Writing for an Authentic Audience: An Action Plan for Gr. 12 English

 

The nervous rush of what your mom and dad will think when they read your new homework assignment for English class can be terrifying. It’s often why students no longer share their writing with their parents; also, it was the same reason why I didn’t want my parents to be the ones who taught me how to drive when I was 16. It’s scary to hear criticism from them. What if what we do is not good enough? On the other hand, writing for your teacher can also quickly lose its shine, not long after the leaves turn colour in the fall and winter marches forward with an imposing doom. Rather than hoping to impress a teacher with creativity or risk taking, a student might become solely motivated by the end result: what’s my grade?

As I prepare for a new term, I have the opportunity to get a clean slate with a new set of students in my Gr. 12 English class. This term, I’ll be moving from teaching largely non-fiction to short stories. I’m excited by the possibilities this presents and hopeful that I can address the following challenges:

  1. Will writing for an authentic audience improve student motivation and, ultimately, the final product?
  2. How can I encourage students to embrace the value of critical feedback?

rushton

Here is my Plan:

a) students will create interview questions regarding short fiction: what makes a story a ‘classic’? What is appealing to different audiences? Are there themes that are more relevant to today’s audience than ever before?

b) Working collaboratively with a Gr. 6 teacher at my school, the grade 12 students will interview their younger peers and get a sense of what makes a good story, what matters to them as an audience, what don’t they like, etc.

c) the Gr. 12 students will create a “story pitch”, much like a writer might pitch a story to a movie studio, for the grade 6 students. Some story ideas will get a green light, some story ideas will not.

d) Gr. 12 students will choose one of their story ideas that were approved and write a draft, hopefully incorporating ideas regarding characterization, imagery, and plot that will be discussed in relation to some core texts. Once completed, they will share their drafts with their younger counterparts (via Google docs, perhaps).

e) the younger students will give critical feedback to the Gr. 12’s in the form of video or comments in a doc. Gr. 12 students will be required to respond to the feedback and make changes as needed.

f) the Gr. 6 students will create artwork for the stories during their art class. Eventually, the final product (story + artwork) will be brought together in the form of an iBook that can be used as a short story anthology for next year’s Gr. 6 class (and as an exemplar for future Gr. 12 Short Story students)

Writing for an audience makes all the difference in the world.... right?!

Writing for an audience makes all the difference in the world…. right?!

Challenges: I ask myself is this as auspicious of an Action Plan as I would like it to be? Should I be aiming bigger than a single project? Secondly, should I perhaps be using a shared blog for the Gr. 12 students to write their stories and share that blog with the Gr. 6 students; would that be a more effective communication tool, rather than the interview sessions?

I hope to measure the success of my action plan by having students complete a Google Form evaluation tool, through regular conferences during the writing process, and by a qualitative assessment of enthusiasm: are the kids motivated to impress their younger peers?

Only time will tell. Please feel free to send suggestions and critical feedback on this plan, as it will go into action in two weeks!

 

2 thoughts on “Writing for an Authentic Audience: An Action Plan for Gr. 12 English

  1. Great post Brent! I love the idea of collaborating with the younger students and engaging them in the process. Rushton Hurley’s quote is excellent, and I wonder if you could pair with the drama teacher to put on a play of their stories (like Alison McElwain did and invite the younger grades to view!) You could run a Show for the local public school’s primary classes as well.

    Will your students run initial ideas or drafts by the students in grade 6? Will they have editing rights? I think that having them share a rough copy and have the G6s offer improvements could be interesting.

    What skills are you hoping your students will acquire? Will there be a reflective piece for your grade 12s? What’s the plan for the stories afterward? Share via Twitter? A website that will host future students’ stories?

    I think it’s a really authentic learning opportunity and I look forward to reading about the experience. Add student quotes to your post!

  2. Hi Brent,

    I like this idea. I think the fact that the students are being assessed by someone other than just the teacher (or Mom and Dad) could be very powerful. Also, having your students have multiple meetings with the audience who is depending on them for a good product raises the stakes in terms of quality. Looking forward to hearing how this goes!

    EO

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