Friday, February 22, 2013

Publishing Digitally: Sharing With Audiences Who Care

In a couple of weeks my sixth graders will begin their own Writer's Journey as they construct an original story using The Hero's Journey as a template for their writing.
Before we embark on that journey, I wanted the students to take some time to look at their writer's voice and how their unique voice came into being.  The initial idea for this study came from the book Parallel Curriculum Units for Language Arts, Grades 6-12.

I introduced the idea of writer's voice with a discussion of identity.  We started our investigation of voice with the following question:
  • What is the relationship between identity and voice?
From that discussion we looked at how a writer's identity influences their voice.  Before we looked at the literature, I pre-assessed my students with the following questions:
What are the parts of your identity that are constructed?
What are the parts of your identity that are innate?
Give an example of how your identity might change with a change in contexts.

There was a lot of confusion in the beginning about what is innate and constructed about our identities.  To help them understand the difference between innate and constructed we redefined the idea as "What is the difference between inheriting something and constructing something?"

Their understanding of innate and constructed identities became much deeper and interesting as students thought about their lives and the parts of their identity they inherited from their families (genetics and status) and the unique experiences that built their identities over time (broken arms, trips, competitions, pets).  Some of my classes even began to discuss their religious upbringing with some believing that religion is innate and others saying that it is constructed.  

With an understanding of innate and constructed identities, we started analyzing literature, beginning with a beautiful poem by George Ella Lyon titled "Where I'm From" As we read the poem we talked the parts of Lyon's life that were constructed and the parts that were innate. 

I then asked students to identify the part's of their lives that were constructed and the parts that were innate.  They listed 25 - 30 events or parts of their lives that were either constructed or innate.  I shared a few of my own stories about my identity to help get the ball rolling and to help the students feel more comfortable sharing personal memories and experiences.

Then the classes evaluated their lists, selecting the 10 -12 moments, events or things they felt had the biggest impact on their identity.  From there, we used Lyon's poem as a template to share that unique identity and voice.  Students did not have to use Lyon's poem as a template and could explore their own poetic structure.  But for many it was a nice scaffold to help them organize their thinking.

I knew from the beginning that the students needed to be able to share their poems beyond stapled copies to the wall.  The power of these poems lies in the connection family members can make to these children's lives.  How wonderful would it be to hear your child share their work?  How often does a grandmother or uncle or parent get to hear a child reading their work?  Especially an original work in which the student explores their identity and the most important moments that have constructed who they are.

I created a class account on Audoboo is a free app that can be downloaded on most digital devices but also has an online recording feature.  This worked for my classroom because some of my students have their own devices that they can use to record but many students needed to use school provided technology. Audioboo allowed everyone to record their poems regardless of device.

After the poems were recorded, I was able to paste the embed code from their recording into my class web page built using Weebly 

After the poems were posted I sent out a group e-mail to my parents and received nothing but positive feedback about the poems and the recordings.  Here is a link to the page where the poems were posted:

I hope you are able to have your students record and share some of their own writing this year.  Audioboo was an easy and quick way to extend my students writing to real audiences who cared about their work.