‘Writing for an audience’ is a common suggestion to motivate students to write, to write with some level of pride, and be willing to put in the time and effort required to edit their work. The difficulty is finding an ‘authentic’ audience and balancing this with writing activities that are achievable, and will help students improve their writing skills, in a relatively limited amount of time.
I have a theory that often ‘best is less’. It is better to have students write one very well constructed, dynamic paragraph than screeds of uninteresting text. The following ‘audience-based’ activities work best for one paragraph pieces of writing.
Musical Desks: Students write a carefully constructed paragraph with a specific purpose (recount an emotional event – scary, exciting, sad, write an explanation, write a review – book, movie, video, magazine, etc.). The final product is typed and printed, and each paragraph is placed randomly on a desk. Next to each paragraph is an evaluation sheet. Students complete one reviewer table in the evaluation sheet. Continue until all tables in the evaluation sheet have been completed. Students then collect their piece of writing and the evaluation sheet. Students use the information contained in the evaluation sheet to make further improvements to their piece of writing.
Speed Reviews: Set up the class so students are sitting across from a partner. Students have a set amount of time to read their piece of writing to their partner. Students identify their favorite sentence in their partner’s work and this is recorded. Half the class remains in their chairs, while the other half rotates to the next chair and the process is repeated. After several rotations, students can determine their ‘best’ sentence based on the feedback received. These sentences can be written neatly and posted around the room.
Assembly Announcements: Students are chosen to read one ‘exceptional’ (for them) paragraph at assembly – you could have one student per class.
Powerful Posters: Students glue the final version of their paragraph into the middle of a larger piece of paper. Students then annotate their writing by gluing on pre-printed captions with links to the relevant parts of their text. The finished posters are displayed around the room.
Guess the Voice: Students record themselves reading one fabulous paragraph they have constructed. Encourage students to read with expression and to have a few attempts until they are satisfied with the finished product. Combine the individual recordings into one recording. Over several days, play the recordings one at a time and see if the class can guess the author. Choose one sentence from each recording and select different students to read the sentence with different intonations and emotions.