Room 313

adventures in teaching creative writing

Syllabus Deets

I think my school requires us teachers to have our students sign an agreement sheet for our syllabus. Parents sign this acknowledgement sheet too. Basically this allows you to enforce all the rules in the syllabus (as long as the principal approves the syllabus, natch). Anyway, a couple years ago, I started adding some further information on this agreement page. I have my students check boxes indicating whether or not they have access to the following:

  • computer
  • Internet
  • printer
  • cell phone

I teach in a very affluent district, but some of my students don’t have access to these things, so it’s good information to have. Since our district is becoming more multicultural, I’ve also added a line that reads

I speak another language besides English at home. (Lanuage: _____________)

Now I don’t get a lot of responses on that question, but this year I’ve learned I have students who speak Greek, Urdu, Russian, Vietnamese, Arabic, Spanish, and Chinese at home. Again, this is good info for me.

Some students, perhaps feeling silly or left out, still filled out the language line, even though they only speak English. Their humorous, out-of-the-box responses tell me that they are more on the creative side and might not always play the rules. Creative language responses included: cat, sign, Elvish, Redneck/broken Spanish/gibberish, American, Oklahoman, and dance.

Finally, since I’m a teacher consultant with the Oklahoma Writing Project, I also include a section in my syllabus explaining that I sometimes use student work in my presentations. I ask students to give me permission to use their work along with their first name only. 95% of my students grant me their permission, but the 5% that don’t feel comfortable with this pique my curiosity. Is that they don’t feel confident in their writing? Are they parents protective of their privacy? Plus, I really do respect their wishes and will not use any of their work in my presentations.

I hope you’ll consider adding some of these details to your syllabus this school year if you need them.

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