I’m often asked what young writers can do to seek and connect with authentic audiences.
Sure, writing for themselves, their friends, their family members, and their teachers might be rewarding, and it is absolutely authentic when the purpose is to move the reader rather than simply earning a grade, but how might young writers produce dynamic content for a wide readership?
I find that when I think of influence in terms of degrees, it helps. There are moments when our audience is just one person. I’m thinking of the letters that I write my children and my husband from time to time. There are also moments when we want to move a particular leader or influence a group that has the power to serve others in some way. There are many moments when our work might be shared with the entire world, though.
Moments when we give it to a global readership.
Moments when our writing finds its audience.
How might we help students write for all kinds of audiences?
I have some ideas for you, but before we dive in, I’m wondering: Have you begun building a professional learning network online yet? Which of your connections might help you spread the word about your students’ work once they’ve published it? Reach out to them. Reciprocate, too. And are you aware of the #commentsforkids Twitter community? One of the best ways to motivate young writers is to ensure that they are being read by people who appreciate their work, provide them great feedback, and share it. These are beautiful options, in my opinion.
The ideas below inspire writers to transform the traditional texts that they produce into forms that engage audiences well. Depending on who that audience is, their work might be shared through an email, posted on a blog, or shared through any number of social networks. They might also pursue a more formal kind of publication as well, and I’ve shared an entire binder of ideas below that includes contests and markets, too (see number 70). If you would like to recommend others, just drop them in the comments. I update that list quarterly.
Making writing isn’t just about loose parts play. It’s also about using diverse mediums and modalities to carry our work out into the world in the way it will be best received, and more important, where it will best serve others. I often tell the writers and teachers that I support that when we use loose parts throughout the process to scale print barriers, we make in ways that serve ourselves as writers. When we express ourselves using mediums and modalities other than print, we make in ways that serve our message and our audiences best.
Here are 101 ways for young writers to publish for an authentic audience:
1. Photo Galleries enable writers to tell stories, share information, and make powerful arguments. Invite writers to create albums or devote the whole of their Insta space to any of these purposes. Or offer them a challenge like this one.
2. Live Video is now available in many social networks, and it’s the perfect place for young writers to connect with others in their circle and share their thinking, learning, and work.Those who choose to perform may do so here as well. Here are thirty ways to use Facebook Live in school. And! Lumen5 is a beautiful tool that enables writers to create and share videos asynchronously on social as well.
3. Blogs are still highly accessible. I’m told that all the cool kids hang out on Medium now. I’m trying, too. Teacher Ashley Bayles explains why this matters here.
4. How-To Guides are tried and true. Explainer videos bring them into the here and now, though. They can be embedded across networks and documents. I use Mysimpleshow.
5. Crowd-Sourced Texts are fun to create, and Google Docs facilitates this kind of collaborative writing well. Have writers generate a topic, share what they’ve learned about it, and then open the doc to a wider audience that can contribute to it and learn from it as well.
6. External Reviews matter, and when young writers take the time to post them for products they’ve purchased, places they’ve visited, or people they’ve received services from, they pull on their analysis skills. Yelp offers a platform for this.
7. Internal Reviews are a great option, too. This is when writers compose a lengthier evaluation and post it on their own site or inside of their own network. Medium would be a great place for this as well. Goodreads invites book reviews.
8. Memes are funny, and that’s why they go viral. Kids love making and sharing them, too. Sharon Serano shares good ideas and perspective here. Mashable offers six tools here.
9. Infographics are a powerful alternative to the old school research paper. They travel well, too. Ideas here.
10. Interviews can be audio or video recorded and shared across different platforms. Imagine how this might enrich narrative, information, or argument writing. Tools like Otter enable audio recording, transcription, and voice-to-text as well.
11. Newsletters are digital now. I love using Canva to create and share them.
12. Guidebooks are useful for those who are new to a place or an experience. Imagine the instructions and advice that a first grader might give to a kindergarten student. What if seniors designed guidebooks for newcomers to the school? WriteReader enables even the littlest learners to do this work, too. What other tools might you recommend?
13. A Twitter Chat is a beautiful way for writers to share what they’re learning and engage others in a deeper conversation. Why not invite this instead of the class presentation?
14. Testimonials might be written by one student in response to another student’s content or work. This is a powerful type of persuasive writing that most will be asked to do at some point (and often) in their working lives. There are some solid examples here.
