Monday, March 3, 2014

Having an Audience Matters - SOLC March 3

I'm continuing my thinking about how to put energy and purpose into our writer's workshop.

My students recently completed a focus study on opinion writing.  We spent a great deal of time talking about how important it was to know who their audience is in order to find the best supports and evidence for their thinking.  In addition, knowing their audience allows the writer to choose the best "container" (thanks, Mary Lee for that great word) for their piece.

For their opinion pieces, many students did a slideshow presentation (Keynote or Explain Everything), other students made books to share with younger classes, while another group decided to write more formal essays.

Yet another group of students chose to write a letter directed to a specific person or institution.  A smattering of the topics and recipients:

  • a letter to our local youth football league regarding the safety of helmets
  • a letter to the Washington Redskins organization asking them to change their name
  • a letter to all the 5th grade teachers in my building asking them to reinstate a specific field trip
  • a letter to all the 5th grade teachers asking them to institute a second recess
  • a letter to the principal and PTO requesting that swings be added to our playground
  • a letter to the principal protesting our current use of eTextbooks in social studies
The list goes on, but the thing all these letters had in common was a strong belief that something needed to be changed, and these students wanted to go to the source with their cases.
When there was so much passion shown by the writers in the classroom, it was an absolute surprise and delight to find typed letters on school letterhead from our principal in my mailbox one day last week.  He had written to each and every student that had composed a letter for his eyes.  This action on his part literally brought me to tears, anticipating how excited the students would be that the principal not only read their opinion piece, but responded to the specific arguments they had made.

When I handed those letters out last week, there was a palpable excitement in the room.  "Let me see!  Let me see!" was a refrain in both classes.

Audience is important.  Audience matters to writers.  Take a second to read what my principal wrote to this student.  A response like this guarantees that this student will have purpose for every opinion/persuasive piece he writes in the future; he now knows he can make a difference. 

Thanks so much to the ladies at Two Writing Teachers blog for hosting the Slice of Life Challenge!  I look forward to catching up on many lives this month.


  1. Without an audience, there is no purpose. :)

  2. A nice moment for that student. What a great comment from your principal.

  3. It's wonderful that your principal responded to the students - what a great moment for them!

  4. Excellent writing lesson - I can imagine the kids were totally excited about hearing directly from the principal with a professional letter!

  5. What a wonderful principal you have, Karen. And you're right, real purposes are so important to everyone! Thanks for giving a great reason!

  6. Good morning Karen! First, can I just say that I'm loving the direction that your slices have gone so far! I have already gotten three or four great ideas to share with my teachers. This morning, for instance, I love the idea of "containers." Can't wait to get to school and tell our sixth grade teacher. And how amazing is your principal, that he took the time to write back to all of those kids and help them understand that their voices really do matter!

  7. Love this! Kudos to you for guiding your students towards purposeful (and therefore meaningful) writing in this way and kudos to your principal for his personal responses!

  8. I agree that audience is an important factor in writing. You're teaching your students such valuable things! Having an audience for our slices makes a big difference, too, in motivation, purpose, and feedback. I love that your principal took the time to write back. That's fantastic!