Growing The Young Writer's Awareness of Audience and Interest
We can help student writers discover the real purpose for their writing by discussing the matter of who we write for. Yes, it is important to establish a sense of audience. Yes, it is important to understand the needs of your readers.
However, as Jane Yolen reminds us in her book, ‘Take Joy,’ the only constant in your life is you. As teachers, we must alert student writers that the first audience for their words are themselves. They are the first reader.
As teachers we must demonstrate our understanding of this important fact when sharing our own writing with students.
Whether writing from the perspective of the child you were, or the adult we have become, we initially write to satisfy your own needs. It is imperative to explain to the less experienced writer how we write about those matters that grab your interest. We write about things we find intriguing, things that make us think.
Teachers sometimes tell students to write about what they know. It is more than writing about what we know, it is writing about what we find most interesting.
I find myself constantly reminding young writers to only write about things they actually care about. Ideas and matters close to their heart. I tell them, ‘Never write to please a teacher, write because you need to say something. Write to capture a moment, or an idea you never want to forget.’
Write what you wish to read. Write to discover what happens. If you write what pleases the child inside you (or the adult), you give your writing a much better chance of finding other readers who will appreciate your words.
Obviously, these conversations need to be occurring within a classroom context where choice is central to the writing culture. Without choice, we will not witness the emergence of voice in the writing.
If our young writers are indeed choosing to write about those matters they most care about, and writing in the genre of choice, then the writing is more likely to develop its own emphasis, tone and word choice. If these elements of writing begin to shine through, we have given our student writers a considerable gift.