The research on teaching writing tells us how important it is for students to write for an authentic audience whenever possible. When kids know they are writing for someone other than the teacher, their motivation and quality of writing drastically improves.
"(Our students) have to believe that what they have to say is important
enough to bother writing. They have to experience writing for real audiences
they will know that writing can bring them power."
-- Anne Rodier, National Writing Project
"A Cure for Writer's Block: Writing for Real Audiences"
In a recent writing workshop, students were working on publishing their first piece of polished informational writing.
The books a few of the students wrote were fresh and interesting, but then the quality of writing from these students usually was. For the most part, however, a majority of the writing was as dry as a desert in the dead of July.
How could I blame them for not showing much excitement for this writing project?
To them, this piece of writing was just another in a long line of assignments they would turn in to be read by me.
And only me.
I knew my students were capable of much more and knew I had to mix things up for our next published piece. I wanted to see my students as the writers I knew they could be -- and I wanted them to see themselves this way too.
I decided a bigger audience was the way to go.
I know that I write differently depending on who I am writing for. When I write for myself, I might not pay as much attention to word choice or conventions. But when I write for a public audience, say my blog readers like you, I polish things up and make sure I say exactly what I mean.
So I thought, why not let everyone in the entire school be a part of the readership for my students' writing?
I spoke to our school librarian, she agreed that my students could display their finished books in our library for other students to read during library class. She said she would even give the books a Dewey decimal number to make them more authentic and would display them on top of the book stacks where published books usually sit.
The art teacher jumped in to help too. She would have the kids paint and decorate a book cover on cardboard in art class over the next few weeks. Once we add their writing inside, each student will have a real book called a cartonera. (You can read more about cartoneras and a school wide writing celebration, The Cartonera Project, here .)
Finally, it was announced to the class that I planned to keep their books (cartoneras) and take them to three conferences I am presenting at this summer about our school Cartonera Project. Their books, I told them, would be seen by hundreds of teachers from around the United States.
All of a sudden, eyebrows started perking up.
Mouths began dropping open.
A rustle went through the room.
With a new audience, came new motivation and interest in writing.
So while your audience may not be able to include teachers from around the country, perhaps your students' writing could be displayed at the local community library or at a nursing home. Maybe you could share writing with a class down the hall or connect with another classroom and share writing via Skype. The options really are endless.
How do your students write for an authentic audience? Leave us a comment and let us know.