In Literacy this week, we have focused on the importance of knowing your audience when writing. Whilst writing instructions, the kids needed to think carefully about their style, content, vocabulary and design organisation, to pitch it correctly for their intended audience. This began with an activity writing instructions for how to shop in the supermarket; one version for 5 year olds, for teenagers and then for then for the elderly. This led to some interesting variations. In the version for the elderly, some kids wrote things like ‘put your rectangle card in the computer box with numbers on it’, written in a font so large they could fit about six words on a page. We went on to make instructions on how to be a catwalk model, focusing on posture, arms, facial expression, foot placement and posing. It was among the most hilarious sets of lessons, and it perfectly served the purpose of structuring the kids writing into systematic steps, and encouraged imperative verbs. And the teachers and kids all did a catwalk, naturally.
Anyway, this got me to be thinking about my audience for this here little bloggyblog. Three things recently have forced me to think hard about my audience.
1. One of my Year 5 pupils inexplicably reads my blog. He reads each post, and named my most recent three. I told him I could not believe he found it interesting. He disagreed. He will probably have read this paragraph before you, and will be beaming about it. ‘Mr Soundbox’, yes I am referring to you.
2. I met up with a great educationalist who was presenting at a conference up North about british values. He asked to meet because the headteacher of one of the schools up there had read my blogs about the Britishness course I ran.
3. Not unlike Mr Soundbox, my Mum also reads my blog and does so religiously.
It is useful to have your audience in mind when writing, but with an audience so diverse and widely dispersed, it forces you to ask certain questions of yourself as a writer. For one thing, it clarifies that I am not some ‘floating voice’ on the inter webs – my writing is part of the same identity and socialisation as the real life day to day me. My blogs are part of the same toolkit as my coffee, my lesson plans and my well worn teacher frown.
It makes me write more sensitively to know that the children I am talking about could well read the blog. It encourages me to not deviate too much from he truth, and it limits me when I might otherwise have exaggerated. I can sit in a coffee shop and write my pithy anecdotes, but if there is a grain of untruth in there, I could well have my kids pulling me up for being a liar liar pants on fire on Monday.
The most liberating thing about knowing your audience could contain friends, strangers, sympathisers, opponents, colleagues, future colleagues, employers, kids, parents and whoever else is that it forces you to be yourself. I can’t stick a disclaimer on a post and say ‘This post is not to be read by people who love E.D. Hirsch’ or ‘This post is only for people who love E.D. Hirsch’. Once I click post, the audience is anyone who has ever or will ever choose to look at the post. As such, I can’t be pitching myself differently to differently imagined audiences.
Therefore, I follow some general principles.
1) Don’t use language so fruity that it would get me in trouble if I said it in my classroom.
2) Don’t write anything about a kid, even though anonymised, if I would not be happy for them to read it.
3) Don’t say anything that would horrify the parents – either the parents of the kids I teach, or even my own Mummy, sat there on the sofa with her tablet.
4) Do write about things you are happy to talk about and actually care about.
5) Do try to write about things that others don’t write about, or at least write about them differently.
6) Do write only when you have something to say, rather than churning out things that aren’t worth the time of the Faceless Haggle that may be reading my words.