Hillside Workshops for Teachers
Inspiring Students to Become
Apprentices to the Sentence
"If you learn what it is that goes into the making of a memorable sentence ... you will also be learning how to take the appreciative measure of [it]. And conversely, if you can add to your admiration of a sentence an analytical awareness of what caused you to admire it, you will be that much farther down the road of being able to produce one (somewhat) like it.” —Stanley Fish
Shaped by a decade's worth of observations of high school writers' efforts, Hillside’s workshops for teachers argue for and delight in slowing down the reader in order to build up the writer. Attentive both to how complex the demands are that English and Language Arts teachers face and to how crucial students’ skills as sentence-makers are, we make the individual sentence the laboratory for discovery and instruction. Promoting ways of seeing that are at once imaginative and profitably analytical, we seek to stimulate teachers' personal enthusiasm about literary discovery as a means to enhancing writing instruction in the classroom and informing curriculum development.
Hillside's Workshops for English and creative-writing teachers
at the middle and high school levels are available
as a series or as individual experiences:
Teaching the Sentence
In comparison to, say, the apprentice sculptor or carpenter, who can directly observe a master at work, the apprentice writer's access to instructive influence requires some work. She would learn relatively little about her craft by sitting across the desk from a practicing master writer. She must instead observe as well as she can the sentences the master has made — she must learn how to make the page her master. This introductory workshop, informed by the perspectives of professional writers, demonstrates the value of reading in active and imaginative ways that bring one as near as possible to — as writer Francine Prose has put it — "the hand and mind of the artist.” From here, we introduce "Roots & Branches" and "Sentence Evolutions," two of Hillside’s sentence-making exercises, which emphasize a regard for sentences as made things and encourage practice toward becoming versatile, agile, and inventive makers of them. We also share resources to inspire further the sentence apprentice.
Taking Appreciative Measure
When we read compelling prose, we roll forward through the sentences, delighting, as we receive each one, in a momentum toward the next sentence. We don’t stop to consider the writer's small, artful acts of attention that create the imaginative energy, but they are there, operating on us. The experience is not unlike watching a film: we take in the fluid, visible action knowing that it is the result of a specific ordering of discrete and distinctly framed pictures. This second workshop, focused on profitable close-reading, goes frame by frame through the openings of model works of fiction to reveal the co-operation of writing elements — sentence variation, syntax, voice, sensory detail — and demonstrates taking what Stanley Fish calls "appreciative measure." In presenting close- and slow-reading practices and what they yield, we share ideas about how teachers can shape engaging, emulative experiments for student writers.
Writing as a Visual Art
Yes, it's true that in a culture often described as "image-driven," text — those black marks arranged in parallel lines across the white page — can hardly compete for attention against the instantly rendered digital picture. But writers have been creating compelling images on the screen of the mind for centuries. Writers are image-driven; they are visual artists intent on the magical art of turning those black marks into vivid mental pictures. By taking participants through a series of writers' visual performances with sentences, this workshop connects the writer's work to the student's wish to see. In demonstrating how writers direct the mind's eye, the workshop teaches an approach to re-engage students with the rich visual nature of writing and supplies participants with exemplary arrangements of words. The workshop includes a way to compel students as image-makers — and image-revisers — as a step toward building fresh fiction and nonfiction.