Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Importance of an Authentic Audience

If you've done any research about teaching writing, you've probably learned 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

In our writing workshop, we are working on informational writing. For my students' first published piece, I was their only reader.

The books a few of my students wrote were fresh and interesting, but then the quality of writing from these students usually is.  For the most part, however, a majority of the writing was as dry as a desert in July.

How could I blame them for not showing much excitement for this writing project?

I knew I had to mix things up for our next published piece.  Big time.

I figured a new audience was the way to go.

I spoke to our school librarian and 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.

Our art teacher jumped in to help too. She will have the kids paint and decorate a book cover on cardboard in art class over the next few weeks. We will add their writing inside, making it a real book called a cartonera.  (You can read more about cartoneras and our schoolwide writing celebration, The Cartonera Project, here .)

Finally, I announced to my class that I plan to keep their books (cartoneras) and take them with me 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 our writing project.  I'm pretty sure all of my students will produce their best work yet!

How do your students write for an authentic audience? I'd love if you would leave me a comment and share.