Weekly Teaching Note
Oct 26 2011
Storytelling, Creativity, and Classroom Management

A perennial problem faced by many faculty members is students who arrive late to class. I’ve found a way to encourage students to arrive on time, while exercising their creativity.

As one of the preliminary exercises in creating an animation, I ask the students to first read a series of short stories and then write a factual account of something that they have experienced that has made an impact on them. They are then instructed to set their written story aside and "perform" the story as a storyteller. This is a standard exercise commonly used in many classes that involve creative expression.

Based on this idea, I have developed a storytelling assignment in dealing with students that come to class late. When a student comes in after the class starts, all class activity stops and the tardy student is required to tell the story of why he or she is late. They cannot, however, tell the truth! Instead, they must invent and deliver a story on the spot that makes the class respond as an audience. The story must be entertaining, fantastic, emotional, or in any other way, engaging. The class then votes by showing a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down. If the vote goes in the student's favor, then they will simply be marked late.

If they do not succeed in their efforts then they are marked as unprepared. This exercise has forced all the students to be prepared with at least one good story and has completely eliminated the issue of lateness.

The exercise gets even better if I am ever late to class, since the rule also applies to me. The first time that I announced this policy, the inevitable happened. Heavy traffic made me late to the next class but I had my story ready to go and thankfully did get a thumbs-up.

Prof. Peter Voci
MFA Director/Fine Arts Chair

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