Saturday, March 3, 2012

6 Tips on Teaching a Writing Class (Part 1)

So, you're thinking you have some things to share--some writing tips and tricks you'd like to pass on to other writers. How do you get your name out there? How do you set up a class? How do you get interested writers to sign up?

I am also in the running for teaching some writing classes. I've taught them before, but for the last few years I've been focusing my time on mentoring and attending college, and from what I hear, some things have changed in the "teaching" department.

Here are some things I am either re-learning or learning for the first time:

My backyard is small, but I was able to hold a
small class for teens here last year
  • Start small. Your classes can be held at home; even in your back yard. My first few classes for teens were held this way. The library is a free venue though they usually don't allow you to sell your book(s). Places like art centers are also good to host your first few classes--and you CAN sell your books here.
  • Because you're going to have varied students in your class, with different learning styles and different levels of writing, it's a good idea to teach with more than one method in mind. For example, you may use hand-outs at the appropriate times (more about that later), but you may not have an idea for experiential exercises that would engage students a different way. Experiential exercises include talking to a neighbor about your writing, sharing with the group your writing style, or being given an opportunity from the instructor to share your work. 
    • I focus on 3 areas when I am teaching:
      • 1. Hands-on opportunities--this includes music, writing and drawing
      • 2. Experiential sharing exercises
      • 3. Learning--information is given from the instructor to expand the writer's thinking
  • Workshops work better if your numbers are under 25 students; over 25, you're looking at a lecture type of presentation.
  • Your first few classes may need to be free. Until your name is out there and enough people have taken your courses, you might find it difficult to fill a room. Or you can try piggy-backing on other writers through conferences that have been successful. Teach a class at a conference, and if it's well received, there's no doubt that future numbers will improve. 
  • Advertising is BIG but it is also expensive. Use your already established resources first when advertising your class. Social networking sites are excellent but so are your church related resources as well as those people you associate with within the community. Fliers don't usually work to bring in writers. What brings them in (until you're established as a speaker) is others talking about what you do. 
Guidebook I use for "Conquering Your Writing
Goliaths Workshop"
  • Hand-outs are great for a class, but use them only when you'll be discussing the hand-out. If you bring the hand-out out too early, students might be reading over the hand-out instead of listening to you. If you're using a manual or workbook like I am, this makes things a bit more tricky. (If anyone has a suggestion for this one, please let me know).
Teaching tips and tricks in teaching are abundant on the Internet. What's important, is that you try a few ideas on the first class, see what works, and use the same tips in the future. Not every tip or trick is going to work for you and that's okay. The best presenters, present themselves as well as the material. People continue to take their classes because they are not only informative, but the class is fun and engaging. 

Tomorrow, I'd like to talk a bit more on setting up a class, how long your classes should be, and what you can expect from writers in a writing class. 
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