The Evolving Nature of Writing

Microsoft Clipart Retrieved June 10, 2013

My Grade one class has been writing letters back and forth with their Grade 7/8 partners at the middle school over the course of the year.  What impressed me was that with each letter, the quality of their writing was their personal best up to that point in time.  “In fact, in looking at all this composing, we might say that one of the biggest changes is the role of audience: writers are everywhere, yes, but so too are audiences,…” (Yancey, 2009, p. 5).  Having an authentic audience was essential to the writing.

One of the grade one outcomes is for students to be able to develop printing skills.  So where does technology fit in?  “Thus, in evaluating what it takes to teach 21st century literacies, NCTE poll respondents tended to look beyond technology applications and see that success is found in better connecting classroom work to real-world situations that students will encounter across a lifetime.” (NCTE, 2009, p.1).  As I struggle to teach the broad spectrum of literacies my student need, I am comforted by the fact that it is about all the ways we communicate, not just the digital aspects.  “And at best, we can begin to make real progress toward changing the school writing experience to better prepare students for a future that is sure to include ever-more complex tools and purposes for writing.” (NCTE, 2009, p.4).  At the grade one level, using a pencil can be complex!

”What everyone seems to agree upon, however, is that the ability to communicate clearly and understand complex messages is more important than ever to students’ future success.”  (NCTE, 2009, p.1).  My students contributed to a community blog set up by the town of Canmore as a forum for citizens to contribute their ideas for converting the old pool space.  An example of a comment posted by my grade one class is from group #4:

“I think the gym would be a good idea because the little kids and the Grandma’s and Grandpa’s could watch the babies upstairs and the big kids (and the teenagers too) could do the foam pit. But I don’t think the movie theatre would be a good idea because it is not healthy. I think maybe there could be a small trampoline. There should be a baby gym and exercise room for Grandma’s and Grandpa’s.” (2013).

As I read and think about writing in the 21st century and reflect on what my students are learning in Grade One, I am conscious of the fact that the definition of writing is changing.  Jason Ohler says “value reading and writing now more than ever.”  (2009, para. 13).  The essential takeaway for me is the quality of the message that is being passed on.


Group #4, (2013 April 12).  Engage Canmore.  Retrieved from

National Council of Teachers of English (2009). Writing between the lines and everywhere else. Retrieved from

Ohler, J. (2009) Orchestrating the media collage. Retrieved from

Yancey, K. (2009). A call to support 21st century writing. Retrieved from


One thought on “The Evolving Nature of Writing

  1. Hi Debbie,
    Another great post!
    I think that you highlight very important points in your post. I had a similar experience when my fourth grade students created and shared fictional stories with seventh graders. I believe it was an enriching experience for every learner and yes “Having an authentic audience was essential to the writing” as pointed out by you. My learners wanted to make extra efforts and looked forward to feedbacks to improvise their work. As I continue to understand literacy in the twenty first century, a question that niggles at my mind is how does the idea of writing for an ‘authentic audience’ differ for young people in the social networking realm as sometimes the lines between real and virtual worlds seems to blur. How dependent is the freedom of expression on their audience, as feedback becomes an important criterion for collaborative work? Jenkins (2004, para. 10) highlights the importance of informal setups or ‘affinity spaces’ by posing the question, “Will they [young writers] develop their craft more quickly-and develop a critical vocabulary for thinking about storytelling?” As emerging media opens up many more way for expressing and interpreting writing, how important is critical vocabulary? In explaining the effectiveness of digital communication networks, Mason (2011, twenty point common thread session, para.22) posits the “The internet is not key here – it is for example the things people swap by text message, the music they swap with each other etc: the hidden meanings in graffiti, street art etc…” Language has been always used to generate meaning but the vastness of its implication cannot be fully determined. Ipri (2010, p.533) explains transliteracy with a broader view and states, “What is important is not just transferring information but creating an information narrative that evolves over time and adds value.” Perhaps, the sense of writing for an ‘authentic’ audience has more relevance for young people than ever before, constantly adding value to learning.


    Ipri, T. (2010). Introducing transliteracy. College & Research Libraries News, 71(10), 532-567. Retrieved from

    Jenkins, H., (2004). Why heather can write. Retrieved from:

    Mason, P. (2011) Twenty reasons it’s kicking off everywhere. Retrieved from:<

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