Sunday, January 14, 2007

First Week

The Imaginative Writing class for Honors students really surprised me. It meets twice a week in the evening, 7:30-8:45. There are 15 students, all very young, in their teens or early twenties, except for man in his sixties who added the class on Wednesday as part of our SAGE program.

Monday was your run-of-the-mill first day; Wednesday was magic.

I hardly ever create a day by day syllabus for this class. I prefer to adjust the activities to the temperament and need of whatever group of students I have. So I thought and thought about what to do on Wednesday, finally coming up with what I thought was a decent idea late Tuesday night.

As with all creative exercises, I knew it would go one of two ways, flopsville or down the road of success. It was a success.

I started the class by showing that scene in Wonder Boys when Grady, James, and the literary agent play a story game. They pick out an unusual-looking person in a bar and create a story about that person. It's a really funny and entertaining scene. It doesn't hurt that I love all three of the actors, Michael Douglas, Tobey MaGuire, and Robert Downey, jr. I figured the students would enjoy seeing Tobey MaGuire in a non-Spiderman role. As it happens, none of the students had ever seen Wonder Boys.

So then I divided the class into two groups. One group came to the front of the class and pretended they were riding a bus. I asked each person to bring a prop, like a cell phone, backpack, book, etc. Then I asked, "What's their story?" The people in their seats wrote; then the groups traded places.

The real kicker was that I took my great creepy Santa and asked one student to hold it. For the other group, I asked a student to hold two potatoes, one in each hand.

After both groups had a chance to write, I played the music video on the Wonder Boys DVD, "Things Have Changed." I then let them write for 10 minutes and asked them to start their story with the line: "I used to care, but things have changed." I said they must repeat that line three times.

Then I asked each person to share something they had written. By this time, there were only about ten minutes left in the class. I was astounded at the level of creativity in this class! As you can imagine, there was a great scenario about the Santa, and several great scenarios about the two potatoes. There were also some fantastic riffs about the "I used to care..." topic.

They loved reading and listening to each other's ideas, at times laughing, at times declaring, "That was awesome!" After class, they huddled into groups and continued the conversation. As I walked across the dark courtyard to my office, one of the students called out, "Wait! I'll walk with ya!"

On the way there, my dog Buddha streaked past us, chasing a toy Allen had thrown. My family was waiting for me and I'd just had a marvelous class. Life doesn't get much better than that!

Later that night, I had an e-mail from one of the students, saying he was incredibly excited about the class. He said he kicked his roommate off the computer as soon as he got to his dorm and continued writing what he'd started in class. He said he still was randomly laughing at things that had been written and said that night.

Now, if I can just keep the momentum going!

Things are coming together more slowly in the seminar. We haven't gotten very far yet in the Native American literature class, although several students have shown a special interest in the topic. Finally, the developmental writing class is small, only 9 students, and quiet, except for a 44 year old woman coming back to school for the first time this semester. She is on the ball; she really wants it all; she is my delight.


Cynthia said...

Oh, this is wonderful!

ggw07 said...

Enjoyed this tremendously. Can it all be woven into a story, novel? Your own "Wonder Boys" like saga?
This is a keeper- and record more moments of joy-

Erin said...

How marvelous, Theresa! It warmed me all over to read this passage. Congratulations!



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Northwest Ohio, United States
"I was no better than dust, yet you cannot replace me. . . Take the soft dust in your hand--does it stir: does it sing? Has it lips and a heart? Does it open its eyes to the sun? Does it run, does it dream, does it burn with a secret, or tremble In terror of death? Or ache with tremendous decisions?. . ." --Conrad Aiken


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The Secret of Hurricanes : That article in the Waterville Scout said it was Shake- spearean, all that fatalism that guides the Kennedys' lives. The likelihood of untimely death. Recently, another one died in his prime, John-John in an airplane. Not long before that, Bobby's boy. While playing football at high speeds on snow skis. Those Kennedys take some crazy chances. I prefer my own easy ways. Which isn't to say my life hasn't been Shake-spearean. By the time I was sixteen, my life was like the darkened stage at the end of Hamlet or Macbeth. All littered with corpses and treachery.

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