Students Writing for an Authentic Audience affords A Peek into their Hearts

Behind the mask…
(Naomi’s Photos)

Spelling, grammar, vocabulary – it is well known that these skills improve the more students practice their writing. Naturally, when students have an authentic audience to write for, they are markedly more motivated to pay attention to their writing.

In addition to all that goodness,  I discover time and again that such a kind of writing leads to many other meaningful things as well. Meaningful for both the students and the teacher.

I just want to share the joy!

My lovely co-teacher just gave birth and I opened a Padlet virtual wall so that the students could write congratulatory notes for her. My teenage students like  Padlet’s cool backgrounds and the ease in which they can edit and add pictures.  So it’s always a good choice for me. The students were eager to wish their teacher well – no prodding was necessary.  It’s good for a teacher to be reminded that the students care!

  • MOTIVATION – Got that covered! CHECK!
Handmade for you!
Naomi’s Photos

One student  wished the teacher “good health and happy” so we talked about happy vs happiness. Another expressed hope that the teacher would come back next year with ” new powers”, which is a direct translation from Hebrew. So we discussed leaving “the powers” for the superheros and went with “lots of energy”. In short, the kind of discussions an English teacher expects to have, you know what I mean. Some mistakes I did not correct or point out – going  over each note with a fine tooth comb would have been counter productive.

  • VOCABULARY – SYNTAX – GRAMMAR     –  CHECK!

One student started to write his note saying that he hopes the teacher feels better again soon and will come back to class as soon as possible… We had a talk about the fact that  having a baby is not like being sick and in any case the teacher won’t come back soon, she’s on maternity leave. I had a similar talk with a girl in a different group who wanted to write a note but claimed she only knows what to say when someone is ill. We mentioned useful phrases for this situation in L1 as well. Other students did not have this problem and even asked for pictures!

  • PROMOTING SOCIAL SKILLS – CHECK!
Parents?
Naomi’s Photos

One student wrote a particularly long note. Half of the note was devoted to telling the teacher to make sure her husband takes care of the baby too. A sample sentence: you gave the new baby for the world and father need to do something also.hahah :)”. It was a strong reminder of the student’s own “thorny” fatherhood woes  and how it must be an issue close to his heart. I did not point out any errors at all on this student’s note…

INSIGHTS INTO WHAT’S ON STUDENTS’ MINDS – CHECK!

I saw one student having Google translate an entire paragraph typed in L1. I was about to protest strongly  (they are not supposed to do that in class!) until I saw what she had written. The kind of “flowery blessing”, which was obviously something she had encountered at home, was important to her. “This is the right thing to  say when someone has a baby”, she said with a big smile. The student would not have been able to produce sentences such as the following on her own: “That the sun on you will always shine. And your family will grow and blossom. That they sow endless love”. So I just smiled back and didn’t say a word.

LEARNING ABOUT  STUDENTS’ CULTURAL BACKGROUND – CHECK!

In short, wishing someone else well, in written English, did us all good!

 

 

 

 

 

 

20 thoughts on “Students Writing for an Authentic Audience affords A Peek into their Hearts”

  1. It s agreat story. It shows us that we can use English as a way of educating and getting to knoe our students better.

  2. A great example of how learning a language can become a meaningful experience and motivate both teacher and student. Such activities provide children the opportunity to enrich prior knowledge, in this case, the use of the English language in social media. It is certainly important for students to discover practical use in knowledge acquired inside the classroom. Thank you for sharing it.

    1. Thank you for your kind words and for reminding me of this post. It’s been a while since I looked at it!
      Naomi

  3. Dear Naomi,
    Thank you for sharing all these stunning insights. It is an excellent example of how writing skills should be taught- in the context of real life. You took this opportunity of the teacher’s Maternity Leave for two goals- to make this teacher happy (which is so nice of you) and practice the students’ writing skills in real life. Sometimes our job as teachers is to see these opportunities and use them to teach something. In your case, the writing skill was not the only thing they have learned, but expressing themselves, showing vulnerability, and caring for others. You used the language teaching for a much deeper level- you gave the language life, emotions, and meaning.
    Thank you for inspiring me,
    Bar.

  4. Naomi-
    This blog was refreshing and so creative. I plan on incorporating your creative ideas into my classroom. My 11th grade students are now on winter break. Perhaps I will create a Padlet, as you did and have them write a New Year’s resolution. Creating opportunities for students to write to one another through the use of digital technology is something they all should enjoy. It is a great idea to continue to do this every now and then when I want the students to connect& discuss a current event.
    Thank you for the inspiration. Hope you have a Happy New Year.

    1. Lara, you are right, Padlet can be used for a wide variety of purposes. Check out Linoit – it does the same thing but I believe that nowadays it gives you more free “walls” to create. Thank you for reading the post and a happy new year to you too!

  5. I really enjoyed reading this heart-warming post! Thank you for the great idea and for reminding us how important the teacher – student connection is for us all. I most appreciated your thoughtfulness and sensitivity in not correcting some student’s comments as they were clearly words from the heart to the heart. I often think this is something teachers forget when we focus too much on the need for ‘right answers’. Effort and intention counts a lot. Thank you for the reminder!

    1. Chana, Thank you for your kind words about my post. I agree, it is important to have activities that don’t need to be graded, in which we can focus on more than just the right answer. Naomi

  6. I love the way you find how to take advantage from everything. Also that you have the sencibility to know when to correct students and when there are more important things.

  7. By writing for a real audience, students feel more confident about their ability to communicate. Whether it’s writing an email or using Padlet, students can practice the target language, while the teacher can improve their weaknesses. Students can write freely, expressing their own thoughts, feelings, and ideas without any fear of making grammatical mistakes, especially if the teacher sets a rubric for them to follow. Padlet is a fantastic tool for teachers to use with students as a way to reduce writing pressure. I will definitely start using it in my classes.

    1. I totally agree with you, Nisreen! Thank you for your kinds words. Check out Linoit as an alternative, if needed.
      Naomi

  8. I really liked the positive energy in your words, Naomi
    and how the student respects and appreciates the teacher .because Appreciation as a direct process is wonderful. The experiences with your students gave me optimism and joy you are a flexible person ! wow
    Thank you very much for the energy.

  9. I think this is a wonderful way to teach english to kids. I have learned that students learn most effectively through actual work, rather than by theory. The way that you went over what they wrote and talked about these different subjects made it clearer to them, and Im sure now they will never forget these examples. for instance, the difference between energy and powers- something that many of us Israelis had to learn the difference.

    1. Thank you, Ortal! Providing our students with positive learning experiences is certainly something we strive to do!
      Naomi

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