Students Create Stories
Reflection has always been a part of my daily life and moved easily into my teaching practice. Creative writing courses have always been somewhat of a stepchild for my high school—a dumping ground for students with no place to go. Since the course offers numerous opportunities for students to choose their genre(s) and to write outside the restrictions of five paragraphs, six sentences in each paragraph, and thesis statement in fifth sentence of first paragraph, I see it as an important part of the school day and I set out to make it important to the students. I do not give grades in the class other than 100 points for completion and a zero for not turning in the work so the challenge was to find some sort of reflective device that tied the writing experience together and gave the students an opportunity to reflect on their progress throughout the semester.
They already were keeping a three-part portfolio that got fatter during the year, but that did not tie the work together. Neither did the six-week reflections that included a listing of all their reading in all their classes and pleasure reading. The answer lay in the final exam. Rather than give them a written exam that look strangely like a regurgitation of English terms and grammar, they could use new technology to create a review of their year and share it with the other members of their class. This was ten years ago and is still an integral part of my creative writing classes. The early ones were PowerPoint slide presentations that simply talked about their work. The assignment actually said: Prepare a PowerPoint slide presentation that reflects some aspect of your work that went particularly well. Your reflection will become a writing lesson for the other members of the class. This early technology and reflection led to digital storytelling and students early in the semester rather than at the end of the semester telling their own stories of literacy, working with other students in the development of a series of literacy narratives, and doing another digital story at the end of the semester on their progress. I have found these early stories to be tools for helping me to develop meaningful assignments as well as to introduce students to introspection. Even though we go through the steps of writing—listing, drafting, editing, writing, the final product often seems richer in a digital form than on the flat pieces of paper. We can actually see the story and hear the writer’s voice. And from there, we can move on to stronger voices.