Is Your Audience Imaginary?

blurred mood - Martin Fisch

 

I used to think that we could pretend and imagine who our audience might be: write a letter to your grandmother, or write a persuasive essay to the principal. Although this may have helped students to think about word choice, it didn’t do anything to motivate them to do their best work. I was still the only one reading students’ writing, and my students weren’t in awe of me, so their writing was simply good enough to hand in.

Authentic Audiences

Having a real audience is what makes doing any task motivating. I recently took a university course where we had to create a collaborative inquiry project within a group. As a teacher, I wanted the information to be purposeful, something I or other teachers could use. It took some reflection and some discussions to create a project not just for the mark, but to truly consider our purpose and audience. Otherwise it would be a chore to complete and something I’d forget about the moment it was submitted. This was a good reminder for me to view life like one of my own students, and it solidified the importance of creating opportunities for authentic audiences for students.

When students share their work in a public manner, with a real audience, their attitudes shift. They work a little harder to impress, and they connect and engage in the task with more pride. I don’t think this results solely from the fear of being judged by others. We thrive when we are trusted to produce something real and purposeful. I’ve witnessed kids making adjustments to blog posts because a friend has pointed out a mistake or misunderstanding – not because of marks or feedback from me. Comments they receive on their posts motivate students to justify their thinking or change their thinking all together. But I think the biggest benefit happens before the writing even begins.

Excitement

Watch the buzz of excitement in the room when students start talking about the possibilities of an assignment which ends with real people being entertained, persuaded, or receiving information from them. A person will be able to offer an opinion of their work, or possibly apply the students’ ideas. Suddenly, what they are doing has meaning and value. They are being given an opportunity to share their learning, or to teach someone else, and they are being trusted that what they create will be worthy, and worthwhile. They are being told that what they have to say matters, and at any age, kids can contribute to society and build relationships.

Experts

So while I will continue to bring in experts to talk to my students, or take them on field trips to have authentic experiences, I feel like there is something more important to remember. Our students have a distinct “expert” perspective of their world, and their voices need to be heard. I will give my experts, my students, a chance to show the world what they know. And I will watch them thrive.

 

Photo Credit: Blurred Mood by Martin Fisch; CC BY-SA license via flickr

About the Author
Siobhan is an intermediate teacher with the Waterloo school board in Canada. Teaching for over 15 years, she loves to include new and innovative ideas in her classroom to promote student voice and engagement. She loves to read, paint, and run to relax when she's not spending time with her husband and three school aged children.

One comment

  1. Cathleen Stuart

    Hi Siobhan,

    I teach 8th grade LA in New Hampshire and I wanted to compliment you on this post. My colleague and I are putting together a PD presentation for other teachers in our district and I was going through this blog for inspiration and to find out what others are doing. You have articulated the value of blogging in the classroom extremely well. The writing my students do in this space has intrinsic motivation– which can be a rare commodity in the classroom. Thanks for your help as I think about this and attempt to tell others about it.

    All the best,

    Katie Stuart

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