Planning and Teaching

Our schedules are impossible—can we just plan via email?
No. Meet in person. And in the rare case that this isn’t possible (one of you is out of town, perhaps), then Skype or set aside the time for a phone call. E-mailing before you meet is a great idea, if you want to share readings, prompts, etc., but you really need some voice-on-voice contact to plan effectively. Seriously, this is the NUMBER ONE reason that workshops fail—because the Fellows aren’t meeting to plan, so there isn’t ownership in the plan from both parties.

I can’t make it an upcoming workshop. What should I do?
As a Writing Fellow, we expect you to be present at 10 out of 11 workshops. This is a commitment to your DeepKids, not just to Deep. If you’re aware of a date you must miss, let the staff know as far in advance as possible (at least a week.) We can arrange for a sub to take your place in the classroom to support your co-Fellow in your absence. It is your responsibility to plan and comment with your co-Fellow to prep for the week you will miss.

Life happens, and sometimes unforeseeable circumstances mean a Fellow must miss a workshop. If you ever need a sub within 48 hours of your workshop, please let your co-Fellow know, then email us and call us. This ensures that we’re aware of the situation, and that a sub will be prepared to make the workshop as Deep as it can be. At the end of the day, everything we do is with our DeepKids’ best interests at heart. When we’ve got strong communication in place, we as a staff are able to better support you as Fellows, and you, in turn, can offer support to our kids.

What should we do first when we plan?
Here’s a great way to structure your planning sessions to keep them under an hour:

  1. Come prepared: Show up having already finished commenting on the portfolios (you can split them up each week if you want), and bring some possible readings– books, articles, your laptop, The Cure for IDK. Lots of Fellows like to show up a 1/2 hour early to the planning location to finish up commenting before their partner arrives.
  2. Get focused: Briefly discuss the students’ writing from last week. Gush over what was awesome. Speculate about possible setbacks and maybe do some trouble-shooting together. This will help you start off in the right mindset. Remember, the workshop is about what the kids do, not what you do. How can we help Bobby—who didn’t seem to like the prompt last week– feel successful next week?
  3.  Brainstorm: Talk about the week’s focus and some possible goals. Throw out ideas. Make a loose, goal-oriented plan.
  4. Consider your reading options and pick one: Take the length, subject matter, taste, and most of all your goals into account. Ask yourselves: Which reading(s) do we love? Which reading(s) will our kids love? Which reading(s) will motivate them to write? Now, pick a reading and decide who should lead the reading discussion—this is an important decision to make deliberately. It’s cool to split up the discussion, but do so deliberately and plan exactly how to do this. Browse our readings archive for some staff favorites.
  5.  Use your planning worksheets provided in your planning folders: This worksheet requires you to fill out the goal VERBATIM, using an active verb.

Think of your goal as the phrase you could say TO YOUR KIDS, not your college roommate, to answer the age-old question “What are we gonna do today?” i.e., Today you’ll be writing a ten-line poem about either love or death without any cliche! Or Today you’ll write about a memory using three of your senses and dialogue to practice figurative language!

Think about your reading selection as something to show the kids how what you’re asking them to do today has been done before, is tough but doable, and is worth the struggle. This should serve as an example or a jumping-off point. Lastly, whoever is going to “pirate,” or lead the reading discussion should write down at least three specific reading questions. Also decide, and annotate where you will stop to ask your questions. How many times will you read through the selection(s)? Will the students read it, or will you? Will you use audio or any visual aid? Is there any short background that the kids will need in order to pique their interest before you start reading? Who will make and bring the copies for the kids?

Think about your writing prompt as similar to but more specific, interesting, and thought-provoking than your goal. It should make your goal less abstract, and give the kids an even more specific task to complete. For instance, “Today you’ll write a ten-ilne poem about either love or death without any cliche!” is a goal from which you could derive many writing prompts. Here’s an example of a great writing prompt: “Think of someone you love. Write down their name at the top of the page. Now, write ten lines, in five couplets [discuss what a couplet is], where each couplet is about something you dislike about that person.”

Remember this and you will be successful: Make the workshop goal-oriented, be prepared but flexible, and when in doubt, write!

 

I’m looking for readings. Where can I find the DeepKids work?
The Deep Center for Creative Writing has an archive of all published DeepKid books for you to peruse. Our online readings archive has some of our favorite pieces too.

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