Writing for an Authentic Audience

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If you are a TWT (Two Writing Teachers) follower, you may have read Kathleen Sokolowski’s post, Should Educators be Writers? It generated many comments, a Voxer group, and some writing initiatives that took to Twitter. Kathleen later wrote about these in her February 2nd post, Breathing Life Back Into Notebooks: Discovering the Writer’s Life. In particular, Dana Kramaroff, a fellow of the National Writing Project, and a K-6 Instructional Coach, suggested that a way to jumpstart our writing might be to start small. “Could you commit to writing once a day or once a week by filling a single post-it note?” she pondered. Many of us took to Twitter and posted our “sticky” writing under #EDtime2wrt.

This got me wondering… What if we tried the same thing with our students? Teachers took to Twitter again, and posted the “sticky” writing of their students. There was a burst of energy as teachers and students commented back and forth, on Twitter, and then on student blogs. Students were energized by having an audience, beyond the classroom, to write for. It was even more impactful as students began giving and receiving comments. Student voice was shining through in the simple of act of sharing ideas with student writers in other classes.

Flash forward to today. My students were excited about a new book we are reading: Fenway and Hattie by Victoria J. Coe. From the first page, it captivated their imaginations. We sketched what we pictured in our minds, and then we took to our stickies. Students were excited to tell others about the book today, on its release date. They were also excited because the author had replied to a tweet we had sent in the morning. Maybe the author would read their comments! Wouldn’t that be thrilling?!

Here’s what I notice when students have a real audience. Their writing LIGHTS UP! Their voice shines through. They are engaged. This can be, and has been, created in our classroom space, but it adds a new element when the audience extends beyond our room, and our small community grows larger by connecting with others who share our interests– in books, and learning, and hobbies, and, and, and… In this way, we relate, but we also share new perspectives.

Today, my students felt empowered to recommend a book to others, and to communicate their praise to the author directly. How I wish social media could have existed when I was a kid. What would I have written to Judy Blume, or E.L. Konigsburg, or Norton Juster? What would I have told others about their books if I could have shared my recommendation to an audience beyond my friends? I know one thing. It sure would have been more interesting than writing yet another book report!

Want to see some of the “sticky” student writing? Check out #SsTIME2wrt.

 

Books Make Magic Happen

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There I was, fever, chills, piled under blankies, reading a book, then falling asleep on said book, and waking to read a little more. Books have been companions for as long as I can remember, and for the last two days, I wrapped myself in the comfort of a well-told story, The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner. If you are a fan of YA, and realistic fiction, you should check this one out.

I only just left the main character, Frankie (Francesca) Schnell this afternoon, but she has not left me. Over the course of two days, her summer unfolded for me, and Frankie pondered many tough questions, struggled through the challenges that come with being almost sixteen, and tortured herself over a devastating life event. Along the way, beautiful, magical things start happening, and Frankie finds herself wondering if they are mere coincidence, or not.  

Frankie needed to draw her own conclusions. But, I have my own conclusions about the magic of this book.

You see, while I was tucked in last night with my book, the last words I read were the two pages where one of the characters is reading from Frog and Toad Together, and in particular, he is reading the story, “Cookies.” My drifting thoughts were full of the fond memories I had reading Frog and Toad with my son, when he was small.

When I woke up, this picture, from my son, was waiting for me on our LINE app group:

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With it came the following explanation:

“A beautiful room in the local library where I read children’s books to kids at the beginning of each month.”

“Today we’re reading two of my favorites.”

“On the chair on the right is Frog and Toad and on the floor is Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Frog and Toad is my favorite to read though.”

I know this doesn’t seem very magical, until you realize that my son, Jeremy, is a half a world away and fourteen hours out of phase, living in Japan. So while I was sick in bed, reminiscing over snuggling with my little boy, my now big boy (read that- adult!) was on the other side of the world passing on book love to other little people.

What an incredible connection and coincidence. And can you guess which story he chose from Frog and Toad? You got it. Cookies!

So, thank you, Gae Polisner, for writing your beautiful book, so that I could be reading it at just the right moment, and have a cosmic connection with my baby, across the many miles that separate us, but not our thoughts!

And, here is an interesting footnote to this tale: While I was writing this story, I scrolled through our LINE messages to type the parts I needed, and realized that I had just referenced Jeremy’s other favorite book on Friday:

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Just a little more book magic connecting me to my son. Some days are like that, even in Japan!

Thanks, Judith Viorst!