Final Curriculum Units

Meighan Baker, Brader Elementary School, “Piece-by-Piece: Constructing Creative Nonfiction Writing in Kindergarten”

Courtney Cleghorn, William F. Cooke Elementary School, “Reluctant Writers and the Memoir”

Lynn Gallo, Calvin R. McCullough Middle School, “Improving ELLs’ Literacy Through Podcasts/Nonfiction Writing”

Kathleen Gormley, Highlands Elementary School, “Teaching Creative Nonfiction in Third Grade”

Michael Pollock, Hodgson Vo-Tech High School, “Questions and Answers: Writing About Other People”

Jillian Yetter, Hodgson Vo-Tech High School, “Resisting Commonality on the Common Application”

Amanda Wlock, Appoquinimink High School, “Using Creative Nonfiction to Reflect on the Formal Research Paper”

Congratulations, everyone! I will post the link to the full-text versions of these units when DTI publishes them.


Seminar, Monday, 12/04/2017

Gore 304

Yale National Seminars

Fourth Genre 2017

Some Sentences I Admire

Amanda W

I want to use a more comprehensive knowledge of creative nonfiction to connect students to the projects and papers they are creating for this capstone.

Kristen B

But the goal is not to perfect their writing; the primary objective will be to take steps to further the readership of their texts; thinking always of their readers will mean that students make critical decisions about the construction and clarity of their writing (something that does not occur when students write research essays!).

Courtney C

Not only will I be using mentor texts to model writing, I will also be writing my own memoir along with the class, by doing this we can talk about the story, and they can see the different parts of my writing.

Jenn E

“What classifies where you call home?” I pose this question to all my biology courses when introducing the concepts of ecosystems and biomes.

Jill Y

Common Core Standards and the Common Application. Everything in education is geared toward making a uniform commonality among American youth.

Kathy G

Writing process posters are available for reference, and student writing is visible around the room. In this setting, students are encouraged to converse with each other about their writing, creating an active and energy-filled environment.

Lynn G

So, in a way, it could be reasoned that my propensity for organizing items and buying Lysol took root over 80 years ago when my grandmother turned my father’s outgrown school shirts into kitchen towels and insisted on keeping a kitchen pot with a hole in the bottom “because someone might need it.”

Meighan B

As a kindergarten teacher, I have personally found that teaching writing is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. It can present itself as a daunting task and is often overwhelming for both teachers and students alike. Each “piece” of the writing process must be taught and modeled by teachers, connected to previous learning, and practiced repeatedly by students.

Michael P

I want my students to become critical thinkers—to think for themselves, to feel confident about the choices they make as writers, to reflect on the work they’ve done. One of the ways I see this happening is through the problem-solving process that is journalism, which is full of problems to solve: who to interview; how to get someone to talk; how to come up with questions in advance as well as in the moment; what to keep; what to cut.

Shelby B

The culture of writing obviously includes the use of the writing process, but will also try to engage students in active reading and listening through discussions. Students will read, write, and discuss what they read and wrote every day in class.

Other Favorites [pdf]

Finishing Up

The second draft of your full Curriculum Unit is due on Monday, December 18. Please email a copy to both Kathy and me.  Attending the Writing Retreat on Saturday, December 9, will help you make sure your document is formatted according to specifications. Please also feel free to email me with any questions as you finish up your piece. I’ll try to respond to your drafts quickly—I’m hoping before Christmas. The final, to-be-published version of your Unit is then due on Monday, January 22. I will offer it a final review before to DTI for publication. Again, don’t hesitate to email me with questions between your second and third drafts.

More important, let’s keep in touch! I’ve really enjoyed working with all of you, and I am eager to learn about how all the work you’ve done plays out in your classroom. Please keep me posted. Indeed, if you’d like me to, and we can make it work in terms of scheduling, I’d be happy to visit your classroom one day while you’re teaching it. Let me know.

Have a terrific holiday! Thank you for sharing your work with me!




Seminar, Monday, 11/27/2017

304 Gore

Writing Studio

Please remember to bring print and digital copies of your Curriculum Unit with you!

