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.