Friday night I was rather disheartened as I looked at the
statistics of how many people accessed this blog during the day. Rather than
looking at the statistics objectively and accepting that I’m off to a decent
start for a blog that is only a little over a week old, I started wondering
whether anyone was truly reading it and whether or not I was wasting my time
writing posts that no one will ever read.
Later that night a Florida teacher who consults my course
website and now follows this blog sent me an email to thank me. She included
the statement: “I was desperately searching for information to help me become a
better teacher. What I found was you (and your infinite wisdom).” A simple
email from someone I have never met rejuvenated me. It may be tiny, but I have
an audience, and that gives me a purpose for writing. (Thanks, Sarah!)
gray-haired teacher a step away from retirement needs an audience, how much
more important must an audience be for teenage writers?
all know that if we want our students to improve in writing, we have to afford
them opportunities to share their work with someone other than teachers. Yes,
most of them want to make good grades, but those true strokes of inspiration
and those moments when students really want to write appear after they receive
the attention and acclaim from their peers.
How do we
provide an audience for our students?
younger students it may be sufficient to post exemplary work on bulletin
boards. For older students who write longer papers, however, this may be insufficient.
A simple method I use is to invite students to read their papers aloud to the
class. My students usually sit in a circle, and this makes the perfect setting
for reading aloud. (Believe it or not, I can get as many as 32 desks in a
circle and can put volunteers in the floor if I have more students.) Depending
on the assignment, I may have only three or four students to as many as twenty
or more students who want to share their papers. When each student finishes, we applaud, and
some students make positive comments or ask questions about the paper.
the years I have been amazed at how much such a simple act means to students.
Even years after students leave my classroom, some of them will send me emails
and tell me that they never really liked writing or thought they were good at
it until they read a paper aloud and had other students congratulate them. For
students who like to write humorous papers, nothing is better than reading a
paper aloud and hearing the laughter that their papers generate.
the students who benefit the most from reading their papers to other students
are struggling writers. A couple of years ago a student read aloud a beautiful
paper about his mother. The paper expressed his love for his mother as he had
to care for her during a long illness and his thankfulness when she recovered.
When he finished the paper, students applauded and, clearly touched by the
student’s poignant essay, several students conveyed their admiration for how he
had handled such a challenging situation. The young man was visibly pleased by
the kind remarks of his classmates. When I later graded the paper and realized
that it was riddled with mechanical errors that I would need to teach him to
correct, I knew he would be willing to revise because he knew that my
suggestions would make his paper even better.
exemplary student papers on class websites (with permission from parents and
students) is also an effective way to publish a student’s work and provide a
larger audience. After I post papers,
students always remark on how their grandparents or aunts and uncles in other
states downloaded their papers to read.
magazines or handouts of student writing, school literary magazines, special
student readings for Parents’ Night, submission of work to online blogs, and
even audio and video productions of student essays are excellent ways to
provide students with a wider audience for their writing. We just need to think
of creative ways to spotlight student writing. If you have other ideas for ways
to publish student work or to create a larger audience for their work, please
share your ideas in the comments section.