Sunday, March 15, 2015

Sunday Summary: Authentic Audience on #slowchated

You can relive the entire week's chat with the Storify archive!

From hanging work in the hallway to having my students publish their own book blog, giving kids an authentic audience has been a powerful force in my classroom this year. I was happy to jump in and moderate #slowchated this week to find some other perspectives on authentic audiences.

I started the week with this question:

I was surprised by the wide range of answers. This one matched my initial thoughts on the topic:
 But these ones made me realize that there might be more to choosing a truly authentic audience:

I've been successful at giving my students an audience they have no connection with. I often share our book blog on Twitter tagged with #comments4kids As a result, my kids have received feedback from teachers I know in other parts of the country along with others who have absolutely no connection to me or our school. When we've discussed it as a class, everyone agrees that they take more care with their writing when they are truly publishing it for the world. We don't know who will read it.

I really like the idea of using people with expertise as an authentic audience. When I invited judges for my school's Invent Idaho competition, I asked a friend who is an accomplished tinkerer to view the projects. With his experience in electronics projects and scale modeling, he was able to give students feedback on their projects that I wouldn't have considered. Our district technology coach also judged. He has judged at many of these competitions, so he was able to offer yet another perspective. Going forward, I want to find more opportunities for my students to present to "logical consumers."

There are so many appropriate audiences for students, the key is getting their work in front of someone. The background photo above is a poster some of my math students made after learning about scale drawings. It's been hanging in the hall facing our playground for months, giving my students an authentic audience for their work each time students go in and out the playground doors.

I hadn't directly thought about the benefits of audience awareness before. But, I have seen my students go from assuming everyone knew all about the characters in Harry Potter and other popular series to understanding that they needed to provide that information in their book reviews. I think building audience awareness leads to developing greater empathy. It's definitely an idea worth exploring further.

A few of our slow chatters shared some great things they've done with their students. These were two of my favorites. Please follow the links to see some great student work!

Although most of our discussion was about reaching out, this was a great reminder that our classrooms have a built-in audience. When work is shared with classmates rather than created for teacher eyes only, our students get many of the benefits of having an authentic audience. Doing it successfully, though, often requires teaching what it means to be a good audience, as described in the tweets below.

I've been able to incorporate an authentic audience in my English/Language Arts classes with our book blog, but I really want to give my math students more opportunities to put their work in front of others. Here were a couple other places suggested for authentic audiences.

During Day 4, Mark Crotty suggested that it was worth examining how the structure of school affects authentic audiences. I decided to use his question for our 5th day of discussion:

I love this idea - a school so engaging that the community wants to be a part of it. By opening our doors and sharing the great work of our students, it can become a reality.

Thanks so much to everyone who participated in this week's #slowchated discussion of authentic audience. I'm excited to use what I've learned from this week's chat in my classroom. And I'll keep you updated as I continue to experiment and refine...

Monday, March 9, 2015

Authentic audiences #slowchated March 9 - 15, 2015

Image from Wikimedia Commons
I took great pride in my work for elective classes in high school: often more than I did for my academically required courses. I played tuba in multiple bands, acted in most of our school plays, competed in speech and debate, and wrote for the school newspaper. Now, of course, the fact that I chose my electives was a motivator, but the biggest difference between those classes and my others was the audience. I knew that my work would be on display for my peers and the larger community, not just the teacher. I practiced and practiced the tuba solo in the Holst Suite because I knew how many people would be listening. I carefully revised and edited every submission I wrote for the Timberwolf Times because all of my friends and teachers would read my work. I did fine on the papers that I wrote for my teachers' eyes only, but I rarely put the same type of effort into those assignments.

Coursework in the arts and many electives has always given students an authentic audience, while work in other classes is done solely for the instructor. Why? Personally, it wasn't something I thought about much until recently. In the past, I had my students imagine an audience for their writing, but we rarely wrote for a real audience. This year, I'm starting to give my students real audiences for presenting their work. I've seen how sharing their work with a broader audience motivates and inspires many of my students. Still, I know I can do more and I want to hear your ideas.

These are the questions I have in mind, but they are subject to change as you contribute ideas throughout the week.   

Q1 What makes an audience "authentic"?
Q2 How do your students create for authentic audiences?
Q3 How much audience participation do you want? How do you encourage or discourage it?
Q4 What is something you already do that could be enhanced with an authentic audience?
Q5 Where do you find an audience?
Q6 What is your "dream audience" for student work?

I'm eager to discuss this with you on #slowchated and I hope that you will take full advantage of the slow chat format. We have a whole week to find and post links, photos, and blog posts. Best of all, we have an authentic audience in each other, and audience participation is required. Ask questions, challenge assumptions, and learn from one another!