Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Importance of Audience to All Writers

Since the Newtown tragedy, what is really important has shifted dramatically and thinking of blogging topics has been hard.

However, our work in education continues, so Melanie and I have been talking and thinking about the really important elements of teaching literacy to children. When we think about our writing workshops, an important component to never forget is establishing the existence of an audience for children. 

Audience is so important for writers. Even as I write now, I am thinking about audience. Who will be reading my piece? How formally should I write? What do my readers already know? What is safe to assume about these readers? These questions guide my writing and we should teach students that these sorts of questions should guide their writing, as well.

Earlier this month, I was working in one of the second-grade classrooms with students in the middle of their “All About” writing unit. One avid writer was working on her all about book on being a second-grader. “I have twenty-four chapters mapped out,” she announced at the end of the mini-lesson. She showed us her table of contents, pictured on the right.

Her teacher and I exchanged a look; I know that my concern was that I didn't think that this student would be able to maintain the focus and depth that I would hope that she would develop. Her teacher and I sat down with her together and when I asked her about her audience, she wasn't sure. Maybe her classmates. Maybe her teacher.  Her teacher...did I mention that her teacher is pregnant and that a long-term substitute will be taking over the class at the end of January? 

As she continued to explain her book, I asked her if she would be interested in having the new teacher be her intended audience. Her eyes grew wide. "You mean have my book be used to tell the new teacher about our class?" she asked.

"Think of the new teacher as your audience and then let her know what she really needs to know," we responded. 

Since that conference, Emily’s voice has been clearer and more purposeful as her writing speaks to her new teacher. Although I am not in her class every day, she finds me in the hallway and she tells me about her progress. She has even brought pages to my office to share with me. She has information that she wants her teacher to know and she is creating a cohesive and important piece of work. How different her writing would be if she were writing for a new student? And, how much more engaged is she because it is not just an all-about book; it is an all-about book with an intended audience and a clear purpose.

Writers have power in our world and the more that we can communicate that fact to students, the better our results will be. Writers can teach, inform, persuade, and entertain.


  1. Brilliant. Audience does, in fact, make all the difference. In grade 5, we moved from "All About" to Feature articles, like the ones you find in magazines. We made the books into magazines ( and that excited the students, but your article makes me think they need a wide audience. Must think about this some more... :)

    Janet |

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