Creative Writing through Literature-Online Writing Courses

Creative Writing through Literature-Online Writing Courses

Jonathan Rogers teaches a number of writing courses for Compass Classroom that are based on popular or classic literature.

The courses available are:

  • Writing Through the Wardrobe (based on The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe)
  • Writing through To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Writing through the Bog Owl (based on The Bark of the Bog Owl)
  • Writing with Hobbits (based on The Hobbit)

Rogers says in some of the lectures that students do not need to read the books since he reads or present on slides the pertinent passages. Even so, prior familiarity with the stories is still helpful since Rogers often discusses the development of a character, plot elements, and other features that are more understandable to those familiar with the story. In addition, the Supplemental Writing Exercises (either linked to the lectures or downloaded as a PDF) often have assignments that require that students read part or all of the book. While these courses are primarily intended for teaching creative writing, adding a requirement that students read and discuss the books expands the courses’ value and should allow you to add credit for literature as well as writing.

Rogers assumes that students already know how to structure paragraphs and know the basics of writing narratives. He takes students to a higher level by teaching about the techniques used by professional writers to accomplish different goals in their writing. He uses the selected novel to focus on particular techniques used by its author in each of the lessons. For instance, in Writing through To Kill a Mockingbird, Lesson 13: Showing and Telling in the Courtroom, Rogers uses the instance of Atticus Finch’s use of both showing and telling to try to sway the jury to teach students different ways of showing through dialogue and through the presentation of physical evidence.

How the Courses Work

The courses each have 18 lessons, generally with two steps per lesson. The first step in each lesson is to watch a video lecture by Rogers that runs about 30 minutes, and the second is a writing assignment. The writing assignments are linked below the videos in all of the courses except Writing through To Kill a Mockingbird where the assignment links are there for just the first two lectures. You will need to access the writing assignments for that course through the materials tab at the beginning of the course.

Rogers teaches with occasional reference to his notes and slides (which we can read), but he does not speak from a script. His manner is so casual that it includes many “ums” that are a bit annoying. Even so, he’s an inspiring teacher.

Rogers teaches more-complex writing skills than are usually taught in high school writing courses. Adults interested in writing can also benefit from these courses.

Just a few examples of the skills he teaches are the use of dramatic irony, revealing gestures, mannerisms, and writing with narrative layers. For example, he says in the second lecture of Writing Through the Wardrobe, “Storytelling isn’t just about giving information. It’s also about withholding information. And it’s often about deceiving the reader, not just enlightening the reader.” So in this lesson about characterization, Rogers explores Lewis’ use of inversion as he presents things in ways that are often the opposite or quite different from what one expects. He uses Lucy’s encounter with, Mr. Tumnus, and the unfolding description that gradually reveals that Mr. Tumnus is a faun. Then we later find that Mr. Tumnus is not as innocuous as he seems at first, since he turns out to be a kidnapper.

The writing assignments are great. For instance, the first lecture in Writing Through the Wardrobe is about the narrator of a story and point of view. The writing assignment is to retell the parable of the prodigal son from one of the three main characters. The second assignment has students describe a character indirectly by describing one room in the character’s house in a way that reveals who this person is. The writing assignments are not lengthy. Some are even shorter than the examples I’ve given. I found that after listening to the lectures, I was eager to experiment with the writing techniques in the assignments. Some of them are challenging, but they are simultaneously intriguing and stimulating.

I love the way that Rogers encourages students to try out the different techniques. In one instance, he emphasizes that even if students aren’t good at writing with similes and metaphors (and some professional writers are not), they can be very effective writers if they simply write with lots of sensory details to help the reader feel as if they are present and seeing what the narrator sees. Naturally, this is followed by a sensory writing assignment.

How you use the courses will depend upon the student or students you are working with. The courses can be used as supplements to more-comprehensive language arts courses, perhaps using one lesson per week. On the other hand, you could make these courses the core of a student’s language arts studies for a year by using at least two or three of the courses, having students read and discuss the books, adding at least two lengthy writing assignments, and adding a grammar component with a course such as Analytical Grammar or one from the Easy Grammar series. This is just one possible option!


The courses should work best for students who have an interest in writing, but they might inspire reluctant writers with ideas and strategies that make the process more interesting to them. However you use them, these courses will almost certainly take students’ writing skills to a higher level.

Pricing Information

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Note that this course is available as part of the Compass Classroom Premium Membership--a subscription service that gives you access to this course plus many others.

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Instant Key

  • Need For Parent or Teacher Instruction: varies
  • Learning Environment: all situations
  • Grade Level: grades 9-12
  • Educational Methods: real books, multisensory, lots of variety, critical thinking, creative activities, auditory
  • Technology: video, supplemental digital content, online
  • Educational Approaches: unschooling or relaxed homeschooling, unit study, traditional, eclectic, classical, Charlotte Mason
  • Religious Perspective: Christian

Publisher's Info

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