Chances are good that when YOU sit down to write, you have an audience in mind. Sometimes, this audience is ourselves. Sometimes, it is other people.
For example, here are the many different audiences I write for:
I write blog posts that are read online by other educators (like YOU, right now).
I compose emails to friends and family to keep in touch.
I send birthday cards with personal messages.
I keep a journal to record the happenings of my life.
I use writing to contact potential clients.
I am writing a book about best practices in teaching writing to help teachers who want to improve their writing instruction.
Every time I sit down to write one in one of these genres, I have that audience in mind. Knowing who I’m writing for shapes the writing I do. It tells me if my writing be needs to be professional, direct, and instructional or if it can be casual, funny, and entertaining.
My audience is always foremost in my mind when I write. It’s what motivates me and thinking about how my words will be received by my reader is one reason why I love writing so much.
Take a moment and think about the writing your students do. All of it. Every subject, every day.
Now, how you would answer the following questions:
Do your students enjoy writing?
What excites them the most about writing?
How do you teach your students that writing gives us power?
What genres are being written in your classroom? Are students writing only essays or is there a variety in what students produce?
How often do they write for an audience outside of you, their teacher?
The truth is, questions #1-4 are directly related to your answer for question #5.
For students to be truly engaged in writing, to know that writing gives them a voice and power in a world where they may not have much, for students to write in new ways that encourage risk taking and stretching beyond their writing comfort zone, they must write for an audience beyond the teacher.
How can students write for this authentic audience? Here are a few ideas:
Blogging: Students who blog write for an audience that can consist of their peers across the hall or across the country.
Student Newsletter: Why not let your students write your classroom newsletter that will be shared with families? Knowing that their words will be read by parents and the school community ups their game.
Student Library: Work with your school librarian to set up a section in your school library to house student writing. The Cartonera Project is a great way to make this happen.
Pen Pals: Connect with another teacher from across the country and send some good ol’ snail mail. Who doesn’t love receiving a letter?
Persuade to Change: If your students are unhappy with a school or district policy, encourage them to write a letter to administration or the school board. Hearing from students is often how things get changed.
If you are looking to breathe some life into your writing classroom, consider a change of audience.
What other ways do your students write for an authentic audience? Leave a comment and share your ideas!