Understanding a genre through examples

Synopsis (Guide)

  • What do the synopses by Holly B, Jenna F, and Tiffany K all share in common? List as many similar features as you can. (See A Short History of Story, 2016.)
  • List two or three things that each writer does differently.
  • Draft (or revise) your own Synopsis.

Learning Map

  • What do the Learning Maps by Holly B, Jenna F, and Tiffany K all share in common? To put this another way, how does looking at their forms help you fill in your own? (See A Short History of Story, 2016.)
  • Begin to fill in the blanks of your own Learning Map.


  • Level-One Headings: Objectives, Strategies, Classroom Activities, Resources. These are required by the Yale National Initiative. (See Mechanical Specifications.)
  • Level-Two Headings: Use these to offer your own map through your unit.
  • Develop an outline of your Unit using Level-One and -Two Headings.


Please write me a note (by hand or email) in which you discuss (a) what you’re pleased about with your Unit so far, and (b) what are your most pressing concerns or questions at this point. I’ll try to offer as much help as I can!

For Next Week (Monday, 12/07)


Please bring 12 copies of a piece of writing you’ve read for this course that you particularly impresses you. It would be great if you offer a shout-out to work you’ve read by one of your colleagues in the seminar, but if there is a passage from one of the books or essays you’ve read that sticks with you, please share it with s. The only rule is, though, that whatever you bring must fit on a single page. I look forward to seeing what you’ve noticed and liked!


Seminar, Monday, 11/06/2017

Writing in a Digital Age

Anne Lamott: Last Thoughts

Fastwrite: Locate a passage in Bird by Bird that offers you an insight you feel you can use in either (a) your own work as a writer or (b) in working with your students on their writing. If you possibly can, take us to a point in the text we didn’t discuss last week.


Face to Face

  • Monday, 11/13/2017, 134 Memorial, 4:00–7:00 (or earlier that afternoon


  • Tuesday, 11/14, 4:00–6:00, via Zoom
  • Friday, 11/17, 4:00–6:00, via Zoom
  • Monday, 11/20, 4:00–6:00, via Zoom
  • Or any other time on Mon, 11/13, Tues, 11/14, or Fri, 11/17, that works for us both

Responding to First Drafts (A Directed Workshop)

Jot down two questions or concerns you have about the section of your draft that you brought with you this evening. Try to make these questions as precise and pointed as you can. Share them with your reader(s). Then read through each of the sections with the goal of responding directly to the questions raised by the author.

Coming Up

The second draft of your Curriculum Unit is due on Monday, 12/18. This should be a full draft—complete with all sections, full documentation, synopsis, and learning map. To make sure you are in a good position to complete that draft, I’d like to use our next group meeting—on Monday, 11/27—as a studio session.

A studio is a group writing session. It differs from a workshop in that you are expected to actively add to the text you are working on. But it is not simply writing time, since you will also be asked to share and discuss your work. Please bring a print and digital version of your draft with you to seminar. You will work with both. We will also discuss some issues peculiar to the Curriculum Unit as a form: learning maps, synopses, and formatting.



Seminar, Monday, 10/30/2017

304 Gore

Bird by Bird, and Tomato by Tomato


The Pomodoro Technique is a simple and effective time management system developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. You begin by identifying a specific task you want to work on. Then, using a timer—Cirillo used a tomato-shaped kitchen timer, hence the name, but there are now online Pomodoro timers—you

  • Work for 25 minutes, and relax for 5
  • Work for another 25 minutes, and relax for 5
  • Work for another 25 minutes, and relax for 5
  • Work for another 25 minutes, and relax for 15-30 minutes.

A full Pomodoro thus lasts a little over two hours. But you can adjust the time intervals to suit your task and energy level. This evening I thought we could try a mini-Pomodoro: 10 minutes writing, 3 minutes relaxing, 10 minutes writing, 3 minutes relaxing, 10 minutes writing. Our task is inspired by Anne Lamott’s chapter on “Short Assignments”:

I remember to pick up the one-inch picture frame and to figure out a one-inch piece of my story to tell, one small scene, one memory, one exchange” (18).

Please use our mini-Pomodoro to draft a “one-inch story” about the class you are designing your curriculum unit for. This story doesn’t need to be intended as part of your unit; it can simply be a way of thinking about the students you are trying to reach. I will be interested in hearing about both the story you write, and your thoughts on the experience of the Pomodoro.

