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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




The more real-life contexts we can provide in our classrooms for student reading and writing, the better. There is a close relationhip between authentic literacy activities and improvement in reading and writing a variety of genres. It is expected that students will be immersed in reading and discussing the kinds of texts they are going to write so that they know why text types are written and how they are structured to convey meaning. 


Authentic Literacy Contexts include: Comments

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

There are many ways that teachers provide authentic contexts for their students. You will find some interesting suggestions from teachers in Authentic Classroom Activities on the left hand menu.

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 s/he expects to accomplish by writing the text, from letting a parent know they are loved, to advocating for a change in the school dress code. 

Writers write for a variety of purposes, such as:

  • to express one’s feeling, 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 a letter to an author
  • make flyers to advertise an upcoming event
  • create a questionaire 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
  • write and perform monologues about a relevant issue
  • enter writing contests
  • find a class/school to penpal with


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


Additional Resources

The following pdf is an excellent resource. Duke, N., V. Purcell-Gates, L. Hall, & C. Tower. Authentic literacy activities for developing comprehension and writingThe Reading Teacher 60 (4) pp.344-355. (2007).


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