15. Research Findings are especially powerful when writers use digital tools like FlipGrid to gather data and invite feedback, questions, and further commentary.
16. Ebooks are easy to create in Google Slides.
17. Lulu enables writers to self-publish their books, too.
18. Comics and Cartoons can be used to express information, arguments, and stories. And there are a bunch of digital tools that enable digital (and beautiful) design and social sharing. Here are a bunch of tools and apps.
19. Dynamic Data Visualizations are super cool.
20. Podcasting is hot, and kids enjoy making them. Anchor is a great place to begin. And have you seen what Betsy did for everyone recently?
21. Help Writers Establish a Vision at the start of the year, and then, help them align their greater goals to it. These data should be important to you. They can help you create an authentic classroom vision that is representative of the writers in your room.
22. Contests bring all kinds of writers together around a common effort. Flash Fiction Fridays challenge everyone to produce a quick, short bit of fiction. Once peer reviewed and revised, a collaborative anthology might be produced and even sold, in order to raise money for a shared cause. Lulu enables this, and I worked with young writers for a number of years to produce anthologies this way. Serious and silly awards might be given as well. There are a million ways to adapt this.
23. Hip Hop belongs to the musicians who have created it and the audiences who have long honored the culture it comes from, in my opinion. It needs to be taught by the kids who really own it. Teachers like me need only make room for them to share it. BandLab makes for solid recording.
24. Product Launches enable makers to bring their ideas to market. Why not use the next school craft or maker faire as an opportunity to help young writers brand and sell their goods? Adobe Spark is perfect for this.
25. Book Trailers are a blast to create, and writers could make them for their own work or for other books they’ve read. Adobe Spark is great here, too.
26. Public Service Announcements empower young people to make a real difference in the world and are easy to embed across networks. Like this.
27. Digital Campaigns elevate even the youngest and most remote voices, enabling them to do good in the greater world. This is my daughter’s example, from years ago. Teachers and kids are still replicating it today.
28. Webinars and Conferences allow writers to share their expertise and invite others to collaborate with them, too. Zoom is a great tool for this. Create a schedule using Google Docs, link every session to the Zoom invite, and give your students an opportunity to create their own writing conference. You might elevate one student to co-host, enabling them to lead.
29. YouTube is a great place for kids to share demonstration videos, skits, arguments, and so many other performances, including dance, spoken word, Spark Talks, and music videos.
30. Coaching brings writers who know how to do stuff together with those who want to learn. And it can happen across so many different platforms. In fact it is. Naturally. Some ideas and thoughts on safe use here.
31. Digital Magazines are easily made with Lucidpress.
32. Storybird inspires beautiful and dynamic storytelling.
33. Mapmaking enriches all forms of writing. Have you seen NatGeo Mapmaker?
34. Digital Scrapbooking offers writers a beautiful way to document and share memories. Smilebox offers free online tools for this here.
35. Music Videos can be made using a wide variety of tools. Animoto offers a simple start, with no editing experience necessary.
36. Press Releases might be created for any event. Here’s how to help students write them.
37. Audio Content might be created for many purposes. Kids might create voice overs for their images, slides, stories, or blog posts. Vocaroo doesn’t require a sign-in, and it’s simple to use.
38. QR Codes can be created to link readers to Drive folders full of content. They can also link readers to a single source. Many of my friends drop QR codes onto their business cards so users can link directly to their web pages. They can also be used to bring stories and arguments and poetry to life. How might we help young writers use them for dynamic purposes?
39. White Papers focus on a single topic, and they make complex information accessible to readers. Young writers can establish authority and be of service this way. You’ll find templates here.
40. Flyers might be created to promote events or products. Postermywall is a great resource for this.
41. Apps enable writers to create tools for others that simplify and enrich life. See how one teacher designed a lesson for this here.
42. Writing Communities have consistently engaged some of the most reluctant writers I’ve supported, largely because they provide a level of anonymity that many appreciate. Wattpad is one example.
43. Lists (like this one) tend to appeal to wide, wide audiences. Writers can publish them across many platforms, for many purposes. Here’s why list posts work and a few tips for creating a good one.
44. Spoken Word Poetry is so impactful. I love using Button Poetry to inspire young poets. They might present their work at a live event or create their own YouTube channel to share with a global audience.
45. Surveys support research and information writing, and they also help writers come to know their audiences better, in order to meet their needs. This is a tight little post that provides solid perspective and tips for doing it well.
