AUTHENTIC CONTEXTS

Each authentic literacy activity has a writer and a reader - a writer who is writing to a real reader and a reader who is reading what the writer wrote.

Leigh Hall

Students have to experience writing for real audiences before they will know that writing can bring them power.

Anne Rodier, A Cure for Writer’s Block

There is a close relationship between authentic literacy practices and the development of reading and writing. Students immersed in the exploration of the kinds of texts they are going to create become familiar with the conventions of these texts. Explicit teaching of skills and strategies is embedded within these authentic contexts through modelling and independent practice along with regular opportunities for feedback. The more real-life contexts we can provide in our classrooms for student reading and writing, the better.


AUTHENTIC LITERACY CONTEXTS INCLUDE:

Classroom activities that mirror the kinds of reading, writing and producing that occur in the lives of people outside of school.

Real-life texts for students to read, write and produce.

In English Language Arts students from the beginning of elementary school to the end of secondary school are reading, writing and producing real-life texts for a variety of purposes. These texts include letters, lists, recipes, poetry, picture books, short stories, editorials, ads, graphic organizers and brainstorming notes.

Real purposes for writing and producing.

A writer’s purpose is a reflection of what they expect to accomplish by writing the text, from letting a parent know they are loved, to advocating for a change in the school dress code and from comforting a friend, to informing the public and advocating for social change.

Writers write for a variety of purposes, such as:

  • to express one’s feelings, ideas and experiences

  • to provide information

  • to persuade or affect the reader

  • to use language imaginatively


Real audiences/readers for student writing and productions.

Writers need readers. Students need to be writing for someone other than the teacher. Providing a real audience for student writing and production helps students think about the purpose for their text. They will be motivated to write, revise and edit!

Here are some suggestions for giving students an authentic audience:

  • create a book for peers, younger students, the library, etc.

  • produce a school newspaper

  • write letters to authors, celebrities, politicians

  • make flyers to advertise an upcoming event

  • create a questionnaire for another class

  • write for a class website or blog

  • combine photography and short expository or poetic pieces of the neighbourhood to sell at a fundraiser

  • enter writing contests

  • find a class/school to pen pal with

  • produce an anthology of writing for peers

  • create a video book review or trailer

  • produce a social media campaign to raise awareness for a cause

  • create and maintain a blog or a vlog channel

  • create spoken, written or media presentations based on inquiry findings

  • produce photo journals

  • write and perform spoken texts (spoken word poetry, speeches, monologues, etc.)

The explicit teaching of literacy skills and strategies is embedded within these authentic contexts.


ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Grant Wiggins discusses the importance of the impact in Real-World Writing: Making Purpose and Audience Matter.

Ben Loomer from LEARN Quebec offers advice on engaging students in Authentic Experiences: Student Writing for Real Audiences .

The Learning Network offers Student Journalism: Using New Models for Authentic Writing with advice on different ways to approach journalism.

Blue Metropolis offers educational programs and writing contests for ELA classrooms.

LITERACY TODAY IS UNDERSTANDING THE WORD AND THE WORLD.

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