QCS Workshop Responses

Silence in the classroom can be awkward, especially when your students are tasked with discussing their peers’ work in a creative writing workshop. I’ve found that a simple Question-Comment-Suggestion response helps guide less experienced students in the workshopping process.

These responses are what they sound like: they ask students to respond to a piece of writing with the following:

  • A question–encourages students to phrase critiques in a constructive and contemplative way. For example, instead of saying “it seems silly that the character woke up and it was all a dream” which places judgment on the text, they can phrase the critique as “I wonder what the dream structure adds to events in the story?” or “How does the dream-like nature of events enhance or detract from the overall plot?”
  • A comment–allows students to comment on or compliment the text. “The overall atmosphere and mood of the piece was effectively chilling” or “The tension and pacing makes the reader want to keep on reading”
  • A suggestion–forces students to not only find a critique but also offers a solution to a problem. For example, “You might want to rethink the title as it’s not clear how it relates to the story” or “When you make your revisions I suggest you spend time carefully proofreading”

These responses are simple and brief, at first I require only a sentence for each of the three parts, but as the semester progresses I ask for more detailed explanations and examples. I find that this helps facilitate discussion in the following way:

  • Avoids awkward silences as all students will come to the workshop with something written down
  • Avoids everyone telling the writer how wonderful their work is and how there are no critiques they could make
  • Easily shows points of agreement and disagreement when instructors ask who else has a similar or differing comment, question, or suggestion
  • Encourages new writers to think more critically about what they read

 

For more on providing feedback, take a look at “Creative Writing Feedback: On Finding Praise” by Annah Browning

 
 
 
Featured image courtesy of https://unsplash.com/@glenncarstenspeters
Teaching Assistant at University of Illinois at Chicago |

Hannah Green is a PhD student in the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago. While a creative writer by nature, she’s a teacher at heart and enjoys teaching writing in all its forms including composition, professional, technical, and creative writing. Her research interests include the place of the asylum in narratives of mental illness, the literature of Southern Africa, and oral storytelling. Her creative writing appears both in print and online in places such as The Rumpus, PANK, and McSweeney's. Hannah is also the Editor-in-Chief of During Office Hours.

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