46. Case Studies are a beautiful alternative to traditional research papers, and they blend lessons from many forms. Writers might publish them online or present them to audiences they are eager to inform and influence. Learn more about how to invite writers into this writing process here.
47. Demonstration Videos are so appealing! Writers might use Animaker to create and share a how-to or two.
48. Round-Up Blog Posts are a beautiful way for writers to share the work of others who inspire them. A bit more engaging than a standard list of references, round-up posts enable writers to share their thoughts and feelings about the work that others have shared, as well as direct links to their publications. Poetry Friday is a beautiful example of this.
49. Downloadable Tools and Resources are valued inside of every community. Many people turn to the net to find things that they can simply print and use in their personal lives or work. This is what makes Teachers Pay Teachers so popular. What could your writers design and share? Canva is also great for this, and tools like Figma make graphic designers of all of us, too.
50. Creating and Facilitating a Virtual Community often requires leaders to do their homework. Daily. What if your students created groups around topics of interest to them? I learned much by facilitating the Building Better Writers Facebook group. I recently left Facebook and that community as well, but I’m still finding them in other spaces and sharing the same content elsewhere.
51. Tear-Sheets help writers establish credibility. Once writers begin publishing their work for the wider world, teaching them how to create tear-sheets will ensure that they are able to continue growing their publishing opportunities. It’s fun to make space for writers to share their tear-sheets at author celebrations, too. You’ll learn about the basics of the tear-sheet here.
52. Audio Books aren’t simple to create, but if you know a writer who would like to try, this post might be helpful. And there are a million ways for amateurs to adapt and simplify the process using any number of audio recording tools, too.
53. Multimedia Posters are interactive and engaging. I still love Glogster, all of these years later.
54. Sketchnotes engage different parts of the brain, and they engage consumers, too. Tanny McGregor is my go-to here.
55. Process Work is beautiful. My daughter is a designer, and throughout her undergraduate and now, her professional career, I’ve always loved her process work best. How might we begin to make space for writers to showcase it–not simply to receive feedback, but to celebrate its beauty? I love gallery walls.
56. Digital Course Design can be overwhelming, especially for young writers. Google Slides to the rescue! This tool provides writers the opportunity to teach others what they know using print, audio, and video. Once the slide deck is created, students can drop videos into each one. This allows them to elaborate, demonstrate, and engage audiences in their content even further. You’ll find many other ideas here, too.
57. Pitch Packets include a pitch for a new product, a sample, recipes, artifacts, supplies, and a bit of swag. How much fun could your kids have designed these for the stories they’ve published? Here’s one that I created for my first book, Make Writing. I included a copy of the book, some fun classroom challenges, a bag of loose parts, markers, my business card, and stickers. I make this often, and teachers always appreciate. How might the writers that you support offer a wider audience something similar, in order to draw attention to their work and garner greater interest? Where might they share them?
58. Games invite writers to translate their texts into wildly different and engaging forms. Here are a few tools that help. What would you add, gamer friends? This is not my wheelhouse.
59. Thirty Day Challenges are wonderful to organize, lead, and participate in. I’m thinking of the National Novel Writing Month Young Writers’ Program. It just started, and it’s not too late to dive in! There are so many more, and kids can conceptualize their own, too.
60. Vlogging is like blogging, only with video. See John and Hank Green’s work here. Beautiful. How might writers do this?
61. Silent Book Groups are a blast. A group of wonderful people did this with my own book a few years ago, and I’ve started a few of my own. Essentially, writers read a book, add their own highlights and notes inside, write a bit about it in a shared journal, and send it on to the next reader and writer in the group. Many times, members will add articles, create playlists, and supplement the book box or bag with other gifties that relate to the text and the greater learning around it. Digital communities support sustained dialogue about what is read, and books are passed by hand or through snail mail.
62. Writing is a Gift that we can give others. Encourage writers to compose small moment stories about the people they are grateful for, and help them gift them on holidays.
63. Make an Award for the best teacher in the school. I did this with elementary writers a few years back, and it was a wonderful way to bring making into our writing workshop. Writers prototyped and then created awards before writing the tributes that were gifted beside them.
64. Influence a Local Leader. Take a walking field trip around your school community. Identify problems that need to be solved, generate informed solutions, and work together to make it happen. Use your words for a greater good.
65. Take a Stand. What’s unfair? Who is being harmed? Write a letter to the editor. Speak at an event. Rally.
66. Visual Instructions are challenging to create, and they call for a kind of thinking and skill that we don’t often make space for in traditional workshops. They’re also more valued that text based instructions, often.
