Creative Writing PD Masterclass for ATAR English Teachers

The details of the 2-day Professional Development program

Also check out the things others have said about this on our testimonials page.

In response to ATAR English WACE exam markers’ reports, which carried criticism of candidates’ composition writing, and in response to the success of this program over past years, this PD Masterclass aims to improve knowledge, skills and understanding of Creative Writing discipline among ATAR English teachers so that students in their future ATAR English WACE candidature might enjoy greater success.

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Comments from recent ATAR English WACE exam markers included:

» The subject matter of imaginative writing needs careful consideration
» A number of candidates addressed topics of a grave and dire nature
» Use of contextually inappropriate language
» Depiction of human relationships as simplistic and sensational
» Graphic responses seemed to be an attempt at originality
» Candidates did not allow sufficient time to develop ideas and structure and finesse their expression
» Careful planning and editing can make an important difference to responses, as can explicit knowledge and revision of compositional elements and language devices.
» Answers were brief, underdeveloped, poorly structured and reflected little thought or planning
» The quality of many compositions was disappointing
» Paragraphing, in imaginative, persuasive and interpretative forms of writing needs repeated examination as to its purpose and structure
» Similarly, the skill of punctuating direct speech in narrative writing needs explicit and repeated revision
» Narrative writing on the whole was more often than not quite dire
» Some students made a poor selection of topic, and some mismanaged timing, as evident from overly ambitious, yet curtailed or unfinished plots
» There are more and more ‘retellings’ or plagiarism of recognisable texts appearing in this section … originality is expected.

Taking the markers’ comments into consideration, along with feedback from current ATAR English teachers, and an analysis of exam marking keys, the PD Masterclass addresses four Creative Writing practice areas which are likely to have the greatest impact on improved student outcomes against that specific criticism:

  1. How using a dynamic studio/workshop environment enhances productive writing learning
  2. How teaching students the skills of ‘reading as a writer’, and developing a mastery of the vocabulary involved in writing across different genres, as well as that used in the ATAR English course and by examiners and markers, will improve their confidence under exam conditions
  3. How developing students’ capacity for independent thought, and teaching methods for finding, developing, choosing, and expressing ideas to satisfy an ‘effect wanted’, leads to writing for that satisfaction
  4. How teaching Story Craft from a proven writers’ framework helps develop student knowledge in (and of) narrative theories and skills.

The program is conducted by Dr Kevin Price, founder of the Born Storytellers, novelist, researcher in Creative Writing and Education, with more than ten years of classroom experience in writing education. Further in-school support by way of in-class incursions are offered, and specially targeted teacher development can also be considered.

The Masterclass Program

This PD is an intensive immersion in a ‘live’ writing studio/workshop environment, used to model how a Creative Writing practice culture can be incorporated into a classroom.

The Masterclass includes:

  • 12 Hours of professional learning instruction (plus a homework exercise overnight)
  • The textbook, Story Craft, A Born Storytellers Workbook
  • The project book, Story Craft II, A Born Storytellers Workbook
  • Writing notebook
  • Workshop notes and reference materials
  • Morning teas and Lunches (both days)
  • Certificate of completion

**Note: Parking is charged separately for those wanting parking facilities. Murdoch University has excellent public transport access. ACROD card holders do not have to pay for parking and ACROD bays are close to the venues.

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Schedule

Day One

Registration and welcome: 8:15am

Session 1: The Ecology of the Studio/Workshop (includes morning tea)

This session will begin with a brief overview of the the creative writing demands of the ATAR syllabus, considering ways in which course planning can incorporate an integrated approach that sees Creative Writing develop as a discipline of student practise, in which they become confident in accessing and working with ideas quickly, writing to a deadline, mastering the vocabulary, exhibiting growth and evolving competence in technical writing skills, and knowledge of story craft. A well-designed Creative Writing component augments reading and responding components, giving students opportunities to enhance their knowledge and understanding of ‘the whole’.

Theoretical foundations of the studio/workshop (as opposed to just a studio, or just a workshop) will be discussed in forming an effective classroom ecology, where the learning writer and teaching writer team up to produce new experiences for learners that are rooted in the real, and consistent in practise of developing skills, understanding and knowledge as a shared, yet individual, resource. What this ecosystem might look like in individual classroom spaces, generating an understanding of the values that are needed for effective learning in the studio/workshop, and how those values might be implemented will include pedagogical approaches to:

  • Making work authentic through situational research and publishing
  • Practise and experimentation of writing
  • Individual visions and versions and decision-making of writing
  • Writing within a community of learners, reflection and self-awareness
  • Setting the rules, managing feedback, group work practices

Addresses AITSL standards: 1.1, 1.2, 2.1, 2.2, 3.2, 3.3, 3.5, 3.6, 4.1, 4.2, 5.2, 6.1, 6.2, 6.3, 6.4, 7.4

LUNCH

Session 2: Reading As Writer and Developing the Lexicon

This session is a series of mini workshops with exercises providing practical experiences of how writing studio/workshops can be developed — exercises that can all be easily taken into the classroom. It begins with a discussion about the tools students need to develop as creative writers, and leads to exercises designed to have students discover ways to engage with the power of the language and metalanguage of the discipline and the ATAR course.

