Monday, March 5, 2012

6 More Tips on Teaching a Writing Class (Part 2)

If you've read Part 1 of this blog you'll realize I didn't get to Part 2 when I said I would. Sorry about that.

Here we go!

1. I first take a good look at chair set up.

Photo By: UK in Italy, courtesy of Flickr

If there are merely chairs (and no tables) to set up for your class, and your class is more of a lecture and less of a workshop, make sure that the chairs are set up close together horizontally, and vertically, that there is plenty of leg room. That means that the arms of the chairs are touching and the space between the chairs has some room. You want the situation to be tight, (to fit in the most chairs, and for participants to get to know their neighbors) but you also want your participants to be comfortable, especially if they're tall like me.

Photo By: EPP Group in the European Parliament (Official) 
No center isle. Make sure that the chairs extend across the room and leave a few feet on the sides and back  of the room to walk around. What happens when there's an aisle? Much of the energy of your presentation goes down the center isle and you find yourself talking to two groups of people instead of one. Where do you stand? Where do you focus your attention? Leaving out the center isle helps.

Using tables is a great way to give a class, but be aware that the class will have to be smaller, and this is okay seeing as it's probably going to be a workshop anyway. You can have a center isle here, but keep all chairs to the back of the table; no chairs on the sides and no chairs in front.

2. Make sure that if you're not giving a lecture, that you don't stand behind the podium the entire time you are giving your presentation. (And even if you are giving a lecture, be careful of being completely glued to it). Move around the room if giving a workshop. Make some eye contact with the individuals in the room. I try and make sure I've given eye contact to everyone attending my classes at least once during class time.

3. Your classes can be as long as you want, but I try and break up segments about every two hours, even if it's just for a five minute potty break. I enjoy putting on two-day seminars. I start them at 9:00 a.m. and we end at 1:00. That way I can fit in one break, but I don't have to worry about lunch.

4. Have books to sell? Place them right at the registration table, or right as you enter the room if there is space to do so. The back of the room works too, but participants may or may not walk back there. If they have to pass the table before sitting down, you have additional exposure.

Photo By: Jurvetson, courtesy of Flickr
5. Writers of all persuasions will be attending your class. Unless you've specified the class for beginners or intermediate or advanced writers, you will get writers who have started writing this week, have written for two years, or have written for ten. Make sure your presentation incorporates all of your writers and doesn't leave anyone out.

6. Be flexible in your teaching. If you can't get to something in your presentation, don't be hurried and worry about getting to it. And don't tell the class that you're going to have to rush through a part to get to the next one! There are times when more discussion is needed on a particular topic. Give some extra time to the subject if you need to.

I haven't given you all there is to know about teaching and setting up a writing class, but I hope these ideas have helped. Giving your presentation itself is an entirely different category altogether and I haven't mentioned everything that you should do to prepare and deliver.


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