Great teachers know the value of the writing process. Many utilize it in their classrooms with strategies such as guided writing, writing workshops and writing stations. However, the last part of the process, “sharing work” is generally glossed over. Sure, some teachers hang student work on bulletin boards in hopes that pre-adolescents, teachers and parents will read it. Some students share their final drafts with peers or maybe even read it to the class. But rarely do teachers move beyond the comfort of the classroom walls when giving students opportunities to share writing.
I’m guilty of this myself. For years, I dare not “waste” an entire day allowing students to share their work for fear that others might think there’s no real teaching going on in my classroom. Once I got over caring about what others thought I was doing (not sticking to curriculum) vs. what I knew I was actually doing (teaching), I was able to create spaces for students to get their voices heard.
In middle school, student voice matters. A lot. Pre-teens get tired of hearing teachers talk and frankly, I get tired of doing all the talking. Plus, kids write some pretty awesome, raw, honest, hilarious, stuff.
This year, I decided to hold a poetry slam. Students had just finished composing a book of poems based on The Crossover, our class novel. However, this poetry slam had a twist – it would be a public reading at a nearby public, outdoor space. The students were bundles of nervous excitement all week.
Unfortunately, the day of the Poetry Slam, Mother Nature decided to grace us with wind gusts and although it had been 70 degrees the day prior, temperatures dropped to below 35 on the morning of the slam. So we moved it indoors. The students were bummed, but they still had an audience that was more than just their peers. Other grades, parents, teachers and administrators all came to watch the show. If you ask me, it was the perfect warm-up for a public reading once the weather gets warmer.
Immediately after the slam, students were asking when the next one would be. Their voices had been heard and they had much, much more to say!
How do your students share their writing with the public? Let me know in the comments!