The Authentic Audience: Do Students Care Who they Are Writing For?

In January I posted my action plan for this year: my goal was to empower and engage grade 12 english students who were studying short stories for the entire semester to write their major short story assignment, not for me, but for an authentic audience. My hope was to pair them up with students in our grade 6 junior school and conduct two face to face meetings (ala Cohort!) where the senior students would first interview their partners and then return with a draft or plan for the final short story. In that second meeting, the junior students would provide critical feedback to their senior student partners.

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At the moment, that is where we are at in my class. Our second face to face meeting was cancelled due to scheduling problems. Here’s the plan moving forward:

  1. Students will interview their junior partners in one week. At that meeting, they must document the feedback and be sure to incorporate that into their final drafts.
  2. Junior school students will be creating artwork for the stories. These will be included in the iBook which is the eventual product that will be produced for this assignment. This anthology will be an excellent exemplar for my students next year AND it can be functionally used by the grade 6 class in future years.
  3. The final draft of the short stories will NOT be the basis of my evaluation. Instead, I want to focus solely on the annotations that the students will make of their stories, either through the use of Kaizena voice comments on the google doc or by inserting comments. I’m keen to see students recognize their own ability to incorporate fictional elements AND their explanation of how they integrated the feedback they received from their younger partners.

I can say with absolute certainty that by partnering with the younger students, my class had a sense of excitement and engagement that was refreshing and inspiring. They all agreed that working with and writing for an authentic audience had a big impact on their sense of obligation to ‘get it right’. I don’t know yet if the final product will be substantially different compared to if we had not done this partnership, but I do know that my students were smiling, laughing, and enjoying themselves as they talked about the short story genre with grade 6 students. To me, that is a win!

What’s next? Take this baby international! Have students do some action research on a region of the world that they find interesting. Find partner schools in that area for the students to interview and engage with. Also, I want to use Twitter to a greater effect in my class; so far, my students do not see its value in the classroom. How do I change that perception?

Thanks to Justin, Garth, Derek, Les, Danielle, Ruth, Shelley, and all the rest of the Cohort 21 gang for the past three years of professional growth.

Here is the google slide action plan reflection for this year. 

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