So, I’ve been thinking about authentic audience for student work for a while. Sometimes I do more than think about it; I talk about it. Often, this doesn’t go well. My audience in those conversation may be authentic, but is not enthusiastic. Given the reaction to the last time I brought this up with a group, I haven’t discussed it in certain circles for a while. However, the winds may be shifting. It’s like el niño. You don’t always know when the shift is coming, but it feels really different when it does.
Ok, I so desperately want my students to create for their peers. It kind of makes me crazy. And yet since moving to high school, I have not been able to get this going in a way that is acceptable to me. But now that el niño is in town, I am trying again.
Here’s my plan.
Students choose a sentence from our book (so far Slaughterhouse-Five and Life of Pi), a sentence that has grabbed them in some way. Then, they write a short piece of fiction or non-fiction (400-600 words) that includes that sentence. The “expert sentence” could appear at the beginning, middle, or end of the student’s work. Finally, once the piece is complete and edited, students record it as a podcast that also includes a very short conversation with a classmate about why they chose the given sentences.
I had an old podbean site that was sitting around from years ago. So, I repurposed it and we are up and ready. When I shared this idea with the class, a few of them were worried that people might be mean. As we got working and writing, I heard things like “I don’t like my story,” or “this isn’t going anywhere.” I responded with some variation of “this is your work going out into the world with your name on it. Don’t put something out there that you don’t think is good.” I did not reply with anything about the deadline or due date.
I am not going to sit here and claim that all the students have written amazing pieces or took the entire enterprise with total seriousness. However, a number of them were interested in the chance to write creatively; something that they mentioned they haven’t done in a while. Plus, we will do a piece for each book we read, so they’ll get to write and read more of their work.
Feel free to listen to the stories that are ready so far. Truth and Fiction on podbean. I found a few other teachers who said they would have students listen and give feedback, but I know everyone has her own class as well. We need to build a wider audience to get some responses. I have put a link to a google form for feedback.
The students would love to hear from anyone.