Write With Me Wednesdays: Create Your Writing Territories


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Writing lesson teaching ideas research

Directions:  Respond to the following prompts to create your writing territories.  Perhaps you want to copy and paste these prompts into your blog and post your responses.  If you use this activity for your writing, I invite you to leave your blog address via a comment to this post.

  1. Make a list of topics you know a lot about, or if that puts too much pressure on you, make a list of things you know something about.
  2. List the main parts and/or roles in your life.  For example, I’m a professor, a novelist, a husband, a father, a runner, and much more.
  3. Make a list of places you know well.
  4. What are you working on right now?  What projects/work do you have going that might make for good writing topics?
  5. Make a list of topics that you wish you knew more about, or list some things you’d like to be trained in.  You could go out and learn (maybe interview others) and bring the news of your learning back to your audience.
  6. Do a sample schedule of your life.  Try out a weekday, a weekend, summertime, or a holiday.  At 8:00 a.m. you….  And then you…  The idea is that there are topics buried everywhere in each minute of your life.  You just need to be on the lookout for them.
  7. List some political/social issues relevant to your life.

So You Created the Territories, Now What?

  1. Look over the words and phrases you’ve listed and use them to come up with projects for writing.  You might see something that reminds you of a story or you might find a word or phrase that triggers an idea for what you can tell your readers about.  If it’s something you want to know (Why do I keep ending up in these relationships or how do I enter a film in a festival?) then you can take your readers on a journey with you.
  2. Do you want to post your writing territories?  You could explain that you are going to write along with us and that you are posting your writing territories as a blog post.  You could also probably post them as a comment to this post.
  3. After completing the territories, I’d love it if you would post a reflection as comment here about how the activity went for you.
  4. You might want to just jump right to the writing. I suggest that you tell us a story or tell us about one of the words or phrases that you have listed while responding to the prompts.
  5. If you’ve already got a project underway, (as I do) then post an excerpt from that work on your blog and show how it comes out of your territories.  I plan to post something that comes from my writing territories next Monday, November 21, 2011.
Access the handout here.

How Would I Improve Public Education?

How Would I Improve Public Education?

Exhausted and frustrated, five years ago I quit public education.  In the years that have followed, I’ve tried to think about ideas which might have improved the situations within which I worked.  I mean for this to be a catalyst for conversation, and I’m happy to have these ideas refuted and/or debated.  I realize I am a person offering suggestions for a field I have departed, but the students in my writing courses are often future teachers, and I am in continued professional conversation with those who work in the public schools

  1. All of the professional staff in the school should be in the classroom teaching students. It’s too bad that just about anyone who displays ambition in public education, anyone who wishes to get a substantial raise in pay, must leave the classroom.  If all administrators (from assistant principals to superintendents) were required to teach, class sizes could be reduced and those who have become administrators because of their dislike for teaching or working with students might be driven from the field.
  2. Decision making power should be given to teachers with the most experience. How should money be spent?  What meetings should be held for what purpose?  What should the curriculum be?  These are questions that teachers should be working together to answer.  When I taught in Charlotte, all of my classes had over thirty students enrolled and in one class many of the students had previously failed the course.  I had a thick grammar manual and literature anthology neither of which was a very effective tool for engaging students who were not very interested in reading and writing.  How much did those textbooks cost?  What else might I have done with the money?  Too often those who had advanced degrees in something besides English Education were driving my curriculum.
  3. Teachers should be the highest paid employees in education. In many of the places I worked, it was too easy to get the job of teacher.  Although some of the smartest and most admirable people I have ever met are teachers, I also worked with people who frequently missed school, wouldn’t bother the students if they didn’t bother them, and were in education because they couldn’t find anything better.  There were times when the school year began and the school was still looking for a warm body with a degree to fill an empty position.  Teachers are often not paid and treated with the respect accorded to other professions, and so those professions continue to draw the smartest and most dedicated people.
  4. School should be process and project oriented. Standardized tests murder students’ passion for learning.  What rewarding job is like taking a multiple choice test?  The more school requires students to sit quietly in their seats working their way through multiple choice tests, the worse off its students will be.

These are ideas I hope to develop, refine, or altogether change, and I’d appreciate your perspective.