School going children typically write something in their own words for a homework assignment or in a school test. The purpose is to be read by a teacher who reads and grades. A lot rides on that grade. A dip would mean advise from different ends. But writing in the real world is a means of communication and not just a way of getting grades. Writing in the real world could to be express gratitude, happiness, to inform or even to persuade the reader as the case may be. This requires multiple skills in writing which are a work in progress through out school. Providing opportunities to write for a world outside helps make a difference.
One of the batches at the Young Readers' Club has been engrossed in the book The Unteachables by Gordon Korman. We have been enjoying the book so much that we felt compelled to reach out to the author and let him know. To our pleasant surprise, the author responded with a video message. It was planned as a surprise and the children had no idea what surprise was in store.
A regular Thursday evening. The group settled down ready to find out what happens next in the book and to see if any of their theories turn out to be right. The video message is played.
There is pin drop silence. The video ends and...
"How did he know that we are reading the book?"
"Ma'am must have told him!"
"He addressed us. He said the Young Readers' Club, Talking Circles!"
"I can't believe this!"
"This is so cool!"
"What can we do to respond? We have to respond!"
"I have an idea. Recently for my aunt's birthday, we all decided to write small messages and compile it. Why don't we do something similar?"
As the facilitator, this came as a surprise as many in the group don't particularly enjoy writing but here they are willingly raising their hands to write a note to the author. What changed?
The fact that the author, Gordon Korman, took them seriously and sent a video message had a huge impact on them. They simply had to reciprocate the gesture.
Pens came out immediately. Messages written and sent to me. My assigned job was to compile and send the messages to the author. I carried out my assigned task with utmost diligence.
Writing with a purpose, with a target audience in mind- "Whom are you writing to?"
Different readers chose different approaches. Some chose to start with how happy and flabbergasted they were when they watched the video message. Others chose to talk about specific characters that they liked in the book about the story itself. One common element across the messages was that many of the children did not mention the book's name. They assumed that anyone reading their message would know what book they are talking about. The question is how their message by itself can convey which book they are referring to in the message. Could this be a tendency that arises because of writing answers to questions in test papers? An assumption that comes about from the thinking that the teacher knows the question and hence will understand the reference in the answer. But does it work that way in the real world? 10-12 years of writing in school and children write the same way without learning to see the reader's perspective ever.
Could this be a tendency that arises because of writing answers to questions in test papers? An assumption that comes about from the thinking that the teacher knows the question and hence will understand the reference in the answer. But does it work that way in the real world? 10-12 years of writing in school and children write the same way without learning to see the reader's perspective ever.
Providing opportunities such as this one where the children chose to write a note to the author involved a bit of thinking. They were writing to someone whose writing that they have enjoyed and seen once on a video. Some wrote without bother about punctuations and spellings, while some others took care to make sure they had used the right words and adhered to grammar. The latter group clearly had the reader in mind. While the former group wrote away in excitement.
Curriculums are filled with deadlines making it difficult for teachers to make time for these activities and provide room for conversations about writing and editing keeping the reader in mind. These needn't be structured activities per se and can be planned around the curriculums even. They key is to keep an eye out for such opportunities.
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Both weekday and weekend batches are available at the Young Readers' Club for the 8-12 age group.
NEW! Writing programs for the 8-12 age group- Young Writers' Club Jr.
The Young Writers' Club program for the 13-15 age group offers a weekly platform to read and discuss curated articles from the news, observe writing approaches and practise one's writing skills.
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