Dr. Whiteboard or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Input


As a student of creative writing pedagogy at Chatham, I learned how to lesson plan. It’s important to me that I hit several elements when planning a lesson. However, I’ve always had trouble with one of the most fundamental elements of teaching: input. This major component of creative writing pedagogy boils down the facts, what you’re telling your students.

It’s easy to associate a negative connotation with input. I’m a poet! I like to be fluid and break the rules and tell my students in ACJ to write whatever they please. I much prefer writing to prompts, workshopping, or having lively discussions. Input is for the sciences. Here, we make

But, somehow, this semester has manifested itself differently. As I was going over our readings for the first two weeks of class, I realized how many useful devices cropped up: alliteration, repetition, enjambment, simile, onomatopoeia, personification. So, I bought a few expo markers, printed off some dictionary definitions and got ready to do the unthinkable: lean into input.

Thus far, I have been very happy with the results. As we read Jim Daniels and Toi Derricotte, I was able to point to specific examples of these devices in the text and then give exact definitions on the whiteboard in the front of class. I noticed that some of the students that weren’t engaged with the reading perked up when they were given definitions and examples of literary devices.

I’ve been even more pleased with how my students have readily recalled these elements in class and started to use them in their writing. We talked about onomatopoeia in a Jim Daniels poem our first week and a student brought it up again the second week. One of my students, Tracey, read a particularly moving piece about his father. The poem was especially poignant, as Tracey masterfully used similes to compare his father to a shining star in the distance.

This semester, I hope to completely shake the negative connotation I have for input. I’d
like to better utilize it to help my students as they progress and grow as writers.

Elia Hohauser-Thatcher, Words Without Walls Teacher