Writing – Teaching It Is An Art
Besides teaching part time at the International Secondary School, I’m also teaching freshman composition at Temple University’s Japan campus. Today was my second class of the semester. What a total blast!
First of all, I could go on and on about the elements of good writing forever. But get me up in front of a class of students who HAVE to be there to get credit – and who have actually paid to be there, and I’m on fire.
In the first half of the class, we had fun discussing the two assigned essays they read. And I do say “we” discussed them – it wasn’t just me in front lecturing. In fact, we rearranged the tables in the room to make them discussion-friendly, as my dear mentor-professor, Dr. Dulce Gray, taught me to do. The students participated beautifully and we had lively back-and-forth chats about the articles about which they will be writing.
Then, I gave a mini-lecture on the value and necessity of the thesis statement. It was very brief – perhaps three minutes.
After that, the real fun began. I broke the class into four groups of three and made them stand in the four corners of the room. On a piece of paper each group wrote a topic – it could be anything: beer, children, movies, libraries – anything. They left the paper on the table and moved clockwise to the next group’s paper. On the next group’s paper, they had to devise a thesis statement about that topic and write it. Then I made them move clockwise around the room again, and repeat the exercise. They did it one more time so they each looked at each topic.
More fun ensued. I asked each group in turn to give me their favorite thesis statement written on the page. I wrote it on the board, and devised a quick outline of a potential paper that could be written using that topic and that thesis. It was off-the-cuff silliness: on the topic of schools, one group wrote that Japanese school-girls’ skirts should be longer so as to keep the sexual urges of men at bay. On the topic of food, we had a good time with a thesis about fast food and obesity rates. I mentioned defining terms such as “fast food” and even “obesity” for their readers. I did all of this while jumping around, talking, writing on the board, challenging the students to think harder, think deeper and have a general blast. It was two of the fastest hours I have had in a while.
Call me a geek all you want, but I love this. I love the challenge of shaping these first-year students into good writers. I love the challenge of making them think. I love the way they grow in only 13 weeks. And I love writing. I love writing enough to be overjoyed to share it with others.
This is who I am.
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