67. Email is the perfect platform for inquiry and the expression of gratitude, too. How might we help writers leverage this potential?
68. Comments offer writers warm and cool feedback on the things they’ve published online. They also include questions that deepen and challenge thinking about the content shared. Compliments are very different things. How might we help young writers leave comments that are truly useful and engaging?
69. Audio Storybooks are easy to design using StoryKit. I love it! Shout out to Heather Bitka from Lockport City School District who introduced me to it well over a decade ago.
70. Contests and Markets for young writers abound. I try to keep this binder current.
71. Progressive Poems and Stories are fun to create.
72. Digital Gratitude Journals can be kept on a blog. Each day, writers share additional entries that inspire.
73. Recipe Books invite writers to share their way around the kitchen. Recipes might be supplemented by stories that reveal each writer’s culture, inter-generational wisdom, and special memories. They can be shared online as well. Canva is great for this.
74. Geneology tools enable writers to research, curate, share, and reflect on their histories. Check out the tools available from the National Archives.
75. ePals helps teachers create safe digital pen pal relationships.
76. This I Believe invites writers to reflect upon and share their deepest values.
77. Host a Meet Up. Each year, writers in my little studio spent a day sharing their expertise with local friends, family members, and community members. They didn’t focus on celebrating their work. They taught others the strategies they loved most. This was always a special day. We used an EdCamp structure.
78. Film Festivals are springing up inside of many schools. Ideas here.
79. Shark Tank has inspired many maker and entrepreneurial minded writers. How might you replicate the experience for your own students?
80. Pitch Days bring writers together with local published authors, editors, and agents. Here, they learn how to design better proposals, before they pursue formal publication. How might you bring your staff together, along with local authors, to create an experience like this for your students?
81. Webquests are fun to create with Zunal.
82. My Hero. Swoon. Talk about writing a gift, all.
83. Little Bird Tales creates space for even the most emerging young writers. This is a wonderful digital publishing space for even the youngest writers you know.
84. Listening Logs challenge writers to speak less, listen more, and document everything they hear. Then, they review their data to draw conclusions. Many of them are unexpected. This kind of research can inspire all kinds of wonderful writing, and when it’s published with a wider audience in any number of forums, it is influential.
85. Write the World is a community of young writers ages 13-18 from around the world.
86. Morning Pages, conceptualized and popularized by Julia Cameron, are the ultimate way to write for the self. When writers share their pages with others, they inspire and find community, too. How might we build community around this?
87. Author interviews: What if writers interviewed the other writers in the room and recorded that conversation to share with others? You’ll find beautiful examples of author interviews on the Story Seeds Podcast.
88. Students Publish Opinions on the New York Times. Nice.
89. Inspiration Boards are low-risk ways to get kids to display their work beside inspirational quotes, images, and artifacts. I share ideas for teachers here. Adapt them for your students.
90. Social Networks are beautiful spaces to invite and conduct peer review. Feedback is shared asynchronously and curated for as long as writers like. This makes it easier to return to, and it provides unlimited time for those who want to craft truly meaningful responses.
91. My Immigration Story. Go. Now.
92. Love and List: Challenge writers to show love to ten people each day. Then, invite them to document their work in a journal, on Instagram, or in another network. They can even create a hashtag and invite others to join their efforts.
93. Children’s Book Exchanges invite older writers to create stories that are especially about the topics that children who are younger than them have expressed an interest in. How might seventh graders write stories that matter to your fifth graders?
94. Forecasting is the practice wherein experts in any field use current research to make predictions about what might happen next. What expertise do your students possess? How might they write and publish forecasts for others who are interested in those things?
95. Appeals for social justice might be sent to the leaders who effect policies that matter.
96. Tripline. Maps are stories, and kids can make them here.
97. Voices of Youth by Unicef. Oh, my.
98. Speaking to the Board of Education about issues that matter, needs they have, and accomplishments that are worth celebrating is important and influential.
99. Happiness Projects develop self-awareness, and when writers publish around this work, it builds community and serves to inspire others, too.
100. Challenge Writers to Be the Change. Then, encourage them to document their efforts using any number of digital tools that invite a wider audience.
101. Remind writers that when they write for themselves, they ARE writing for an authentic audience–themselves. Journals, diaries, daybooks…they help us document our days, reflect on our experiences, and makes sense of our lives.
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