I think that one of the best thing that a teacher can do for his or her students is to provide them with opportunities to engage with authentic audiences. This broadens the school community beyond the classroom walls, and allows students to see their work in a real context. Of course, it needs to be carefully managed by the teacher in question – there’s no point providing students with an unwelcoming or uncaring audience, but equally, the real value of this is in students receiving some meaningful feedback. One of the best ways that I’ve found to provide this authentic audience is through what I like to call ‘special projects’.
Let me give you an example: we recently had Write a Book in A Day (WABIAD). I’m not sure if this is an international thing or just for Australia, but the basic idea is that students get together and write a story. The bottom limit is 4000 words, but students can write more than 8000 words if they want to. We’ve done it for a number of years now, but this year we stepped it up a little bit and had more than 5 teams, including some from local primary schools.
Students receive a list from the organisation in charge about what they are required to include in their novel. These are the parameters – for example, my group this year had to include a babysitter, a chemist, a giant squid, a cricket match and the issue of time travel. In addition, they had to use the words hectic, fascinating, cantankerous, furry and curious.
As a side note, I should mention that using technology is really useful in this endeavour. We use Google Apps for the simple reason that it allows collaborative editing – students can read and edit each others chapters immediately – it takes away the need to swap USB sticks and it also means that students can see their novel taking shape as they work.
The great thing about WABIAD is that it provides that students with an audience immediately. The books are published on both the school website and the organisation website. Here’s a link to read some more and see some of if you are interested:
But what I am really excited about is that, for the first time this year, our books are going to be published on the iBookstore. Part of WABIAD’s mission is to raise money for charitable causes. We hit upon the idea of publishing the students’ books on the iBookstore, so parents and supporters can download their books for a nominal fee, with all the proceeds going to support the charity.
Suddenly, there is literally a global audience for students. People all over the world can buy and download books written by students. I think, as far as audiences go, that’s pretty authentic. Imagine how you would feel as a student to know that people all over the world can read a book you’ve written?
In what kind of ways do you use technology to create an authentic audience?
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