More on Lamott

Fastwrite: Go to a passage—no more than a ¶—that you particularly like (or that you find especially annoying) in Lamott.  Jot down some notes about what strikes you.


As you know, after our next seminar we will take a break in our group meetings so that I can meet individually with each of you during the two weeks before Thanksgiving. I’d like to offer two options for these meetings:

  • Face to face: We can meet in my office (134 Memorial Hall) sometime during (or near) our usual seminar hours.
  • Online: We can use Zoom to talk about your piece almost any day or any time. We just won’t be in the same room together.

I’m happy to do either; it’s your choice. After we look at Zoom for a few minutes this evening, I’ll simply ask you to tell me which way you’d like to meet. We’ll then do the actual scheduling of conferences next Monday.

For Next Week (Monday, 11/06/2017)

  1. Please finish reading Bird by Bird. Be ready to talk about (a) what you find useful for your own work as a writer, and (b) what you might share in some way with your students.
  2. I will email you a response to the first draft of your curriculum unit by this Friday, 11/03. Based on my comments and your own plans, please identify a 1,000-word (give or take) section of your piece that you’d like to get more responses to from your colleagues. Print out five copies of only that section and bring them with you seminar. We will workshop them.
  3. Bring a friend!


Seminar, Monday, 10/09

Social: Caffe Gelato, 5:00–6:00

Seminar: 316 Gore, 6:00–7:15

Special Guest: Janel Atlas, author of They Were Still Born

Thinking About How Audience Helps to Shape How a Story Is Told

Fastwrite: The same tragic story of stillbirth drives each of the three pieces by Janel that I’ve asked you to read. But the way Janel begins that story differs—slightly but, I think, significantly—on each occasion. Please reread the first few lines of each of her pieces, and jot down some notes on what you find (a) interestingly different, and (b) importantly the same.

Before she was born but after she was dead, I decided that there must be a book. There had to be a collection of stories written by people who had firsthand experience with stillbirth in their own lives, who had stared into the abyss of burying a baby and lived to tell the tale.

I sought this book, frustrated, in the library. I looked for it online. I kept thinking perhaps it would appear on a different shelf or at the top of the next search returns. But it didn’t.

And so I determined to make one myself. (Atlas 2014)


Eight months into a healthy pregnancy, my belly suddenly hung lower. I noticed that the baby’s movements slowed, decreased in frequency, and seemed sluggish compared to just a few days before.

Concerned that something might be wrong, I called my obstetrician’s office and described what I’d noticed. . . . (Atlas 2017a).


Through the night, waiting for labor to progress, I heard babies’ first caterwauls. Drifting down through the sterile hospital hallway came the sounds of laboring women, supportive nurses, encouraging partners. I turned onto my side and cradled my hugely pregnant belly in the crook of my arms.

I already knew that my baby would make no sounds in the delivery room when she was finally born.

I knew because she was already dead. (Atlas 2017b)

And then we’ll talk with Janel—about these three pieces, audience, writing in general, writing online, and anything else that seems useful!

Coming Up

We will not meet again as a seminar until Monday, 10/30/2017. During that time we hope that you will be working on the first full draft of your Curriculum Unit. That unit is due on October 30. Please email me and Kathy your draft before seminar meets that evening. Title your document <Lastname Draft 1>.

I would then like to spend some time in seminar on Monday, 11/06/2017, workshopping these drafts in small groups.  During the next two weeks (when again we won’t meet as a group), I will schedule a one-on-one conference with each of you to talk in detail about your work.

I’d also like us to read and discuss the other book we ordered for this seminar: Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. Please plan to read to page 130 by October 30, and to finish the book for November 6. Remember that November 6 is also “Bring A Friend”evening; I hope you will do so!

This is the time when everything starts to come together! I’m excited to read your work!

Seminar, Monday, 10/02/2017

304 Gore

Wallace and Strayed as Exemplars

These two essays are among the most acclaimed and anthologized pieces of nonfiction in this century. They have become, that is, part of the “canon” of creative nonfiction. Choose the one (Wallace or Strayed) that most interests (or provokes) you. Working with a partner, see if you can name and identify three or four qualities about the essay that you think have made teachers and editors admire it, that have helped it become considered canonical.  Find a brief passage to illustrate each quality.