Building a Tool Box

Words form the basic toolbox for the writer. It is important for student writers to see words as power centres and understand the role they play in effective communication including the everyday language we use, as well as specific terminology and metalanguage of discourses. This simple exercise can be easily introduced as lexicon practice to the classroom to encourage regular vocabulary development, expanding investigation of a single word into an exploration of many.

More on the Tool Box

The skill for ‘reading as a writer’ is to suspend ‘reading for pleasure’ and read in a self-conscious way; to pay attention to the words, sentences and paragraphs in ways that force examination of how information is carried between writer and reader. Participants will use exercises to explore aspects of what makes a good ‘toolbox’ and consider the ‘tools’ that particular passages use to make their point.

Writing like the Masters

Imitation is a core concept of any art instruction: to learn dance, painting, music, acting … a student must imitate the ways of the masters who came before. There is a great deal can be learned by imitating the techniques and skills of the masters. Participants will look very briefly at the work of three or four different writers for specific effects to demonstrate how this practice can be employed for great effect.

Discussion and the Written Commentary

This session will close with a discussion on issues with which writers frequently concern themselves. We will consider, some short extracts of interviews in which writers discuss craft and concerns. Participants will write a short commentary on how such discussions can inform them in structuring studio/workshop spaces, building knowledge of writing through reading, and developing students’ toolboxes. They will share their insights as writers writing on writing, and attempt to articulate a specific goal in respect to their writing.

Addresses AITSL standards: 1.2, 1.3, 1.5, 2.1, 2.2, 2.5, 3.1, 3.2, 3.4, 4.1, 4.2, 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, 6.1, 6.2, 6.3

Homework

In preparation for Session 3, participants are required to complete a short reading about idea development and tackle 3 short exercises.

Finish: 4:30pm

Day two

Registration and welcome 8:15am

Session 3: Developing in Students a Capacity for Independent Thought (includes morning tea)

‘Ideas’ are the lifeblood of the creative writer, and quite possibly the most often asked question of a writer is, ‘Where do you get your ideas?’ This session provides theoretical support for what constitutes an ‘idea’ for the creative writer, successful ways of teaching students about how to access an idea quickly, how to extract ideas from existing phenomena, how to make new ideas from existing ones, and how to develop ideas into writable subjects.

Understanding ‘Preliberative’ Unease

All artistic acts rest on some feeling that the art should produce a particular effect; this is called prelibation. The art of writing is made up of three parts, the first of which is recognising the effect wanted, the second calling on the available tools to generate the effect, and the third testing the result with some sensibility, at which point the expressed idea is either accepted or rejected, determining whether the writer returns to the effect wanted and the selection of different tools to be tried and tested. This writing cycle can repeat many times, and quite often the effect wanted remains out of reach, producing discomfort.

In this session, participants will explore how to get students to be more comfortable with this discomfort, and therefore more able to access a workable idea quickly and confidently. It will introduce some studio techniques for exploring feelings through writing exercises that can be taken back into the classroom.

Techniques of Finding and Developing Ideas

The homework exercise from the previous evening will be put to work in this session, exploring how the germinal ideas become story ideas that are refined, and then expressed into potential writable concepts. Attention will be paid to the concept of the ‘story snapshot statement’ which is a complete expression of how an idea might be developed.

Techniques of Writing from Prompts

This session explores techniques for arriving quickly at an idea for written expression from textual, visual and textile prompts. It calls on the capacity to generate several ideas and manipulate them towards writing for a specific purpose. It will focus on some recall of ‘reading as a writer’, as well as developing observation and attention skills.

Addresses AITSL standards: 2,1, 2.2, 2.5, 3.1, 3.2, 3.5, 4.1, 4.2, 4.4, 5.2, 5.3

LUNCH

Session 4: A Framework for Teaching Story Craft

The Born Storytellers is best known as a Creative Writing program delivered in schools and writing centres between 2005 and 2015 with a focus on practical narrative skills and theories of story drawn from personal professional writing practice and research in the ways writers work. This session will introduce the practical teaching aspects, as well as the values and benefits of the Story Craft text and Born Storytellers Workbooks as effective references and teaching aids. In this session, we will begin to explore the work developed and started in the previous sessions in ways that demonstrate how it fits into a structured teaching program.

Finale

The program will close with a feedback discussion and participants will be asked to write a commentary on how they might engage in the concepts presented and what support they might feel is warranted for ongoing development. They will share their insights as writers writing on writing, and attempt to articulate a specific goal in respect to their teaching and writing.

Addresses AITSL standards: 2.1, 2.2, 2.5, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, 3.5, 3.6, 5.2, 5.3, 6.2, 6.3, 6.4, 7.4

Wrap up and conclusion: 4:30

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