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This semester I am teaching a SOAR new to Chestatee Academy that is all about creative writing.  I am delighted there were enough students interested in this topic/course for it to make!  Students will have opportunities to inquire into different genres of writing, craft different creative works, and develop his/her own writing project that will be published in our group eBook through Smashwords much like I did last year in collaboration with Amy Balogh and her students.

Our first meeting was yesterday (we officially meet on Tuesdays and Fridays between 1st and 2nd periods).  I wanted the first day to be energetic and give students a chance to talk, especially since it is a mixed group of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders who often don’t know each other.  I do have four students (grades 7 and 8) who also take Writing Connections with me, so I’m honored that they are enjoying writing enough for this to be an interest for them.

I thought about doing a write-around, but I honestly didn’t have enough time (or energy, frankly) to get the prep work done, so I decided to go a different direction.  Students came in and sat in groups of 3 and 4.  Each group received a question printed on neon colored paper to contemplate and respond to quietly on a lined Post-It note.   Questions included:

  • What makes someone a writer?
  • What kinds of responsibilities do you think writers might have when they belong to a writing group or workshop like this?  How can someone be a positive and productive member of a writing community like this?
  • What do you think of when you hear “creative writing”?
  • How do you feel creative writing might change the world or have a positive impact in some way?
  • What qualities and resources do you feel are important to have in order to write creatively?

I gave students about five minutes to write down their ideas on their lined sticky notes; below is a PDF of the compiled student responses.  I am missing about 4-5 as a few students forgot to give me their sticky notes as we left, but the collection below will give you an idea of what they were thinking.

We then got up, put all our bookbags in the corner, and re-arranged the room by moving the tables into one long row (thank goodness for the wheels that finally arrived in November and to our custodial staff for putting them on the tables).  The kids loved that we could fit the different sized Artcobell tables together like a puzzle to form one long table.

I then explained that we were going to do a speed dating method of conversation, a strategy I learned many years ago from one of my favorite professors at the University of Georgia, Dr. Bob Fecho.   I told students we would be sharing our responses to the discussion questions by interviewing each other using the speed dating technique.  After reviewing the procedures and then modeling a conversation with one of the students, we jumped in and began our lightning round discussions!

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When we finished, I then told students I wanted them to think about everything they had heard during the speed dating conversations; I asked them to think of one idea or reflection from a fellow students that stood out to them that they felt was share-worthy. We also talked about how we would share support and respect for each other by being attentive listeners.  After giving students a couple of minutes to think quietly, I kicked off the share-aloud and we then went around the table quickly.  I think everyone enjoyed this collective think aloud, and it was also a meaningful community building exercise.

Next week we’ll begin writing, but I am so happy we kicked off our first day of the course with this activity because of the thinking and positive energy it generated.  I hope to blog more about the writing this group of students will be doing, and I am excited to see what writing projects they develop.

2 thoughts on “Breaking the Ice in Creative Writing with Speed Dating Conversations

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