuances of language in your own writing

Your end-of-unit assignment will be to write a personal essay in the ABCEDARIUS format.

Grading and Evaluation:
The following is a breakdown of semester one grading according to GCAA policy:

Homework: 10%
Classroom Assignments & Formative Assessments: 30%
Summative Assessment: 60%

 Grading Criteria in a Creative Writing Class

You are encouraged to have fun in this class. I want you to enjoy the opportunity to explore a second art form and to express your feelings in writing. As you have learned from your arts classes, every art form has specific, objective standards of excellence that we strive to learn whenever we study it. The evaluation criteria for “good” creative writing will become clearer as we delve into the textbook and explore the principles of energy, tension, insight, and so on in specific ways. We will focus on different aspects of craft with different assignments. For example, you might workshop a peer’s poem for imagery, answering a series of questions about his/her approach to “showing” versus “telling,” and then workshop a different peer’s play for tension, answering a different set of questions about generating and maintaining conflict. You will have a chance to thoroughly revise all end-of-unit assignments according to the peer edit criteria, and when you submit your final draft to me for a grade, you will have the opportunity to highlight examples of imagery or tension in your piece, effectively making a case for your own craft. I mainly want to see that you are making a genuine, concerted effort to hone your craft.

Content Stipulations in a Creative Writing Class

It is school policy that the language you use in your pieces needs to be school appropriate. In other words, if you are not allowed to say it at school, you are not allowed to write it in your poems, stories, and plays. Oblique sexual references are okay, but blatant, vulgar references to sex or pieces centered around sexual activity are prohibited. If you do not follow this procedure, I will ask you to rewrite your piece and if you don’t rewrite it in a timely manner, your grade will be affected by any inappropriate content.

Absence Policy

Your attendance in this class is crucial to your learning. If you miss class due to an excused absence, please check in with me during the next class period about what you missed. The work that you missed will be promptly due the following class period; after that it is considered late and credit will be docked. We won’t talk about missed work at the beginning of class; I will give you a packet of any missed work with your name on it that you can review independently after your warm up. Then, during independent work time, we’ll discuss your questions. If you miss class due to an unexcused absence, we will need to have a conversation about your circumstances to determine if your work can be accepted.

Late Work Policy

If you turn in late work the same day it was due (even if it was not complete during class), you can still receive up to 100 percent on the assignment. Otherwise, the highest you can receive for late work is a C.

School wide Grading Scale:

A       90-100%
B       80-89.9%
C       70-79.9%
D       60-69.9%
F       0-59%

School wide Plagiarism Policy:

Rationale

GCAA values academic integrity and honesty. They are fundamental to the teaching and learning process. Teachers and administrators have the full expectation that all work be entirely the result of the student’s own efforts. Plagiarism, cheating or other forms of academic dishonesty will not be tolerated. Collaboration and cooperation are not the same as cheating or plagiarism. Teachers will inform students when collaboration is an acceptable option. The determination that a student has engaged in academic dishonesty will be based on specific evidence provided by the classroom teacher or other supervisingindividual. Students found to have engaged in academic dishonesty will be subject to disciplinary action at the classroom and/or building level, specified in the plagiarism policy that follows.

Examples of Academic Dishonesty (not exhaustive)

  • Copying someone else’s homework and/or giving your work to another to be copied
  • Working together on a take-home test or homework unless specifically allowed by the teacher
  • Looking at another student’s paper during an exam
  • Looking at your notes when prohibited
  • Taking an exam out of the classroom unless specifically allowed (either in person or by using electronic means)
  • Using notes or other outside information on an exam unless specifically allowed
  • Giving someone answers to exam questions during the exam
  • Passing test information from an earlier class to a later class
  • Giving or selling a paper or class work to another student
  • Quoting text or other works on a paper or homework without citing the source
  • Handing in a paper purchased from a term paper service or from the Internet
  • Handing in another’s paper as your own
  • Taking a paper from an organization’s files and handing it in as your own
  • Changing a test, a paper, and claiming it had been graded incorrectly
  • Presenting another student’s work as your own

Examples of Acceptable Behavior in the Creative Process

  • Discussing the assignment with others for clarification
  • Discussing ideas and details for understanding
  • Exchanging drafts of work for critical peer response
  • Participating in classroom activities pertaining to the writing process: pre-writing, drafting, revising, editing and publishing

Consequences of Plagiarism

  1. Whenever a teacher reasonably believes, based upon significant evidence, that a student has plagiarized part or all of an assignment or infringed upon copyright protection, the teacher shall evaluate the nature and extent of the plagiarism or copyright infringement, advise the student of the existence of the violation, and state the penalties to which the student may be subject:
  • Indicate in writing to the student and the student’s parents, with a brief statement of the circumstances, that the teacher has a reasonable belief that the student has engaged in a violation.
  • Require the student to rework the assignment entirely, using his/her own ideas and style.
  • Refer the student to the proper school authority for any additional counseling or discipline consistent with any other policy of GCAA.
  1. Whenever a teacher reasonably believes, based on significant evidence, that a student has knowingly assisted another student in plagiarizing part or all of an assignment, the teacher will evaluate the nature and extent of the assignment lent to the student who plagiarized and inform the student that he/she may be subject to the following penalties:
  • Indicate in writing to the student and the student’s parents, with a brief statement of the circumstances, that the teacher has a reasonable belief that the student assisted another student in plagiarizing.
  • Refer the student to the proper school authority for any additional counseling or discipline consistent with any other policy of GCAA.
  • In addition to disciplining the student according to the provisions of the policy, the teacher will continue to emphasize to the student the value of honest authorship.
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