Learning is Change

The Academy Authentic

It is simple. The more that students write for themselves, the better writers they become. But, how do I get students to write for themselves? How can I create a real audience and a real purpose for writing in the classroom? Isn’t school-sponsored writing always inauthentic?



  • my students have infinite choice of topic
  • they write for a real audience of their peers
  • they can do it anytime they want
  • they feel fully supported by people who are genuinely interested in what they have to say

Then student writing becomes something that students want to be a part of. It becomes authentic.

Enter “The Academy Authentic.” The Academy Authentic is a writing piece of at least one lengthy paragraph/poem on any topic that means something to the student writing it. These writing pieces are all posted on individual blogs either during computer time in class or at home. These pieces are ones that the writer doesn’t mind receiving comments on (other classmates will be reading and responding to them). The pieces will not be the only things that we write on our blogs, but they may be the most engaging because they are student selected as the best and most authentic pieces. Therefore, these pieces are not simply done to get a grade, they are created in the purpose of being a better writer or to build upon what others have already contributed. They are well thought out and well revised. They are the way of starting a conversation, a debate, of interacting in the classroom that is not in the classroom. You will be given time for an Academy Authentic writing piece many weeks in the school year, but only a few will be “collected” (turned in on Google Documents) for a writing grade.

There are only three strict requirements I have for The Academy Authentic:

  1. You must write something you actually want to write. There is no excuse for being bored by your own writing. So, go and write something that you are interested in. Be creative, be realistic, be hopeless, be mindful, be overjoyed, be open, be wrong, be anything you want to be in your writing.
  2. You must tag/categorize their Academy Authentic with “academyauthentic” and at least one other tag. This way, the community of writers take control of how their words are presented. You are the ones categorizing your writing. You are the ones that dictate how your writing will be seen by the world.
  3. You must write something you are proud of. Do not tag anything with “academyauthentic” if it isn’t something you think is a cut above your average post. The Academy Authentic should be something that is both personal and universal, something that others will want to read. Everyone has written these types of posts, so don’t be shy about tagging them accordingly.

If you haven’t set up your Academy of Discovery Blog yet:

  • Please watch this tutorial and follow the steps that it outlines.

Before you start posting to your Academy of Discovery Blog, please check read the Discovery Online Code that all Academy Authentic bloggers must follow.

Access the Academy Authentic Blogs:


2006-2007 (Pre-Academy of Discovery):

The Process for Turning in your Academy Authentic

Revision and feedback are the most essential elements of the Academy Authentic. If you have not revised your piece and you have not already received feedback for it, then it is incomplete.

When I say revision, I am not simply talking about going through your piece and finding all of the punctuation and spelling mistakes and finishing them. Instead, I am talking about going through your piece and making sure that your intention as a writing matches exactly with the impression that your reader has. This means that you must be okay with deleting entire passages if they don’t mean what you want them to. It also means rewriting and reworking your writing until it is something that you are proud to turn in.

Now, you may not always be able to recognize parts of your writing that need to be changed or revised, but that is what the other students in the class are for. It is your responsibility on an Academy Authentic to give feedback to those who have asked for it, and here is the following way that they will do it.

  1. Copy over your Academy Authentic to your Academy of Discovery Documents at http://docs.academyofdiscovery.com. (Or, if you have already set up your docs account to post directly to your blog, you already have your Academy Authentic there.)
  2. Solicit feedback from at least four people by sharing your document with them.
  3. Receive comments (insert comments directly into the document by going to insert and then comment) for necessary revision changes.
  4. Address each comment either by revising your piece or by writing back to the other student within the comment box.
  5. Compare your piece to the rubric and do a self-assessment at the bottom of your piece.
  6. Share your finished piece with Mr. Wilkoff.

