The semester is finishing up here, and students are commenting in their blogs about what they liked / didn't like about the class, what went well / not well, etc. (I get all my best ideas for how to improve the class next time from the students.) So, one student who is a professional music major shared this remark in his blog, which made me really happy (you can see his whole post below; he also remarks how social online classes are... I sure wish that were universally true!):
This class has IMMENSELY helped with how much I write and how creative I am in my writing. I used to have a lot of trouble splurging out words onto a piece of paper. Now, it comes so easy to me that sometimes I write far too much! I have another online class that I am enrolled in that also requires a lot of writing. I have found that because of this class, the writing assignments for my other class are a piece of cake. I cannot be as creative in that class, but the effects of writing quantity are still in effect.
As I mentioned in another post, I use creative writing projects in my class instead of analytical or expository writing. Some of my students are professional writing majors (like the student whose project I shared in that post), while other students don't see themselves as writers, at least not to begin with. My goal is for ALL the students in the class to see themselves as writers by the time the semester is over; I don't always succeed, but when I hear from students like the one quoted here, that makes my day!
When I first started teaching, I did use traditional papers, and the students were clearly bored and frustrated, and I was not having any fun either. When I switched to creative writing (and this was back in the year 2000, before I even started teaching online), everything changed: the students were excited about their writing, and I was having fun too. When they started writing stories, the students were eager to share their writing not just with me but with their fellow students. They also wanted to revise to make their writing better, and they wanted to experiment with writing styles they had never tried before, and on and on. (More about my story here.)
That alone would have been reason enough for me to switch to creative writing... but the learning transfer is what made it even better: students from all kinds of majors (science majors, engineers, music majors like this student, etc. etc.) told me that the creative writing in my class had improved their writing in their other classes. The creative writing increased their confidence, helped them find their voice, gave them a sense of writing-as-process, and connected them to real audiences. It made them feel like... writers.
So, for me, creative writing was how I made that shift from "assigning writing" to "teaching writers." Here is a great chart from Allison Marchett at MovingWriters.org that summarizes the shift:
Of course, you can move from "assigning writing" to "teaching writers" without changing to a creative writing approach. But with creative writing, not only do I get to "teach writers" ... I also get to have fun!
Here is the rest of the student's blog post. :-)