I have spent a great deal of time over the last year talking about Authentic Writing in the classroom. I have written a few papers on this subject, but I am most interested in the practical application of this idea. I am in the process of creating a Lesson Plan Wiki for next year, and I realized that I needed to define my terms. So under the Terminology Dictionary is my definition of Authentic Writing. I will continue to work on it, but it I think that it captures quite well what I have been talking about for so long.
Authentic Writing (aka Real Writing)
Authentic Writing at its most basic is writing that has a real audience and a real purpose.
Now to define the two new terms I have just created. A “real audience” is one that is not only the teacher. The teacher and the self can be part of a real audience, but rarely do they make up it entirely. A real audience is made up of people who are genuinly interested in the writing for what it has to say not because they are forced to be interested. A real audience is one that is likely to listen to, comment on, or attach value to a piece of student writing. Equally likely for a real audience is the posibility of using the writing to create something new. Finally, a real audience is one that does not require perfection to find importance.
A “real purpose” is one that has some intrinsic value to the writer. Getting better at writing can be a real purpose, but it is not (and should not be) the only one. A real purpose is determined by the context of a student’s life. It is made up of what the student wants to do or would benefit from doing (making a grocery list, writing a passionate eulogy, getting out some teenage angst) rather than what he/she has to do. Writing with a real purpose is a social act; it is connected to the self and to others without any educational manuvers or imagination on the part of the writer (i.e. Write a letter to your congressperson about spending a million dollars).
To further illistrate the point of Authentic Writing, here is a chart of what constitutes Inauthentic Writing versus its Authentic counterparts:
Authentic Writing Inauthentic Writing A grocery list A CSAP prompt A blog post A research paper on a teacher-selected topic An intelectual passion paper A form poem that is only seen by the teacher Student-selected creative non-fiction An essay that does not relate to the student or the current curriculum