The Benefits of Writing for an Audience

Knowing their writing has an audience besides their teacher helps motivate students to do their very best work.

June 28, 2024
lechatnoir / iStock

Why does student writing often feel uninspired or seem to lack purpose? For me, the absence of a clearly identified relevant audience is a prime factor. Without that, I, as the teacher, become the de facto audience. When teachers are the audience, there’s a disconnect because the topics are often meant for someone else. When there’s an outside audience with a vested interest in the topic, you don’t have this problem.

Having an outside audience also causes students to push themselves to create quality products, including doing rounds of revision based on author’s craft skills. Consider who is the best audience for the following topics, the teacher or someone else: community and/or social issues, travel locations, global warming, or go-to restaurants.

Students need an authentic audience beyond the school to generate purpose, value, and engagement. Audiences such as business owners, community members, government officials, and heads of local organizations open many possibilities for students to shape communication that is creative and personalized to the target’s interests.

Teaching author’s craft skills becomes more engaging and relevant to students when given a specific audience. The focus provides opportunities for reflecting and experimenting with different writing skills. Each audience needs the communication to be personalized to connect with them and draw them in.

Details and Information

How we shape information and the types of details shared should be specific to the audience. If we want to be heard, we need to craft writing that connects with the audience’s experiences. The topic of water conservation that addresses cost savings would appeal to business owners, whereas alternative solutions for plants and lawns may be more appealing to homeowners who maintain landscaping.

Word Choice

Authors choose words that shape the voice they want their audience to hear, such as formal, informal, comical, casual, or angry. The use of imagery can influence what we communicate in many ways. Choose the word that shapes the meaning and intent for the message. Here is an example regarding eating out via two sentences:

  • Eating out is an experience full of sweet and savory exploration or comfort food for your soul.
  • Eating out means overpriced food, whereas lovingly home-cooked meals can more easily fill your soul.

Many writing skills can be explored from a lens of how best the audience would react based on our editing choices. Then, pick a different audience and renew the rich conversation to make changes to the draft. Help students become thoughtful and insightful in their writing through exploring how to shape writing that engages their target audience.

Selecting an Audience

There are many audiences to choose from for any topic. The first decision is to select either an audience based on a scenario or an actual audience.

Scenario-based, or pretend, audiences allow for establishing a created story line. The teacher can set the parameters for the author without the logistics of managing interactions with people and organizations outside of the school. Scenarios are great for getting started and experimenting with using community audiences. They provide students with a focus for making craft decisions. The teacher can pose as the target audience or be the liaison with the pretend audience, providing information to aid students in their work on personalizing drafts.

Final work should be made public by publishing on the classroom website and/or presenting student work to family members and staff who pose as the audience. A good scenario experience is one step away from writing for an actual experience with real people and organizations around the same topics.

Conversely, students may identify an actual audience. Students’ families can be a rich source for finding authentic audiences through their contacts in the community. They can lead you to people who want to give back and support the growth of the next generation.

The ask can be simple: Be the receiver of what the students compose or design. Possibly, give feedback during the writing or design process. Or, be a judge on a panel that is selecting writing to be published or showcased in the audience’s workplace. The time commitment by the audience is low, yet the results can be impactful to the growth of your writers.

Using Publishing to Elevate Student Motivation

Finally, publishing student work should be a commitment. When students know their work is going to be seen by an authentic audience outside of school, that raises the call to action for them to do their best work. What they compose will reflect on themselves and their teacher. These reasons can motivate many writers to listen to their teachers’ coaching to produce an even better product.

To best maximize the impact, any student work that meets the minimum requirements for quality gets published. If there is a panel that is choosing the “best” pieces to be showcased at the business or organization, then the remaining work is published on the classroom or school website and/or along the school walls.

In some cases, students compose articles or proposals that are sent to an organization that reviews such submissions for publication. In these experiences, that act of students submitting their work to the organization should be celebrated as a publication because it’s going to be viewed by an outside audience.

When students work toward and send their writing to an authentic audience, especially beyond the school, their voice is honored. What they have to communicate contributes to the adult world. Because what they have to say matters, author’s craft skills become more important to develop and practice in order to maximize what student writers wish to express. It’s a win-win for curriculum and student life skills.

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  • Literacy
  • Community Partnerships
  • 6-8 Middle School
  • 9-12 High School

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