The Social Nature of Writing for the Classroom: Voice, Audience, Response & Activities

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  • 0:01 Social Writing
  • 0:47 Audience
  • 2:37 Voice
  • 4:36 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

In spite of the image of writers as lone wolves who write in isolation, writing is a social activity. In this lesson, we'll look at how to teach the social aspects of writing, including voice and audience, as well as some classroom activities for these social aspects.

Social Writing

Luke is a literacy teacher, and he wants to teach his students how to be great writers. He knows that whether you're writing a novel or a Tweet, being able to express yourself in print is a great skill to have. He also knows that for both novel writers and Twitter users writing is a social activity; that is, people do not write in a vacuum. They write in order to communicate with others.

But, Luke isn't always sure how to explain this to his students, or how to help them become better at the social aspect of writing. How can he help his students to learn to communicate with their writing? To help Luke out, let's look at the social nature of writing, including voice and audience, as well as some activities Luke can do to help students learn about both of them.

Audience

Imagine that you're going to write an email. You sit down at your computer and type out the content of the email, but you don't put anyone's email address in the 'To' line. You've written an email, but it's not going out to anyone. As Luke knows, writing is about communication. Without sending your email to someone, it isn't really complete, and without taking into consideration who you're writing to, a piece of writing isn't complete, either.

The audience of a piece is the intended reader. Sometimes, this is a real, flesh-and-blood person. When Luke composes an email to his principal, he knows exactly who his intended reader is. But sometimes, the audience of a piece is more of a general group of people. For example, when a novelist writes a book that's meant to appeal to teenage girls, the writer's audience is teenage girls. Others may read and love the book, but the main audience is made up of teenage girls.

Luke wants his students to understand audience, and how it impacts writing. For example, if he writes an email to his boss, the principal of his school, he'll write in a very different way than if he's writing an email to his best friend! To help his students understand audience and the role it plays in writing, Luke can have his students practice writing different pieces to different audiences. He can, for example, have his students write an email to the principal and then to their best friends. Just like Luke's email, his students' emails will be very different!

Another great way to get students to understand audience is to pair them up and have them write to each other. If a student is writing a short story, for example, Luke can have them write the short story with one of their classmates in mind. Knowing that their partner will be reading their short story can help them think about how best to communicate what they want to say.

Voice

Luke got an interesting note in his mailbox the other day. It was from the parents of his most misbehaving student. The note thanked Luke for giving the student detention. Luke wasn't sure what to make of the note. Were the parents being sarcastic and expressing their anger that their son got detention? Or, were they really happy that Luke was disciplining their son and trying to teach him right and wrong?

Voice is the tone of a piece, and it can be tricky. If the parents were standing in front of Luke, he could read their body language and tone of voice to figure out if they were happy or angry that he gave their son detention. But, on the paper, sometimes things can get confusing. Like audience, Luke wants his students to master voice in writing. That way, no one will ever read their note and wonder, 'What does she mean?' But, how can Luke help his students learn voice?

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