Skip to content

Active Authentic Audience: Starting with What Matters Most

“I am done, where should I put this?”  Pablo calls across the room in the middle of writing workshop.  I painfully pull myself away from a conference wanting desperately to address Pablo before these words put a stop to others’ work.  Before I can reach Pablo, he has already put the crumpled paper in his writing folder.

“I’m done” is a scene played out too often in the early days of writing workshop. Writers diligently work to create a piece of writing, but why?  Who will read the story?  Why are we writing?  Then what?  Put our papers in folders for safe keeping?  Take it home for mom and dad?  If it leaves the classroom how will I assess the student’s progress and next steps?  These questions have haunted the back of my mind for most of the 24 years of my teaching career.

To write well, writers need purpose; they need to know they have an audience who will read and respond to their message.  When students feel safe with their audience, they open up to feedback and are willing to share their writing with others.  Writing takes bravery and the power of a trusted audience makes a writer feel fearless.

The Power of Audience:

The audience brings energy to writing.  Without an audience, our writing can seem almost invisible.  An audience provides students with, new ideas, questions to push the writer, and a reason to write.  Audiences engage with the author and make writing social.  The power of knowing your work is consumed by an audience changes a writer.  Imagine the potential of an audience beyond the folder, the teacher, and the walls of the classroom. An audience beyond the classroom brings new perspectives, new standards, and motivation to a writer.

For the past seven years, my class and I have worked to build an audience in and outside our classroom. Each year our attempts pay off.  Year after year the students are peppered with new opportunities for expanding Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 11.49.42 AMtheir learning.  We began reaching out to a global audience using Twitter. Twitter allowed us to find to an audience as far as New Zealand and as close as our own homes.  Connecting with a global audience opened our minds to new ways of doing things, new ways of thinking and communicating.  Primary Perspective: Global  Classroom, shows our global audiences and our learning.   In our classroom, we have a Twitter wall (pictured right) where students can post work or thinking they would like shared on Twitter.  Some students choose not to share all year long, but the opportunity is open to everyone.

 After reading Nerdy Birdy by Aaron Reynolds, Elijah responded to the book by drawing and commenting on the Stars Wars reference in Aaron Reynolds’s illustrations.  He posted his thinking on the Twitter wall, and I sent the live tweet of Elijah’s work.  Dana Murphy caught the tweet and reached out to us for a Skype visit!  Mrs. Murphy explained she was writing a book review on Nerdy Birdy, and she would like to hear our thoughts about the book.  The kids were empowered when they learned a grown-up was reading a book they had read and that she wanted to listen to their thinking.  Although this was the work of one, Elijah’s work was powerful enough to lift the entire class.  Once an audience is established it becomes omnipresent in your classroom, the effects aren’t limited to the one sharing; they reach the community as a whole.

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 12.33.32 PMOver the years, my students and I have made several powerful connections.  Each one has pushed us toward developing our identities as writers.  This year we had the pleasure of connecting with @Mhaseltine’s sixth-grade class through the Classroom Slice of Life Story Challenge.  The influence this class had on the first-graders is unmatched!  From the first comment, our class was electric!  “A sixth grader commented on MY blog, Mrs. Frazier!  A SIXTH GRADER!” Chad shouted across the room. Later that day, I heard Luke mumbling to himself as he walked to lunch, “Man, I can’t believe a sixth-grader would leave me a comment; he’s like a teenager!”  A mentorship was born. My class was in awe of sharing and receiving feedback from sixth-graders.  Our relationship with Ms. Haseltine’s class was reliable; comments were exchanged between the classes almost daily.  As the community between our classrooms grew, parents began to take note.  Some parents started leaving comments for our sixth-graders!  The parents wanted these kids to know how much their son or daughter loved receiving comments from them.  As this relationship continued, I noticed the students took more interest in including more key details in their posts.  They wanted resources to support their spelling, and the use of correct ending punctuation was on the rise. The writing was becoming more personal, purposeful, and more conventional.

Guidelines for Finding and Nurturing An Audience:

Finding an audience requires perseverance, the willingness to take risks, and regular attention. As the teacher, reach out into writing communities. Once connections are established, be active! Connect regularly! Make reading the posts or comments of your audience a part of your minilessons, shared readings, and read alouds; you can even use these posts or comments as a mentor text.  Tweet the class (or the teacher) to let them know you have left comments.  The students will learn they can count on each other for feedback and support.  With an active audience as a member of your classroom community, the abstract idea of ownership and authors writing for others becomes concrete.

