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10 Teaching Tips for Home Schooling

The Writer’s Compass

The Writer’s Compass: From Story Map to Finished Draft in 7 Stages Published by: Writer’s Digest, 2011 ISBN-10: 1599631970 ISBN-13: 978-1599631974 By: Nancy Ellen Dodd Copyright 2011 by Nancy Ellen Dodd All Rights Reserved

“10 Teaching Tips for Home Schooling” Published by: Nancy Ellen Dodd Copyright 2011 by Nancy Ellen Dodd All Rights Reserved Email:

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Although I teach creative writing at the undergraduate and graduate level, I believe that some of my methods may be useful for you to use with your student. My grading system is based on points earned for doing assignments thoughtfully, rather than the quality of the creative writing. My goal is to encourage my students to discover their story as they write and to not selfedit until they get to that stage of the writing process. Assignments are meant to give students tools that will help them to form ideas and develop those ideas so that they can write the story they want to tell. This book offers many tools to help meet creative writing goals and to develop and expand the student’s writing skills. 1. GOAL – Determine the creative writing timetable for your student. a. Will this be an ongoing part of your student’s curriculum or a single subject lesson plan? b. Will your student earn units/credits as in coursework? c. Will your student focus on a single short story, a series of stories, or a longer work to satisfy the requirements of the course? (The shorter the story, the more lenient the requirements for answering the questions should be as answering questions tends to feed the basic ideas and therefore lengthen the story.) 2. CURRICULUM TIMETABLE – Is your student interested in writing? How many hours will your student put toward learning creative writing? a. If your student tends to enjoy science or math classes more and classes requiring writing less, then this should be more of an elective class with fewer hours devoted and fewer credits to earn. Assignments should be shortened and the number of questions answered winnowed down to a few essential ones. You might want to limit the student to working through Stage 3 on characterization. Encourage the student to learn the tools of creative writing and to think about how those tools might be helpful in developing creativity in their other subjects. b. If your student enjoys more English and writing classes, then this could be a class that covers more than one course for your student. You might choose to go through the entire book over several courses and give your student the opportunity to develop more than one story using the tools in the book. In this case, doing most of the exercises

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and answering most of the questions throughout the book might be more appropriate. 3. GRADING – Consider grading your student on effort rather than quality of writing. Because creative writing is subjective, it is very difficult to judge creative writing skills as to whether your student is at the beginning of developing their skills or at the top level they will achieve. The creative process should be encouraged and allowed to develop. It is much like learning to play the piano or training as an athlete, for most people it is the process of learning a skill and easier for some than for others. Grading a student’s effort too low can stunt your student’s interest in creative writing. A strong measuring tool is to read through the student’s answers to see: a. Was a good effort made to answer most of the questions or were many questions skipped or answered with little thought? This is explained further in “Process.” b. Does there appear to be an understanding of the questions and do the answers develop the student’s ideas? c. As the student progresses, is there growth and improvement in the student’s story development. d. Since I am encouraging creativity, I do not grade on grammar and punctuation in the early stages of development, although I do mark them as needing to be fixed. e. There are NO right or wrong answers! The student must figure out the answer for themselves that is right for their story. Grading comes in determining whether there was effort put in thinking through the answer and if that effort becomes more obvious as the student progresses through the questions. Some of my students write their answers in paragraphs in meticulous detail with correct punctuation and grammar. Other students give brief answers in short phrases. I do not grade on the length of their answers, nor do I grade on correct grammar and punctuation, the thought process should be free flowing and not impeded by self-editing. f. Grading should be based on each assignment as a whole and not on how each individual question was answered. It takes time for the student to figure out the answer to the questions and what they are writing about, and so this is a progression of ideas. The student does

