I travel to Mankato in five hours to begin the final semester of my MFA in Creative Writing program. This semester sees me put my thesis to bed, take my final fiction workshop, and take a gigantic test in which I analyze six works of prose and poetry with the rigorous vigor they’ve always hoped one would show when examining them. While that’s what I’m doing, let’s talk about what my students will be doing this semester, dear reader…

I’m teaching an online-hybrid section of Introduction to Composition. It’s been interesting determining what lesson plans I’ve used in the classroom can easily be translated into online teaching, and coming up with new lessons has helped keep the process fresh. Students in my class will write four essays: an explanatory synthesis in which they explain a researched topic organize their essay by idea, a persuasive essay that will see them explaining a researched topic, showing both sides of the issue, then choosing a side to argue, a literary analysis of nonfiction novel Into the Wild to better understand creative writing craft, and a film analysis of The Incredibles to introduce them to analyzing visual media.

I decided this semester, I want my students to research topics that mean something to them. For the explanatory synthesis, students will research a social issue and explain it, while for their persuasive essay, students will choose a topic relevant to today’s college students to research and take a stance on. As for analyzing Into the Wild and The Incredibles, I want to use my discipline strengths – analyzing literature (Creative Writing MFA) and analyzing film (Film Studies BA) – to help me teach. I’ve used both literature and film in my Composition courses before, but not to this degree, and I’m excited.

When teaching academic writing, I feel one has to know how to do two things well – explain simply and gladly re-explain it again. Put your students on the same page as soon as possible, then be ready to get them there again should they stray. The four essays I’m teaching leads itself to this approach, and that’s going to help both my students and me.


Entering my final semester.

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