Getting Started: Reach Out

  • Twitter (Ask for retweets by typing Pls. RT in your tweet and use hashtags to reach a target audience. #KidsWritingLife, #1stChat (or your grade level). Find more education hashtags here.
  • Primary Blogging Community hosted by @mrswideen: Writing communities will begin in October.
  • KidBlog (When choosing blogging platform, remember to look for one with a global reach to build an audience beyond the classroom.)
  • The Global Classroom Project

Keep it Active: Nurture Your Audience

  • Voxer
  • Skype
  • Teach students how to make a comment on a post.
  • Ziemke and Muhtaris provide great information to help you use these tools to lift the level of learning in their book Amplify! .
  • Teach students how to check for comments and to reply to comments left on their blogs.
  • Encourage students to invite a particular audience directly to their blog via email, Twitter or a tool from above.

(Use a variety of tools to communicate with your audience. Choose tools that work for you, your audience, and your purpose.)

When I reached Pablo’s seat, I asked him who he thinks might be interested in reading his story.  Pablo paused for a few minutes and then decided it might be good for his little sister in preschool.  In these early days, Pablo and I worked together to share his story by snapping a picture and uploading it to his blog. Pablo titles his story, For Claire.  I email mom and tell her all about Pablo’s post for Claire.  Pablo is experiencing the power of audience, and the class is listening.

Starting with What Matters Most in Writing Workshop

GIVEAWAY INFORMATION:

  • This giveaway is for one copy of The First Six Weeks of School, 2nd Edition. Many thanks to Responsive Classroom for donating a copy of this book.
  • For a chance to win one copy of The First Six Weeks of School, 2nd Edition, please leave a reaction to any post in the blog series, including this one, by Monday, August 8th at 11:59 p.m. EDT. Dana Murphy will use a random number generator to pick the winners, whose names she will announce in our blog series’ IN CASE YOU MISSED IT POST on Tuesday, August 9th at 11:59 p.m. EDT.
  • You may leave one comment on every post in our Starting with What Matters Most in Writing Workshop blog series, which runs August 1st – 8th.  
  • Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so Dana can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win. From there, our contact at Responsive Classroom will ship your book out to you.  (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.)
  • Responsive Classroom will only ship the book to a winner in the United States. If you live outside of the U.S. and wish to be considered for this giveaway, you must have a U.S. mailing address.

 

26 thoughts on “Active Authentic Audience: Starting with What Matters Most Leave a comment

  1. I do not use KidBlog and unfortunately, my classroom blog that is shared between myself and my students isn’t set up for comments, nor will it be. You’ve given me an awesome idea to set up a way for parents and other students to comment on the blog posts my students write. Because you are absolutely correct in that knowing we’re writing for an audience is what gives energy to our writing.

    Like

  2. This has my creative juices flowing! I am struggling with how to use workshop (and its demands) with technology (Twitter, blogging, which I love and don’t want to give up). You have provided solutions! I am excited. I will be following your first graders for certain. Thank you.

    Like

  3. Deb,
    Thank you for sharing these details of your experiences with finding an audience for your students’ writing. I am also very interested in this topic and have sometimes been successful in finding an audience and sometimes not so successful. I currently teach a section of 12th grade English. I am hoping to do some podcasting for our sharing out, but have not found the right structure yet; I’m planning to keep at it this coming year.

    Like

  4. Love this! One of my goals this year is to get my first graders blogging and find a wider audience for their writing. Thanks for sharing these ideas.

    Like

  5. Already back at school, so I am glad to get these ideas about audience. I started blogging with a few fourth graders last year and will continue with them and add a few new ones to the club after school this year. I have started seeing the power of Twitter myself and would like to see how I can connect students with Twitter.

    Like

  6. Providing kids with a real audience is one of the most important things we can do if we want to “sell” them on the power of writing (and writing workshop). You’ve done an incredible job with this through the years, Deb. Thanks for sharing the specifics of how you’ve done it here on TWT so other teachers can learn from what you’ve done.

    Like

  7. This is so helpful and timely. I have been frustrated with this part of writer’s workshop for quite a while. Thanks for the great ideas. I feel ready to get started immediately.

