Creative Writing and The College Essay

Creative Writing
This year, Karin and I also tried to use creative writing as a way to get students to see how and why writers make the choices they do. So, we tried a number of different activities to help students make these connections. Using Google Docs, we tried to get students to post their writing so that students could share their work.

Firstly, we used the "mentor sentences" idea to try and have students experiment with mimicking the way writer's create opening (establish setting, establish character, establish the story's key conflicts) and suspense. Below, are two examples of our mentor paragraphs with some attached student writing. I most definitely felt that this greatly improved the quality of the short stories we finally assigned as the culminating aspect of our short story unit. Additionally, Karin created a "short story justification sheet" and pre-writing activity with Lolly Erickson that asked students to discuss the choices the make throughout the writing process. The reflections that students did for their short stories was generally quite thoughtful and gave us the impression that they were making connections between the writers we've been studying and the analytical process they had been working on all year. We culminated our short story unit with a coffee house where students could read their near-finished drafts to each other before doing their final edits. The feedback we got from students about the coffee house and the writing of the shorts stories was overwhelmingly positive. Below are some examples of our assignments and student responses. There are also some in the hard copy of my portfolio.

"A Good Man Is Hard to Find" Student Writing on Google Docs

College Essay

For the college essay process, we designed several creative non-fiction quick free writes to get students to brainstorm ideas for their college essays. Next, we analyzed old student essays and mentor writer essays to give students a variety of examples to view and critique in terms of effectiveness and voice before they formally put their essays together. Additionally, we discussed with students the key components to a successful college essay: strong opening; original voice of speaker; use of "show don't tell" writing techniques; unique ideas; poignant focus on what their narrative demonstrates about their personality, character, ambitions, etc.
As students wrote their introductions, we then had them work collaboratively with their peers to discuss which of the stories they had started was the most compelling. As students got a more complete draft together, we had them do some peer editing and feedback of their drafts to further help their writing process before they turned in a draft to their teacher. As students worked on their drafts, we also conferenced with students about their drafts to help them with this high-anxiety piece of writing.
When we asked for student feedback at the end of the process, the students were generally pleased with the process and remarked that the process really helped them to get started and get through their anxiety about the process.