This Time It's Personal: Teaching Academic Writing through Creative Nonfiction
O'Connor offers a diverse range of creative nonfiction writing assignments with authentic audiences—including writer’s autobiography; writing about place; memoirs; op-ed essays; blogs; oral histories—and many vibrant examples of student writing.
Students often see little connection between their school lives and the lives they lead outside of school. Thesis-driven essays often further this disconnection by emphasizing form over content and by depersonalizing the relationship between writer and audience. By inviting students to mine their personal experiences, teachers can help students not only understand literature better, but also begin to make story-sense out of their own lives. All writing (and all reading) is ultimately autobiographical.
In This Time It’s Personal, John S. O’Connor encourages us to care as deeply about the texts of our students’ personal lives as we do the lives of literary characters and the subject matter we teach in all classes. Rather than allow students to view school passively, as mere consumers of other people’s stories, we need to explicitly invite students into the larger community of storytellers.
This book features a diverse range of creative nonfiction writing assignments with authentic audiences—including writer’s autobiography; writing about place; memoirs; op-ed essays; blogs; oral histories—and many vibrant examples of student writing.
227 pp. 2011. Grades 9–College.
“John O’Connor uncovers an encouraging truth: high school students can still become the masters of their own stories, as when they were young. They are now ready to reach more deeply into their unique experiences, if only their teachers would ask. O’Connor, with great poetic skill, shows us how this can be done.”
—Vivian Gussin Paley, author of You Can’t Say You Can’t Play and The Boy on the Beach
“John S. O’Connor has long coaxed beautiful writing from his students, teaching them how to explore and express themselves in ways that deepen their thinking about what they know. O’Connor’s new book, This Time It’s Personal, is a thorough and engaging guide to making creative nonfiction the stuff of great classes. It is also a manifesto that rightly proclaims students’ need to write.”
—Ted C. Fishman, bestselling author, China, Inc. and Shock of Gray
“John O’Connor’s new book on the teaching of writing is an important contribution to our field, rescuing classrooms from the empty formulas and dreary pedantry that infect most academic writing in schools. His inspiring and pedagogically sophisticated program of writing instruction carefully guides teachers in developing lessons through which students will learn how the challenges of writing can be intellectually transformative and personally gratifying, while also ensuring student success in any academic or knowledge-making community.”
—Sheridan Blau, Teachers College, Columbia University, author of The Literature Workshop