Sunday, August 22, 2010

Putting on My Teaching Face

(not just a teaching face, but a myspace appropriate bathroom shot as well! 2 birds, one stone.)

Hey all!

Yay for us being 2nd years and for the new 1st years on the blog! And also to the post-mfa'ers and mfa'ers to be in the comments! Now that I've exceeded my exclamation point quota...

I just finished writing my first syllabus ever. It ended up being 6 pages long. It's for the intro to poetry creative writing course I start teaching on Tuesday. At UVA, we teach the 2nd year so I was watching anxiously while others took the lead in their first classes last year and now it's my turn. Here's my textbooks:

In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet's Portable Workshop by Steve Kowit
Late Wife by Claudia Emerson
Poetry: A Pocket Anthology (Penguin Academics) (6th Edition) by R. S. Gwynn Paperback

My approach to preparing this class was to basically try to mimick the way I was taught. My students will be required to memorize 2 lines of poetry from the readings each week, they'll turn in a poem a week (but only workshop four poems), there will be in-class writing exercises each week, and tons of exposure to poets and poems.

So what's your approach to class prep?


  1. Congrats on creating your first syllabus. Did you do it totally from scratch or borrow someone else's and edit it?

    The latter was my approach to my syllabus for teaching Intro to Creative Writing this fall. Got a book recommendation (Creative Writing: Four Genres in Brief, by David Starkey) and a syllabus from someone who'd taught it before and then made a lot of changes to the syllabus and gathered a bunch of supplemental readings.

    The general format for my class will be to spend 1/3 of the semester on fiction, 1/3 on poetry, and 1/3 on creative nonfiction. (The text also covers drama but I don't think there's time for four genres in one semester.) For each genre, we'll read the chapters on craft in the textbook, discuss those, discuss many examples, and the students will turn in one short assignment just to me and one longer assignment that will be workshopped. They will also keep writing journals and get extra credit for attending and responding to readings on campus.

    I am super excited to teach the class (in spite of the fact that it's at 8:00am Tuesday and Thursday)!

    Good luck to you, JayTee, and to everyone else who's teaching a new course, or teaching in general!

  2. Well JayTee, I am also teaching poetry this term, though I am taking a different approach based out of how I was taught. Basically I am having the students write poems inspired by prompts I've meticulously composed, and I plan to write poems along with them (not sure what I'll do with it but I'm thinking about just showing them what I'm doing too).

    We will be studying a few poets in depth (Sylvia Plath, Rita Dove, Li-Young Lee, etc) as well as studying different aspects of craft each week. Basically one day a week will be a craft day, the other will be a workshop day. The students will also have to keep a writer's notebook of poems they like and encounter outside of class, and reports on the visiting writer readings that happen in the fall.

    The main thing is aside from the Vintage Book of Contemporary Poetry I am not really using any textbook for craft. I will have some essays on the subject though that I will likely xerox.

    All in all I am pretty excited to teach the class (especially as my class is holding at 15 right now). Good luck with your classes guys :-D

  3. Tory, I think 15 is a great number for that type of class! I have a class of 24 because the intro class fulfills an arts elective, so we'll have to workshop in groups. I'm hoping to teach a poetry-specific class in the spring, which will probably be set up more like yours.

  4. @emily- Yes, I made the syllabus from scratch. I think it's awesome that you get to cover Creative Writing as a whole in your class. That's my other dream class to teach besides poetry.

    @Tory- I also have 15! That's the limit so I'm happy w/it. Your class sounds great and writing intensive! Good luck with it!

  5. I also used the Penguin poetry anthology for my class last year--worked really well. I thought it had a great selection/variety of styles represented. I can't wait to hear all about your class!

  6. Tory: Li-Young Lee! I am in love with his poem, "Persimmons." So beautiful.

  7. Writing that first syllabus is a bear! I'm teaching Expository Writing for the first time at a community college this semester and the prep work was intense. I'm using online essays as examples, a writing handbook and I assigned a poetry chapbook when we reach the section where we write a literary analysis/research paper.

    Craziest thing about it all? Filling in for someone this week and they use different texts etc.

    Tried to get creative writing for summer but since I am low man on the totem pole someone else grabbed it up first :(

  8. You're going to teach some kids poetry and it sounds like you're ready for it. It's nice to have both of those be true...


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