Want to see a young student write? Give them an authentic audience!
Most of our students are still writing on paper. They write because they are told they have to – and are usually given a topic. They write for an audience of one – their teacher – and the ONLY reason they write is for a mark. The paper usually ends up getting handed back with lots of red markings for rewriting or, worse yet, thrown in a garbage can or recycle bin. Hardly motivating stuff for a young boy or girl who spends most of their non-school time playing to a global audience on one of the myriad of social networking sites available.
Some teachers and projects are trying to change that. One is the 1001 Flat World Tales Writing Project, the elementary level workshop of which I have had the pleasure of “coordinating” with the amazing Kim Cofino at International School Bangkok (one day I actually hope to meet her in person, maybe ISTE 2010??). To say that we coordinate anything is a slight misnomer because most of what we do is provide a platform for teachers to connect, a few suggestions for a project structure (although teachers are free to change as they wish) and play a bit of matchmaker for classes who ask for the assistance. The teachers and students do the rest! It’s a REAL joy to see it come together.
Despite the late start – we usually run from March to May – we are running again this year. Last year almost a thousand students at over 30 schools connected to write. The key – an authentic audience of their peers from around the globe. It was amazing!
A brief summary: classes are connected with one or two other classes in a “workshop”, where students are grouped in two’s, three’s or four’s, students are given a story starter (most teachers choose to have students write a persuasive piece around the frame provided), the groups peer edit each others work until final stories are crafted for each child.
In short, the project provides an opportunity for students to engage in learning activities around the three essential elements of being information artisans, developing networks for learning and managing personal profiles on the web. It’s all there.
Are you an elementary learning leaders? Want to join us? For more information and to sign up your class, visit the 1001 Flat World Takes Writing project for 2010.