In the Middle School* sections of HIP writing, recent writing prompts have asked students to consider their audience: how does who we are writing for affect the way we write? How can we practice flexibility in the language and tone of our writing to make our pieces appeal to different audiences? In the week leading up to the winter break, seventh and eighth grade students were able to take their thoughts about audience out of the conceptual and face a real audience of their peers at a HIP (High Intensity Practice) “open mic” reading in the seventh grade commons.

Students fill the seventh grade commons in preparation for the "open mic."

Students fill the seventh grade commons in preparation for the “open mic.”

HIP writing facilitators selected several students from their sections to read recent pieces on the theme of the end of 2015 and the start of the new year. These pieces included letters to parents summarizing experiences of the past year, end-of-the-year poems and Letterman-style “Top Ten Lists” on the top ten reasons students are glad 2015 is over.

Given all the hard work students had been putting into writing for different audiences, it was no surprise their pieces were big hits among their fellow students, appealing as they did to many of their shared interests and concerns: school lunches, summer break, the upcoming election and their teachers’ preoccupation with maintaining a “growth mindset.” Writing ranged from the humorous to the reflective, from expressions of gratitude to lists of things that were annoying in 2015. Above all, these pieces stood as examples of the many different ways students can choose to approach a HIP writing prompt, as well as an opportunity for students to support and enjoy each other’s work.

The concept of "an audience" becomes a reality as students perform their work.

The concept of “an audience” becomes a reality as students perform their work.

One of the founding goals of the HIP writing program, beyond cultivating strong writing skills through sustained practice, is promoting the appreciation of good writing and creating a community where strong writing is shared and celebrated. Sometimes that celebration takes the form of facilitators reading a short story aloud to their HIP group or bringing in a favorite book to share an excerpt, and sometimes, as it did at the 7–8 grade reading, it means spotlighting student work for a delighted audience of peers.

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The “open mic” promoted the idea of community as well as an appreciation of each other’s work.

*Please note that beginning in the 2016–17 school year, Avenues moved from a four-division school structure with an Early Learning Center (N–Pre-K), Lower School, (K–4), Middle School (5–8) and Upper School (9–12) to a three-division structure with an Early Learning Center (N–K), Lower Division (1–5) and Upper Division (6–12). The Upper Division is further divided into two programs—the middle grades program (6–8) and the upper grades program (9–12).