Too many kids today write for an audience of one -- the teacher.
They prepare a one-and-don draft on a topic (probably not of their own choosing), turn it in, then get it back with a few comments or suggestions from the reader -- the teacher -- and sometimes, a grade.
The exchange between writer and reader is fairly minimal.
As a result, the writer is not fully invested in their product of writing. It may lack depth, emotion, and sometimes, correct grammar.
Deep down, I think what all readers crave the most is a connection with their reader.
They want to know that their words have made an impression on someone. It drives them as a writer. It makes them care about their writing. It makes them feel like their writing matters.
That's where an authentic audience comes in. An audience beyond just the teacher.
One way you can bring that authentic audience into your classroom to hold a regular celebration of published writing (a Publishing Party) and add a "Raves From Readers" component to your students' published writing.
Raves From Readers is how the audience can connect with the writer and tell the writer how their words affected them. It is encouragement for the writer. It's also good for the reader because makes the reader think in specific ways about the writing.
Learning how to leave a good Rave does require some instruction. Here are some tips to share with your student Ravers:
Positive (Talk about the good! What impressed you? Taught you something? Made you laugh? Made you stop and think?)
Specific ("I liked it" is not helpful to your writer)
Short (Leave room for others)
Signed (Initials are okay)
At the end of your Publishing Party, be sure to leave time for your writers to be able to go back and read their Raves. Oftentimes, you may see them engage in conversations with each other about their writing, extending the connection even further.
So while it's perfectly okay for the teacher to be a reader of the writing, she shouldn't be the only reader.
Experiencing the connection with readers is one way students become lifelong writers!