    Like

  8. You have definitely given me some things to ponder as I prepare for the school year. I tried blogging with my students several years back. It was fairly successful. Not sure why I didn’t keep it up. I am ready to try it again and perhaps try Twitter as well. I really appreciate the great ideas and strategies I have picked up from Two Writing Teachers this past year. Thanks!!

    Like

  9. Loved all of the opportunities you create for your students to write for an authentic audience! I can only imagine the power of connecting 1st graders with 6th graders! I wish my own son had even a fraction of these experiences in 1st grade! Thank you for sharing.

    Like

  10. August has arrived (Ack!) and it’s so nice to know I can count on TWT to help me prepare for and navigate the beginning of the year. I’m moving up from first to fourth this year and am excited and overwhelmed. I know I’ll be returning to this series of posts to gather ideas! Thanks so much!

    Like

  11. Deb, outstanding post! I totally agree that audience changes everything, which is why I’m such a believer in blogs. Writing was not meant to live in a folder! I love all your ideas here and the way you crafted this piece. Good to read your voice again!

    Like

  12. Oh, August 1st, you are the Sunday evening of summer…part of me is ready and excited to get into school mode and part of me wants to pull the figurative covers over my head. Thank you for this post, it reminds me that there are simple ways to create audience in a classroom and I need to work a bit more at this to motivate my writers.

    Like

  13. Totally agree, it’s a very important piece that is hard to implement satisfactory for each student. I love the idea of reaching out globally. I’m not even on facebook, so I will be learning along with the students!

    Like

  14. Wow! Love the idea of a Twitter wall. It seems I am always borrowing ideas from you, and this is another great one. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about the power of audience for writers. I also appreciate the reminder to connect across grade levels. I tend to look for other primary classrooms to share with, but there is power in having our writing viewed by the “big” kids.

    Like

  15. Authentic audience is so important. We use kidblog to connect with other classrooms but we haven’t used it for full pieces. Our audience for published stories has been our classroom. We’ve entered some writing contests and this has been great for my kids, but for our units of study I haven’t found a great way to have authentic audience beyond our walls. I’m definitely struggling with this!

    Like

  16. YAY, you’re back! I’ve missed the TWT blog posts. Mentoring for students really is powerful. From the sixth graders POV, they loved the opportunity to help someone else. There was lots of reminiscing, “In first grade…” “I remember…” There were stories of others who had helped and hurt them as writers. To get this opportunity was so meaningful my these students. Thank you for sharing, Deb! Good memories of last year!

    Like

    • Deb & Michelle Haseltine, Question for your both (Michelle I included you since I also teach 6th grade). I’ve tried blogging with my students because I believe having an audience is important and I hoped that knowing they had an audience, this would lift up the quality of my students’ writing, especially hoping for an improvement in conventions. But, I think I did something wrong. I didn’t really see an improvement in my students’ writing; many still just slapped up quick responses and comments riddled with errors that frankly, as their teacher, I found embarrassing. I’ve found blogging overwhelming for me because I wanted to make sure I commented on their writing also and set an example. I strongly believe that blogging and gaining that outside audience is so important, but maybe you can help me with some of these problems I’ve encountered. I’m ready to try again this year. Thanks!!!

      Like

      • Deb,
        Blogging is a brave act, and it does require perseverance and time. I don’t feel I have to comment on everyone each time they write. I do try to get to everyone in a month. A great help is a comment volunteer! You know how parents want to come in and help out, but can’t because of work? These parents make the BEST comment volunteers! Give them a few lessons on how to comment (connect, compliment, and end with a question) and you’re all set. Every once in a while I would email them and send a link to the blog as a gentle nudge. As far as getting kids to focus and improve conventions and overall quality of writing, I found having a connection with an OLDER class to be key! I hope this helps! I am happy to share more, tweet @deb_frazier to continue the conversation.

        Like

      • Deb, Commenting volunteers are a great idea. I teach more than 70 students in a year, so I couldn’t possibly comment on all. They want comments from others anyway! Find a class and match peer to peer. Pick a couple of blogs each week and tweet links with #comments4kids. Give them in time class to comment. Ask admin in your building & district to read & comment. It makes a difference! You can blog about their blogging. Please know I’ve failed as much (if not more) as I’ve succeeded with my students. It’s trial and error. Please tweet me (@mhaseltine) if you’d like to continue the conversation.

        Like

%d bloggers like this: