Sunday, March 28, 2010

Commenting: Beyond Blogs

Image under a creative commons licence from timlewisnm

The New York Times article "10 Ways to Promote Writing for an Authentic Audience" discusses their Student Opinion feature and offers general tips and notes before suggesting ways to promote writing with students.  Based on the Times suggestions here are a few ways to extend that authentic experience beyond the classroom in your own communities.

  • Debating.  Local newspapers often have articles that are controversial in nature and students  are seldom asked for their opinions in 'adult' matters.  This doesn't mean that students are incapable of generating unique solutions to community problems.  Have students debate issues in class and then write letters to the editor.  Every teacher has a wealth of untapped creative energy sitting in their classrooms every day.  Put it to work!
  • Responding.  Use letters to the editor to have students determine sound arguments and bias.  Have them write their own response letters.
  • Survey.  Have students conduct surveys using an online polling tool like Google Forms, to ascertain how their community feels about local issues.  Write comments or letters using the statistics and suggestions gathered. ( Google Forms is one of the options in Google Docs.)
  • Creative Writing.  Have students write poems, stories or create art work in response to local issues.  Submit these to the local paper.
  • Reviews.  Ever see student reviews of current children's movies, musical events or books?   Why not get your students to submit their own.
  • In this time of dropping enrolment and threatened school closures why not have your students write ads, essays or letters promoting their school?  What do students see as the pressing issues in education?  What are their solutions?  Why do they think their school is the best?
Commenting on each other's blogs is an effective way for students to begin writing for an authentic audience.  I've written previously on commenting here and here.  I think commenting is a great first step towards more fully involving oneself in a wider community.

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