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New storytelling class challenges students to think differently

September 16, 2013

 

Kait-Berneking
Kate Berneking Kogut, center, explains an activity to students.


Students in a new class at Stephens College were given an unusual task Monday.
“Don’t think,” Assistant Professor Kate Berneking Kogut challenged nearly 30 students.
It was tougher than it sounds. Asked for simple suggestions, such as girls’ names or types of clouds, most students blanked, struggling to come up with the perfect answer. By the end of the hour-long class period, students acknowledged that over thinking sometimes gets in the way of action.
The goal of the new course, Starting With Story, is to help students deconstruct the idea of a story, Kogut said. Too often, she’s found that students come with preconceived notions of how a story should read or sound—and that sometimes paralyzes the process, be it writing for book, stage or screen.
“Don’t get it right, get it written,” Kogut told the class. “Get it down, then go back and craft it. People who want to get it right don’t get it finished.”
The course combines writing with activities that force students to think differently. In addition to the word association exercise Monday, for instance, students also drew hands to help them visualize ways a question could be revised into a request or a demand.
They also participated in an activity requiring them to match similar sounds.
The physical activities aren’t combined with every classroom discussion, Kogut said, but they do help spark the creative process.
Over the course of the semester, students in Starting With Story will also learn character development, how to dramatize everyday dialogue and will complete a research project requiring multiple types of sources.

Kogut previously taught these concepts in her scriptwriting course. But Starting with Story is now a prerequisite for classes not only English/creative writing but also the film program and integrated marketing. And that makes sense because the lessons are so universal, she said.
“Story is how we make sense of ourselves and the world, and how we make sense of our place in that world.”

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