At my university the creative writing classes are large—25 in the intro class, and 19 in the advanced class. This makes using the traditional workshop a bit difficult. Because of their numbers, students simply don’t get as much feedback as they would if they were in a smaller class—their work gets discussed twice a semester, if they’re lucky, and usually only once. And, in the classes I’ve observed, only a handful of students actually seem to do the reading and then participate in discussion.
Since I began teaching creative writing some five years ago, I’ve tried to work around the class size problem by having students work in small groups. It’s been pretty successful, I think. Students get into groups of three and each reads her or his work aloud to the others, who then comment.
Still, I’ve changed the workshops around a little this semester. The classrooms have projectors in them, so each week I take the work-in-progress of two students and put it up on the screen. The student reads their work aloud, and then talks about their intentions for the work, or problems they’ve been having, or anything else they want to talk about. Then the class comments, and then I say a few words. We do this on Monday in my intro classes, and on Wednesday in the advanced class (it’s a three-hour class).
Then in the next class session, students break up into their workshop groups and go over their work. I also then call up students for individual conferences. If my scheduling goes right, all the students will have their work discussed by the whole class at least once, and will meet with me individually at least once (of course, they can meet with me as often as they want during office hours or before or after class), and will discuss their work in groups about ten times.
So far—it’s working.
Below, Catherine Wright's novella-in-progress, "Deviant," up for discussion on the classroom projector....