Friday, April 23, 2010

Harris Burdick - Who's there?

What else can you do with Harris Burdick? Let's talk about writing for an audience.

Start with a whole class discussion on the idea behind audience. Why would an author need to be mindful of his/her intended audience? And why (or how much) do we, as readers, need to be mindful of that audience as well?

Questioning for discussion
As for modeling, I might start with a simple picture or anecdote. How would students describe/relate the picture or anecdote if they were talking to their friends? How might they change that language for Mr. Principal? What about their parents? Their bosses? Younger siblings?

What about writing it? How would your language change from Facebook to a text to a (personal) journal entry to an online blog to a school essay?

You'll probably get that stubborn kid who insists he wouldn't change for anyone. Who cares? He uses the same language to talk to his friends as he does to his ma (and oh, doesn't it show?). But I think with proper thought about different audiences, students will be aware of their language. Breakout for Application: In fact, it might be a good idea to not only question students but also ask for a few to come up and give a little skit. Or even call for a quick breakout for pairs to create a dialogue based on a given audience - just two or three minutes.

Now that they've had a chance to think about the impact of audience, turn your attention back to writing. Let the pictures speak to the students and inspire a story. As before, you have two options:
  1. present all the pictures to students and let them each choose their own picture; or
  2. choose (or student vote) one picture for the class
Tell them that they will be using the picture (or choose their own) to develop a story, remembering to keep in mind who is their audience. As a class, you might first want to come up with a possible list of audiences. Now, for audience, you also have a couple options:
  1. Let students choose an audience. After writing, ask or select students to read aloud. Have classmates speculate on who the audience is meant to be, and how they knew that.
  2. Assign each student a different audience. After writing, ask/select students to read aloud. Have class talk about how they know it meets its audience.
In both the above examples, if your kids can handle constructive criticism (if you've established that trust in the community of your classroom), students could even give suggestions for how the story could better direct to its audience.

Ok, to be fair, you could really do this activity with any picture or set of pictures (in fact, one great resource for powerful pictures is Boston Globe's The Big Picture). But the Burdick ones are just so incredibly intriguing.

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