The Magic of Sharing Writing
I stood in front of the classroom, story in hand, and began to read. The story wasn’t written by an author far away but one written by my own hand. And as the plot unfolded, I saw rare magic. I saw something I would never forget. In that noisy classroom of seventh graders, I saw my peers listening: eyes lit up, expressions changed, and laughter followed.
They empathized because of my words.
I had never before held the attention of a room because of what I had written.
I wanted more.
However, more would not come—not from the classroom.
The Problem with Most Writing Assignments
I, like many students, invested hours into writing – yet outside of group presentations only one teacher gave me a platform to share my work. Years later, I found myself making a career as a writing tutor, and since this time, I have become increasingly convinced that assigning writing without an outlet to share it implicitly teaches students to devalue not only their own work but also writing in general.
Imagine it in other contexts. Would it be strange if a YouTuber carefully planned, edited, revised, and sought feedback on a video only to leave it forever unpublished on his hard drive? What if he did this five days a week for twelve years and at the end of the year deleted or permanently archived all his work? He would question the wisdom of using his time in this way, he would almost certainly lose motivation, but more than this, the learning process would be incomplete because for a YouTuber to make the best content he needs to see the effect of his published work.
Writing is no different.
When we teach writing without publishing, we teach a shadow of the real thing, stripped of its context, meaning, and opportunity.
Thus, students misunderstand the importance of writing because the implicit lesson taught from submitting a writing assignment, receiving a grade, and archiving it into a folder, is that it is unimportant.
The truth is that writing is not something done to merely meet a deadline or fulfil the demands of an exam schedule. If we aim to teach writing in its true form, our students’ work should be destined for the world, not the recycling bin.
The Benefits of Student Publishing
Additionally, publishing not only allows learners to understand the importance of writing but also leads them to better learning outcomes. There is too much research on this topic to go into depth, but here is a short list of some of the benefits created by student publishing:
- It is a powerful motivator, even for learners who do not consider themselves writers;
- It helps students set higher goals;
- It increases confidence;
- It tends to bring out the very best writing and revision;
- It makes the writing process more memorable;
- It increases students’ efforts in the revision process;
- It helps develop a learner’s sense of audience;
- It helps develop the element of voice;
- And among other benefits, it introduces students to the world of authorship.
Publishing to One’s Peers
In his book Influence, Psychologist and Researcher Robert Cialdini, provides further perspective on the power of student publishing when he discusses “peersuasion”. Peersuasion, not persuasion, refers to the powerful influence that those like us have on our behavior. In writing, this means that a peer who shares her work on a classroom blog or bulletin board typically has a more powerful impact on a fellow student than a teacher providing a sample writing. Thus, one of the most important forms of student publishing involves writing for an audience of peers.
I have seen this in my own practice when I replaced anonymous sample writings with those produced by my own students. My students publish on my blog and then other students read what they have written within my lessons.
As my students read the work of others within their grade, they are inspired and excited to produce their own best work for publication. Additionally, because they are writing to publish their work, they typically plan, draft, and revise more thoughtfully as the process of writing is begun with an audience in mind.
Some students are intimidated by the potential rejection they might face when submitting their work for publication. To address this, I recommend encouraging students to carefully plan and revise their work before submission as well as emphasizing personal growth over competition. This reduces stress, puts the emphasis on the learning process, and allows students to build confidence.
Where Can Students Publish their Writing?
There are many places students can publish their work. For instance, at Good English Tutors, we accept publications from students in grades 1-12, and we welcome students outside of our tutoring programs to submit their writings on our Publishing Page. We also help interested students submit their writings to publications and contests outside of our organization, such as those listed in our data table.
As a teacher, you could also create your own blog or bulletin board for students to share their writing with peers in a moderated and safe environment.
Readers interested in the benefits of student publishing will find summaries of the research literature on Chris Weber’s website, publishingstudents.com.
Readers interested in exploring the idea of Peersuasion will find a detailed explanation in Dr. Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence, a valuable resource for parents and educators alike.
The work of our student authors can be read here: Student Authors.