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Make Student Writing Known: Publish

by Miguel Guhlin

Teaching from home, my wife works with second grade students and is always encouraging them to write in their digital and paper journals. She also sees to it that the students have ample opportunity to publish to each other. As second graders, they prepare their work and share it in Seesaw. This fantastic portfolio tool makes it simple to share student work. In this blog, we’ll explore the important but often forgotten requirement in writing of how to make students’ work known to a global audience.

Kindle the Mind

People share stories, tales that warm the heart, embolden the spirit, kindle the mind. You have the power to amplify children’s voices, to create a platform from which they can reach the world…and your stories and lessons can as well. As a writing teacher, I encourage students to write from their experiences. The act of writing can enrapture. Writing for publication motivates. I always ask teachers who work with K-12 writers “How are your students connecting with a global audience?

“In my 40-year career as a middle school English teacher, the simplest and most powerful innovation was to give my students time and choice as writers and readers,” says Nanci Atwell. In a writing-reading workshop, students choose the topics they write about and the books they read. Because they decide, they engage. Because they engage, they experience the volume of committed practice that leads to stamina and excellence. Each year my students read an average of 40 books and produced over 20 pieces of writing. They won writing contests, were published, and earned money.

Some may ask, “How do I get started?” Here are a few steps you can take.

Step #1: Build a Classroom Community

How do you begin? Start with a classroom community of writers. You must build relationships and connections. Susan Fields points this out in her article, Classroom Writing Community as Authentic Audience.

By turning the classroom writing community into an authentic audience through inquiry discussions, teachers can develop students’ deep and flexible understandings of a potentially unfamiliar writing genre. Classroom writing communities can support students as they move through moments of struggle.

A classroom writing communities allow teachers to implicate students’ expertise as academic writers, thereby facilitating their willingness to take on academic writing identities

I love how Susan invites teachers to implicate students’ expertise as writers. Implicate in this sense means “to connect to or relate to intimately.” What a powerful concept for young writers to learn as they learn to trust their budding expressions.

There are several ways to get the ball rolling. The first is to create your writing community’s virtual presence. Students are online and you can begin to model appropriate use of virtual tools and have leading conversations. Take advantage of learning management systems (LMS) available. I have already mentioned Seesaw as an excellent tool, but here are a few others in alpha order:

Avatar Creation Tip from Peggy Reimers (@preimers)

Although this is a less of a concern now, parents often fear students putting their faces online. So why not have students create an avatar that will represent them next to their published pieces? Create an avatar using the Doodle Buddy app on your mobile device (e.g. iOS/Win10). Learn more about the idea.. Some tips to get you started:

  • Use the camera under the backgrounds tool and snap a selfie.
  • Use the chalk tool to sketch the main features of your face.
  • Replace your selfie with the white background.
  • Under the wrench, you have several save options.

You can also connect your writers’ community with others. Consider this perspective from my colleague, Diana Benner:

“A project I had my students do is to create real estate websites in Spanish. We were studying parts of the house in Spanish. I went to a local real estate agency and they displayed the websites on a laptop in their office so their customers could view what the high school students were doing,” says Diana Benner (@diben).

“There are many ways to have student publish items for the community or to at least have their publications on display. This will bring a real sense of purpose to their publications,” asserts Diana Benner.

In general, a writer in my family says, “publishing keeps you writing,” and also “can result in more connections with people interested in whatever you’re interested in and I think it’s definitely worth the effort.”

Step #2: Publish Student Writing

Combine “bookcasting” (creating multimedia ebooks) with traditional lesson ideas to spark learning. A class blog can feature bookcasts, podcasting featuring student writing, and facilitating learning in your classroom, no matter your students’ age. Ready to explore what apps and tools you can use?

Do you help students uncover the sequence of an enchanting tale?

Sequencing refers to the identification of the components of a story — the beginning, middle, and end — and also to the ability to retell the events within a given text in the order in which they occurred. The ability to sequence events in a text is a key comprehension strategy, especially for narrative texts (source).

There are many tools that can facilitate sequencing, as well as go well beyond. Let’s take a quick look at them.

Tool #1: ToonTastic 3D

One way to create bookcasts is to use tools like ToonTastic 3D:

Use Toontastic 3D to give students a creative outlet while teaching them the basics of a story arc and plot points. Since there’s only a basic introduction to each part of as story, teachers can help walk students through the basics of the story arc (setup, conflict, challenge, climax, and resolution) and explore each point in more detail (source).

Common Sense has storytelling with Toontastic resources available for you to use:


Screenshot by Author, Toontastic

Monica Burns (ClassTech Tips) suggests these ideas:

  • Retell a passage from a story. Students can examine an excerpt from a chapter book or short story to retell the story with a partner. As they read, children can pull out evidence from the text, create a storyboard, and make a plan for their video clip. Students can bring the characters to life while diving into the text.
  • Bring narrative writing to life. The same literary elements you teach during a unit on narrative writing can be incorporated into a digital storytelling activity. Students can use Toontastic 3D to combine dialogue, descriptive language, flashbacks, or any element that you are focusing on during your writing unit.
  • Demonstrate math applications. Sometimes it is hard for students to understand how a math topic connects to the real world. With Toontastic 3D, students can create stories that show how fractions come in handy during an animated adventure.

Tool #2: WriteReader

This is a web-based ebook creation tool. Students create ebooks and publish them on the web. WriteReader offers a free program that provides teachers with six weeks’ worth of lesson plans. The lessons, inspired by a third party efficacy study conducted in 2016, introduce your students to WriteReader.

The lesson plans also provide you with step-by-step instructions on how to get started using WriteReader with the young authors in your classroom, all the while promoting literacy and collaboration. Explore lesson plans for WriteReader.

Tool #3: Podcasting

Make conversations happen as you encourage students to engage in podcasting. Before you explore the resources, listen to Dorothy Burt share her effort from 2005. I had a chance to meet her and discuss her work in 2007.

Her insights remains as accurate today as ever.

Tool #4: Six-Word Memoirs

You can blend a wide variety of technologies into Six-Word Memoirs. Memoirs are more than sad stories. One teacher describes the assignment for students:

My students had just finished a unit on the Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution. I asked them to create six-word memoirs for the leading thinkers of the Enlightenment. If people like Voltaire, Newton, and Diderot only had six words, how would they describe their accomplishments? I made the project and requirements simple (source: Jonathan Olsen).

Jenny Rich (@jdrich219) suggests five ways to use six-word memoirs in the classroom. Check out some of them in this companion blog entry. You can also incorporate music and images to enhance six-word memoirs.

Tool #5: Online Publication Outlets

I still remember Ronald K.’s eyes opening wide when he saw the letter in my hand. It was a response to the one he had sent the previous school year submitting his writing for publication. At the time, I hated the fact it took so long for students to find out if they had been published. Now, however, publishing can be a much quicker process.

Tool #6: Visual Storytelling

Today, you often have only about eight seconds to tell a story. Here are some tips for creating short content:

In Instagram, write a short tale that describes the photo with more than three sentences. You have a 2,200 character limit before Instagram switches to ellipses. You can string several Instagram posts together with hashtags. Here are some more suggestions in Storify Your Success.

There are many more ways you can encourage student publication in your classroom. Pick one and get going.

Feature Image Source

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

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