Creative Writing students teach their craft to local children
April Dellinger stood at the front of the multi-purpose classroom at the Watauga County Public Library last Thursday, looking out on a mix of college and elementary school students.
"Has anyone ever written a short story?" she asked.
Many of the 24 children present raised their hands, and when called on they discussed stories of every kind, from one about a princess and a monkey to one about a man drinking a mocha at a fast food restaurant.
The college students in Susan Weinberg's Creative Writing Senior Seminar are conducting a free creative writing club for children in the community instead of a traditional workshop-based seminar for their final class.
The class fulfills the idea of Appalachian State University's service-learning objectives by taking the knowledge gained in the classroom and applying it in a local setting.
Weinberg constructed the class to allow a period each week for planning and practicing activities, and one for having the club itself.
The club began meeting Feb. 10 and will continue through the end of April, where it will conclude with a celebration that parents are invited to attend.
Josh Martin, a member of the class, said the class appealed to him because he wanted "to expand the art and joy of creative writing to the surrounding community. There is so much potential in these hills for great writers that we need to be introducing the art to students of younger ages."
The class has been divided into partners who collaborate on lesson plans each week in order to teach one lesson during the semester.
The rest of the class, on the weeks that they are not teaching, work one on one with a particular child, helping them write if they are younger and providing suggestions and guidance.
Katie Strasser has not led the class yet.
"I am going to be leading an activity that is based on the idea of writing a journal/diary for a famous person," she said. "I'm excited to see who the kids want to write a 'diary entry' for and what kind of small characterizing details they can invent about each person."
Like many of the lessons, Martin's lesson hinges on the use of pictures to inspire the children.
"I am teaching the lesson on creating mythical beast through the use of simile," Martin said. "I am looking forward to them designing their own mythical beast by using their imaginative faculties."
A main thread through the whole class will be the creation and revision of longer stories based on the book, "The Mysteries of Harris Burdick," which is full of surprising illustrations and story prompts.
The importance of creative writing to all age groups is emphasized.
"Writing is, perhaps, the most expressive outlet known to man," Martin said. "By teaching children to write creatively, we are giving them an avenue for them to vent their aspirations, frustrations and elations in a healthy manner."
On Thursdays, the children fill the room with shouts and whispers, all in service of that day's lesson. Some children have expressed that they look forward to the club all week.
Instead of traditional grading schemes, the students in this senior seminar are compiling portfolios that will be useful if they ever wish to start creative writing clubs of their own or apply for grants to do this kind of work with children.
"I would love to be a part of a program similar to this in whatever location I end up living after college," Strasser said. "Experiences like this are such a great way to feel connected to a place that you haven't grown up in or may have just moved to."
To see some of the work the children have been creating, look at the display cases in the public library.
For more information, e-mail Susan Weinberg at (firstname.lastname@example.org)