Writing for Authentic Audiences #2: Class Anthology

This is the second post in a series about giving student writers opportunities to write for authentic audiences and purposes. In the last post I discussed the Open Mic strategy I learned from the South Coast Writing Project. In this post I’ll give you two ways to update the tried and true class anthology assignment.

What is a Class Anthology? A class anthology is simply a compilation of student work, published together. It might be a particular assignment—maybe research on a particular topic, or a collection of persuasive letters—or it might be a collection of best work from a semester or year of study. Another option is  a school anthology where interested writers submit their best pieces to a panel of teachers, parents, and students who chose the best for publication.

Why Publish Class Anthologies?

  1. Community: The most important reason for collecting student work together is the way it reinforces our classroom as a community of writers. We want students to feel like our classroom is a supportive place for writers to explore the craft together. Anthologizing student work sends the message that we are all writers. We write together. We support each other. We celebrate successes together.
  2. Transparency: Families and other interested parties, like administrators, counselors, and other teachers, can see what is happening in class. This is an easy way for students to share what they are doing with their parents. Many principals love having a copy of the anthology to show school visitors. Anthologies help extend the classroom out into the school community.
  3. Motivation: Students are proud of the work that appears in the anthology and they enjoy reading their peers’ work. When young writers know someone other than the teacher is reading their writing, they try harder. Recently, my students had to edit narratives to turn in for a grade. They did a lackluster job. Next, I asked them to edit for our class iBook. Suddenly, the task became much more important. Without my prompting, students made drastic improvements to their drafts and even asked classmates to look over what they changed before turning it the piece back in to me.

What Is the Best Way Publish Class Anthologies?

OK, you’ve decided to publish a class anthology. Now, you need to decide the best way to get it done. First, do you want to go print or digital (or both)? Read on for some tips on each method.

Print Use the school copy machine to make stapled packets. Yes, this is obvious, but it’s also easy, particularly for classrooms without much access to technology. Just take clean copies of your students’ work, make a table of contents, and find a student to create some artwork. You might have to spend more time than you want next to the copy machine, but, trust me, students will like the results.

Some teachers bind paper anthologies with one of those old-fashioned spiral binding machines (here’s a teacher blog explaining how to use one: Keeping It Together With a Classroom Binding Machine).  If you try that strategy, have a book binding day, so you don’t have to personally spend hours over the weekend doing it yourself. To make the day run smoothly, provide each student with copies of his or her work. Have the students place their copies on top of their otherwise cleared desks. Create an assembly line where students take a copy of each piece of writing before stopping at the binding machine at the end of the line.

Digital There are many ways to publish student work online. It depends on the technology you have available in your class and the time you have to spend on the project. I’ve tried a few tools, including Kidblog, Google Sites, iBooks, and Google Slides. I recommend playing around with a few different tools until you find the one that works for your class. My next two blog posts outline the details for the two I’ve settled on recently: Google Slides and iBooks.

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