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Writing Courses

Why Take a Writing Course?

Technology has revolutionized the way writing applies to our personal and professional lives, and the need for students to develop good writing skills long before they enter college and the workforce has grown. Students in CTY writing courses master critical writing skills by engaging in class discussions, close-readings, writing exercises, and workshops. CTY’s fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and analytical-essay writing courses follow the same model used in Johns Hopkins University’s Writing Seminars. Instructors are typically working writers who hold advanced degrees in creative writing, composition, or literature. Students complete CTY writing courses with the confidence to express their voices through many different genres of writing.

Writing Courses

Writing courses require a minimum score on the verbal sections of the designated tests. Learn more about Eligibility.

For second and third graders, offered in the day program only:

For third and fourth graders, offered in the day program only:

For fourth and fifth graders, offered in the day program only:

For fifth and sixth graders:

Interdisciplinary course for second and third graders: CTY offers "Cloudy with a Chance of Science" to all second and third graders who are eligible for summer programs. Learn more about the "Cloudy with a Chance of Science" class.

Please note that the sample syllabi are meant to provide an idea of the level of the course and whether or not the content area interests you. CTY instructors are given guidelines within which they each develop their own syllabi. Choice and sequencing of topics within the content area, as well as specific activities, labs, and assignments, will vary.

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Writing Course Descriptions and Syllabi

Behind the Mask: Superheroes Revealed

BAM! POW! ZAP! Everyone knows Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, and Captain America, but superheroes can come in many different shapes and sizes. Is Elsa from Frozen a superhero? What about BB-8, Gru, or Moana? Must a superhero fight crime? How do storytellers draft heart-stopping tales of suspense? Join us in a heroic writing adventure.

Like the professional writers at Disney, students in this course craft compelling and creative stories using literary techniques like descriptive writing, symbolism, plot structure, and figurative language. After examining graphic novels and a variety of sources in literature and popular media, students invent their own vivid characters and unique settings. Students gain the ability to think critically about their favorite characters and to write about heroism. These storytelling and close reading skills will aid students during all of their academic pursuits.

Writing projects may include creative stories, opinion pieces, and storyboards. Their tales of adventure are polished during in-class workshops with input from their instructor and classmates.

Sample texts: Herobear the Kid Vol. 1 The Inheritance, Kunkel; Ms. Marvel, Wilson; Astronaut Academy: Zero Gravity, Roman; Nimona, Stevenson.

Students must have completed grade: 2 or 3

Session 1: Baltimore, La Jolla, New York, Sandy Spring
Session 2: New York

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Writing and Reading Workshop

Gathering together a community of young writers and readers, this course helps students develop the vocabulary and critical-thinking skills necessary to discuss writing and reading in sophisticated ways. Students explore a range of reading and writing assignments, some of which they choose themselves with the instructor’s guidance.

Approximately half of each day is devoted to writing and half to reading. Students learn writing by doing what professional writers do: gathering material, deciding on topics, conferring with peers, drafting, workshopping, and revising. Daily lessons and one-on-one conferences address writing skills from sentence construction to the use of imagery.

In reading workshops, students choose texts to read and respond to in their journals; they may also read short stories and novels to discuss as a class. Working with the instructor, students develop close-reading skills and an appreciation for authors and genres that are new to them. Cooperative learning and constructive criticism are emphasized, and detailed responses from the instructor and peers play an essential role in each student’s growth as a reader and writer.

Note: As a part of their homework, students in this course may be expected to borrow books from their neighborhood libraries.

Sample texts: Independent reading assignments supplemented by instructor-selected short stories and novels; America Street: A Multicultural Anthology of Stories, Mazer; Esperanza Rising, Ryan; Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Taylor.

Students must have completed grade: 3 or 4

Session 1: Hong Kong, New York
Session 2: Alexandria, New York, Sandy Spring

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Writing Workshop: Modern Fantasy

Novelist Caroline Gordon once said, “A well-composed book is a magic carpet on which we are wafted to a world that we cannot enter in any other way.” This course transports readers of modern fantasy are transported into magical worlds where people, places, and things are often not what they appear to be. Animals speak, toys come to life, and eccentric characters perform seemingly impossible feats. Worlds turn upside down, and the familiar becomes the unknown.

Using classic and contemporary texts, students learn to identify the traits that characterize modern fantasy. They venture into extraordinary places such as Narnia in C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and witness battles between good and evil like those that take place in Susan Cooper’s Over Sea, Under Stone. Students may also read Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart and experience what might take place if characters sprang from the pages of a book.

The course’s workshop approach affords many opportunities to engage in close reading, participate in informed discussion, and reflect upon what these fantastic worlds tell us about our own. Students respond to modern fantasy texts in a variety of written assignments, including literary analysis and reflective writing. Armed with their newly developed understanding of the genre and an appreciation of its nuances, students then craft original pieces of fantasy.

Sample texts: The Black Cauldron, Alexander; The Golden Compass, Pullman; Redwall, Jacques; materials compiled by the instructor.

Students must have completed grade: 4 or 5

Session 1: Baltimore, La Jolla, New York, Portola Valley, Sandy Spring
Session 2: Alexandria, New York

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Writing and Imagination

Writing is an act of imagination; it builds from the raw materials of life and language. Students in this course read, write, and discuss a variety of genres including poems, short stories, and essays. They are encouraged to approach writing as a craft and to discover the processes and techniques that writers in all genres share. For example, students learn strategies for generating ideas, and they explore the concept and techniques of point of view.

This course brings together students and instructors who, as experienced writers themselves, serve as mentors to guide students through the process of creative writing. During writing workshops, both the instructor and peers offer detailed criticism geared toward revision. Through this process of writing, critiquing, and revising, students develop confidence in their own writing and creative powers.

Sample texts: Materials compiled by the instructor; a supplemental text such as The House on Mango Street, Cisneros; or Past Perfect, Present Tense: New and Collected Stories, Peck.

Students must have completed grades: 5 or 6

Session 1: Collegeville, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Hong Kong, New York, Sandy Spring
Session 2: Collegeville, San Rafael, Alexandria, New York

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Heroes and Villains

Folktales, myths, and legends give us tales of heroes and villains. For centuries, poets and storytellers have used larger-than-life characters to depict human struggles and triumphs. What can we learn about ourselves from these extraordinary characters?

In this course, students trace the archetypes of hero and villain across cultures and time. Students map the narrative structure of the hero’s journey and explore the cultural purpose of superhuman characters. With careful reading, they examine superhuman extremes of pure goodness and pure evil and discover heroes’ flaws and villains’ hidden virtues. Students complete both critical and creative projects. For example, a student may compare presentations of good and evil in Disney’s Frozen to its source text, Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen, or draw from personal experiences to narrate a story of villainy.

Through close reading, group discussions, and writers’ workshops, students develop the analytical skills to read and respond thoughtfully to a variety of texts.

Sample texts: The Epic of Gilgamesh; The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Stevenson; Peter and Wendy, Barrie; selected works by Joseph Campbell.

Students must have completed grades: 5 or 6

Session 1: Bristol, Collegeville, San Rafael
Session 2: Collegeville, Los Angeles

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