My Authentic Writing Ideas (These are more than just prompts. They are writing ideas that usually have a lot of relevance to middle school life. They also come with examples of the type of writing that the idea generally calls for, but you always have the ability to change these ideas to fit your own writing needs):

  • Brutal Honesty – You get to be brutally honest to anyone you like.
  • Fully Flippant – You can be pretty inappropriate with this one. If you don’t know what the word flippant means, dictionary.com may help.
  • Half-Ideas – Here are a bunch of half-baked ideas that may start you on the path of great writing, or they could be total dead end. You’ll have to take a look to find out.
  • Splayed on a Table – You get to be as open and honest as you can be in writing.
  • Stand in the Place Where You Live – You get to talk about the coolest/weirdest parts of the places you inhabit. Enjoy.
  • Writing Braille – You will write so that your words literally lift off of the screen. (Well, I guess not literally.)
  • Writing Crutches – We all have writing crutches. This exercise helps you to identify and get rid of some of them.
  • Character Driven Writing – There are a bunch of ideas here that you can use to come up with great characters.
  • Dialogue: Hidden Persuasion – Here you can explore all of the different ways that dialogue can be more than just words.
  • Idea Writing – This is a collection of different ways to start your great ideas.
  • Location, Location, Location – Sometimes the setting is the most important part of a story. This lets you explore that idea.
  • The Worst Possible Thing – Here you get to write out the worst thing that could happen given a certain situation.
  • Driving yourself to distraction – Distracted writing can be quite fun sometimes.
  • The Point of Performance – Sharing your writing is so integral to becoming a better writer. This may help you to get to the point where you can share out loud the things that you usually only write in your blog.
  • Recue an Idea – Here you will be looking back at one of your other writing pieces and seeing if there is an idea worth salvaging.
  • I’ve got Rhythm – See how well you can match words to rhythms. Great for starting yourself on a rhythmic poem.
  • Road Objects – Tell stories for the object that can’t tell stories for themselves.
  • The Toughest Thing to Talk About – Everyone has something that is hard for them to reveal. This is about showing our hidden stories.
  • Use it Wisely – Use random objects for random purposes. This is about making use of interesting details.
  • Chain Reaction – It can be really nice to think about what happens next.

Other People’s Authentic Writing Ideas:

  • There are some pretty crazy writing ideas at “Creative Writing Prompts.com” All you have to do is put your cursor on top of a number and the writing prompt should appear in a little box. This is a great site if you want to see a bunch of writing prompts at once.
  • These writing ideas are a little bit more official sounding. If you would like to practice writing to a prompt that is worded like a CSAP question but more interesting, then I would suggest “Writing Ideas 1.”
  • I really like asking big questions, and the students over at Ms. Di Chiara’s classroom have asked a bunch of them. Take a look at what other gifted students are thinking about and then start writing about the questions that they have raised.
  • If you are struggling with essay writing or you are simply looking for more help with writing for six different traits, go to “6 1 Trait Writing.” They have separated the prompts by category (narrative, persuasive, etc.). Some of them are really interesting, questions that you can really sink your writing teeth into.
  • Tired of actually having to pick the topic for your Academy Authentic? Let a writing idea generator select a good topic for you. All you have to do is press the button and one will magically appear over at WritingFix. (They also have some other idea generators that will be online shortly. Check back to see what new writing ideas they have.)
  • The Writer’s Digest has been around a long time, and for almost as long they have been providing real writers like you with new writing ideas. Each day there is a new one, and there is also an extensive archive of old ideas. There will definitely be something that you can grab ahold of here.
  • Toasted Cheese has a different take on the daily writing idea. They provide you with a phrase that is quite vivid and should get you going on creating a story or memoir piece. And how could you not love a place called Toasted Cheese.
  • There is another resource over at Toasted Cheese that is worth mentioning. It is called “A Pen in Each Hand.” These exercises are for pretty serious writers. If you would like to challenge yourself with something that would give your Academy Authentics a thematic weight, go check these out. You can also access the Daily Writing Ideas Archives from this link.
  • Lots of What-If’s, Why’s and How’s. Not all of these I would consider authentic, but quite a few of them are more than thought provoking.

Discovery Student Generated Authentic Writing Ideas:

  • The Constantly Growing List of story starters, provoking images, intriguing questions, and authentic prompts all thought up by students on the discovery team.


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