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not start out knowing the answers, rather develops them throughout the process. I allow students to ignore questions they do not think apply to their story or they might not yet have an answer for. g. Grading of the final project should be based on the level through which the student worked. In my classes, since we only have time to work through Stage 3, I grade based on the material we have covered to that point. I do expect the final project to have no spelling errors, to be formatted correctly and to be somewhat accurate for grammar and punctuation, allowing for the fact that we did not get to the language development and editing stages. Ideally, set out the grading criteria with your student early in the process based on completion of your achievement goals. 4. FEEDBACK – Giving your student feedback is more about asking questions than it is about giving criticism. You do not want your opinion or your advice to impede the student’s creative flow. By asking the questions that come to mind as your read through your students work, you are sharing what thoughts the story evokes that may help your student explore the work more deeply or develop new ideas. The student also can see where their ideas did not come across clearly. a. Try to avoid a negative approach, rather be thought-provoking. Be sure that your feedback includes encouragement and praise. We all struggle with overlooking the good stuff and pointing out the negatives. b. There are times when we all write bad scenes or lines. The tendency is to encourage the student to remove those, however, in my experience those bad lines or scenes sometimes are the heart of what the writer is trying to say, but hasn’t figured out yet how to say it or even what it is. Rather than suggest your student remove something, allow them to go with their gut and keep it until they figure out what they really want to say. Encourage them to follow their instincts and explore what is important in this particular line or scene that matters to the story. These bits of bad writing sometimes evolve into the best writing in the story. 5. PROCESS – Each student’s approach to writing will be different, as will how each answers the questions. As noted above, there are NO right or

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wrong answers. The purpose of the question is to stimulate ideas and story development. There should not be a concern for self-editing which impedes creativity, nor when some questions are skipped. The process of editing and correcting grammar and punctuation should come at the final stages of the process. The point of the answers should be: a. Does the answer address the question? b. Does the answer help the student develop their story, think through problems, identify what their story needs, create new ideas, understand what they are writing about more clearly? This is a development process and should become clearer as the student answers more questions. Initially answers will generally be brief. The purpose is to help the student discover their story, since they may not know their story in the beginning, their answers should not be expected to be fully developed. c. Sometimes the questions are repetitive and the student’s answers become repetitive, but the point of asking the same question in multiple ways is to get the student to look at the story or idea from multiple perspectives, or from a deeper level of understanding. Does the student seem to be looking at the story more deeply as they progress through the questions and exercises? d. Does the student have any epiphanies about their story as they go through the questions? 6. STORY/PICTURE MAPS – The story and picture map process is a way to visually see story ideas, what is missing, and when an idea is weak or not fully developed or whether the idea might be better if moved to another area of the story. a. Since the story map is based on the 3-Act Structure chart, students should develop an understanding of what the key elements of good story telling are and where they go on the map. (This might be an area where a test could be given to show what the student knows and one of the few places where there are right and wrong answers. HOWEVER, although these basic concepts of writing are based on Aristotle and Freytag’s approach, my process is different from how others might teach this material, and so these ideas should not be treated as the only approach to creative writing.)

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b. The picture map is a tool that should be very open and creative. The point is to use images that are clipped from magazines, printed from the computer, or even drawn, that helps the student to see their story from a visual perspective. By retelling the story through pictures, the student can visualize other ways to tell the story that may be more dynamic. 7. EXERCISES – the exercises in the book are designed to broaden the student’s perspective and develop larger creative ideas and themes for their stories. a. Again, it is not the grammar and punctuation that matters, rather the development of ideas. b. These are also potential areas of personal development as students learn to recognize life concepts and values that are important to them. 8. QUESTIONS – The questions may seem repetitive for a reason, with every question the student learns more about their story and should be able to give an answer with a more developed perspective of the story. 9. THE COMPASS – One of the key elements of this book is helping your student to understand what they are writing about, what their theme is, and why they are interested in writing this particular story. The questions go over these concepts again and again to strengthen the student’s understanding of what they are trying to say. In this way the student learns about larger themes of life and develops their instincts about what they care about and what they want to write about. This also helps the student focus their writing and maintain their interest in the story because it comes from a deeper level. 10. SKIPPING AROUND – Please do. The “Table of Contents” is fairly comprehensive and offers many topics on writing. If your own creative writing experiences lead you to teach your student a different process, you may find there are still many topics in The Writer’s Compass that can supplement your lesson plans.

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10 Teaching Tips for Home Schooling