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Mr G Online
Sep 07

Are your students writing for you or themselves? Are your students writing for you or for a real audience? Are your students writing because they have to and don’t know or because they want to and have a purpose? Have you thought about what you are doing to make writing real in your classroom?

  • Do your students write the school newsletter and fill it with interesting student generated content or is just full of a bunch of reports from teachers, parents and the principal?
  • Do they publish their writing as ebooks that are uploaded to the school website or a class/personal blog so that parents, friends, other students and any other interested reader can download it onto their iPad, Kindle, smartphone and read it, giving them a audience beyond their teacher and classmates?
  • Are your students writing advertisements on fictitious products because it’s the genre of the month in your class or have they made a connection with a local business and put forward a proposal to create some real ads for them to promote their product in the local community or on YouTube?
  • Do your students write a news report so it can be checked off as a non fiction piece of writing to contribute to the requirements for Term 3 writing OR are they part of a dedicated group of students across the school publishing a school newspaper or online news service including school and local news, sport, editorials on important issues they are concerned about, restaurant, music, book and movie reviews, comic strips or satirical cartoons, letters to the editor as well as ads for school and local events? OR Have you made contact with the local newspaper and set up a program allowing children to have their articles published on a regular basis in an actual newspaper?
  • Are you singing Silent Night and Jingle Bells for the 30th Christmas Concert in a row or have you used the talents of local songwriters to run workshops to write some student created songs to perform instead?
  • Have you contacted and made arrangements with an interested author to run workshops with budding writers and possibly collaborate on a book together instead of relying on your own limited narrative writing abilities to teach them to write something with a decent plot?
  • Have you thought of students creating textbooks for other grade levels to use for their next inquiry topic instead of just finishing the unit off with long winded presentations in front of the whole grade and then filing them under “Done”?
  • Have you given them the opportunity to collaborate on a play that they will write and perform for an audience of their choice? Have you given them the opportunity to write a letter to the local theatre company and put forward a proposal to gain their support in the production?
  • Have you considered contacting the local community radio station and booking a regular spot for your class to present a radio program, reader’s theatre performance of a play they have written, conduct an interview of a local celebrity, participate in a debate,all of which have been written by them? OR if not the radio station have you published them as podcasts online?
  • Instead of getting them to write expositions in preparation for the next state or national standardized writing test, have you given your students opportunities to send persuasive texts to the principal, local councillors, members of parliament, major newspapers, TV and radio news programs to argue for change?

(There are a lot of other great examples teachers are using. I’d love to hear them in the comments below.)

If we want to know why our students are still not correcting their spelling errors or leaving out punctuation and paragraphs, maybe we need to consider whether we give them reason to. So let’s make writing real. if you at going to put all that effort that teachers do into conferencing, feedback, exposing them to all those great tech tools for publishing, surely we should give them a reason for all that effort to be put in.

So what are you doing to make writing real in your classroom?

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9 Responses to “What are you doing to make writing real in your classroom?”

  1. Elizabeth Says:

    Blogging. The kids choose their ‘identity” and write blogs about it. I have some students who are blogging about traveling, music, sports, movies, or books. I’m blogging too about how I’m learning American Sign Language. They can blog about what’s happening at school, but don’t have to. They LOVE it! Last year, they said blogging was boring, but they have gotten into it.

    • mgleeson Says:

      Elizabeth, the key is the choice; can be school work but doesn’t have to be, Then they write because they want to, not because they have to. I think that you blogging with them is key as well. It’s teaching by example – do as I do , not do as I say. Sharing our own writing is important. When I use writing models, I always try to use one I’ve written myself. Thanks for the comment.

  2. Ed Says:

    Beautiful post! I’ll be sharing it with teachers at my school today. Why write for the teacher when you can write for an authentic audience and purpose? So much more engaging and REAL!
    I agree about modeling. Have tried for two years to get teachers to write occasionally for a collective school blog to share great learning with peers (and the world). A few have contributed when pushed.The majority have ignored it, not even commenting on others’ posts. I’ll give it another try!

  3. Stephanie Says:

    I always strive to make writing real in my classroom. Two of my favorite activities are using StoryBird to create digital storybooks that we then share with parents and other classrooms and having mock newspaper/magazine editorial meetings. One way we have done this is through our class literary magazine: each student chooses his preferred genre and creates an original composition. As a class, we choose a theme for the magazine and then work on writing and editing skills as well as layout and format when putting the magazine together. We made copies for each student and each classroom. I am hoping to move this project to the computer this year. We have also read ‘Aliens Are Coming,’ the story of the War of the Worlds hoax radio broadcast. We wrote our own broadcasts and recorded them using Voicenotes on my phone, then shared them on our blog. Add a ‘Staff Meeting in Progress’ sign on the door, doughnuts and travel cups of ‘coffee’ (chocolate milk) and the students are ready to focus and write ‘for real.’

    Thank you for this article and sharing your ideas. I look forward to putting them to good use this year!

  4. Layla Sacker Says:

    I was working with a prep team yesterday exploring possibilities for writing.
    One of the team insisted that the children can only do recounts as they have to answer who, what, why where and when. I know that children are so creative and could “write” about so many things. Things from their lives… things from their imaginations. I felt sad that that beautiful creative spirit was just ignored for a text type.

    • mgleeson Says:

      I hear you, Layla. Little ones spend 5 years having thousands of stories read to them, create their own little worlds of play and imagination, turn cardboard boxes into all sorts of things, make up plays with their dolls and then we get them to write “Today I went to the zoo and we had fun. We saw lions and elephants. I liked the hippo.” with the tech on offer today, the sky’s the limit for “writing” stories (they don’t have to write words – record, film, use picture and audio, animated puppets) So many opportunities to build on the playful creativity they come with and we strangle the life out of them to make sure they can write the 20 most common words. There has to be more to it than that.

      • Layla Sacker Says:

        What a relief. I sometimes feel that we have “death by genre’ in terms of creativity. I, listen to the amazing language of the children.. and wonder why writing means it has to go. Thank you so much for confirming my thoughts. I’m off to do battle with the recount!

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