Work must be real

Slice of Life

March 17, 2012

“As students and teachers take on more nonfiction reading and writing … There is power in something as simple as changing the graphics on an anchor chart from cartoon hearts and brains to more authentic renderings of these organs. The small shift implicitly nudges kids to see that this work is real, it must be accurate, and we’ll take the time and care needed to get it right.”  Brenda Power  (Choice Literacy – March 17, 2012)

This small shift is what we have often missed in our classrooms.  Students have not seen their work as “real” work for real audiences.   When we as teachers take the time to work toward accuracy,  provide real materials, real examples and then be sure our students are working for a real audience we can see the differences in the what our students create and in their understanding.

This writing challenge is a great example of working for a real audience.  I know I am putting more words to “paper” ( screen)  than I have done all year.   This blog was something I said I would do last September.  It did not happen until I had you the audience, a real audience to write for.  I am a writer who writes for others – at least for now.   When I think I am writing just for me I stare at a blank page.   Should it be that way – no – I know I should write for me but that is not how I work at the moment.   Maybe in the future I will be more personally driven to write for just me but I feel the need to know that someone is listening to my words.

Our students are the same way.  They need to know the work they do each day is for real.  They write letters because they need to send them to someone for real.   They read and write to gain information for a real project that will be presented or given to someone. They see who in the community uses these same skills to do their job each day.    Their art goes up on the wall for a gallery walk or in a real gallery, the music is played or sung for an audience, the books are read to others and written and created to be placed in the library.  The more we can connect our classroom work to  the real world and community the more our students will take their “job” seriously.

The mantra is Real Work for Real Audiences –  try it can make a difference.


About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, help in schools and write. Life is good!
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6 Responses to Work must be real

  1. I love your way of thinking. You keep it real, and remind others to keep what we do in the classroom as real as possible. Love your mantra.

  2. A long, long time time ago, I hear Donald Graves speak about this topic. His words still resonnate in my soul: It’s got to be real writing for meaningful audiences. Kids / people know when it is for real and when we are just keeping them busy. Thank yoru for reminding me of his words this morning.

  3. wkb57 says:

    Well said, real does drive us to do our best.

  4. Jodi Mahoney says:

    Absolutely. I often ask my teachers to consider the context of what they teach and to “make it real” – without context, all of us are less eager and less focused.

  5. I think that shift towards reality that Brenda is talking about is really critical. I think it is great how you linked it to your writing life. I find that this is such a supportive community and I really appreciate it. I’ve always been nervous to share, when I don’t know people and they don’t know me. But this is different…we are getting to know people through our writing.

  6. Linda Baie says:

    So as the comment above said we are learning about people through our writing, the same can be said about our students, learning about each other through their writing. Writing for a real audience is important, and building a community through sharing that writing can also be empowering. You’ve written some great ideas here. Thanks!

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