The Essay of the Moment

Reread the essay you’ve brought with you to discuss in seminar. Locate a brief passage (no more than a ¶) that shows something you admire about the writing of the piece. (It would be great if this were not a quality we’ve talked about in our discussion of Wallace and Strayed.) Be ready to talk about that passage.

For Next Week (10/09/2017)

I’ve asked my friend and colleague Janel Atlas to come speak with us next week. Janel is an accomplished writer of nonfiction who has published extensively both in print and online. To prepare for our conversation next week, I’d like you to read three related pieces that she’s written:

  • “Telling a Story of Stillbirth: Accepting the Limits of Narrative.” 9 May 2014.
  • “Bereaved Families Need Compassionate Presence.” KevinMD. 7 March 2017.
  • “Telling a Story of Stillbirth: Accepting the Limits of Narrative.” Survive and Thrive: A Journal for Medical Humanities and Narrative as Medicine, 3(1). April 2017.

I’m interested in talking with Janel about the decisions she made in reworking similar materials to address three different groups of readers and three different occasions for writing. My hope is that this conversation will help you think about how to help your students imagine the readers they are writing to.

Seminar, Monday, 9/25/2017

304 Gore

Hypotaxis and Parataxis


  • Please read the accounts of a fever by Rushdie and Malouf. I trust that, like me, you’ll find them very different. Working with a partner, see if you can if you can put a name to their diverging tones or styles: How would you describe their differences?  Then, see if you can point to some strategies (try to list at least three or four for each) that the writer uses to achieve his particular tone.
  • Handout
  • With a partner again, look back over one of the three essays (Beard, Berry, Biss) we’ve read for this week from the Touchstone Anthology. Would you describe the piece as primarily hypotactic or paratactic? Locate a passage that supports your reading

Researching Your Curriculum Units

  • Fastwrite: Please jot down a few sentences about each of the two texts you’ve brought with you. Briefly describe (a) what the text is about, (b) why it interests you, and (c) how it might inform or fit into your unit.
  • Groups: Share and discuss your texts. As a group, choose one “teacher text” and one “student text” that you think will be of interest to everyone in seminar. Be ready to say why.

A Problem With How Essays Get Anthologized


For Next Week (10/02/2017)

  • Please read (or re-read) the essays by Cheryl Strayed and David Foster Wallace in the Touchstone Anthology. I’ve chosen these two pieces because they are among the very most acclaimed essays published in this century. What does that tell you about what contemporary readers and critics seem to most value in creative nonfiction?
  • Please also locate a brief nonfiction piece (800 words or less) that you admire that responds to a current social or political event or issue.
  • Continue to work on your unit! Send me an email if there is anything I can help you with!

Seminar, Monday, 9/18/2017

304 Gore

Welcome Back!

Image courtesy of Northeast Indiana Public Radio,
  • Fastwrite (10 minutes): What did you do in your summer vacation? Or, to be more exact, what did you do on your curriculum unit in your summer vacation? Please briefly describe your unit, as you now see and plan it, for the other members of this seminar. Tell us who your students are, what you want to teach them how to write, and why. Conclude by mentioning one thing that really excites or pleases you about your unit, and one thing that worries you or that you haven’t quite figured out yet. We’ll read these aloud, and see how we can help each other move forward.

Developing Your Curriculum Unit: Some Thoughts From Joe [Handout]

For Next Week (9/25/2018)

  • Please bring two readings with you to seminar that you plan to use in developing your unit.. One should be for you—an article or book that you will use to ground or inform the work you do in designing and teaching your unit. The other should be for your students—a piece you will assign them to read and perhaps use as a model for their own writing. In most cases, I think it will work best if you bring actual print copies of these texts to seminar, but if it makes more sense to send me hyperlinks, please do so before 4:00 pm next Monday.
  • Please read (or re-read) the first three pieces (Bear, Berry, Bliss) in the Touchstone Anthology. We’ll talk about how they do or don’t fit into the four types of nonfiction I proposed last spring (memoir, reporting, interviewing, criticism).