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Who’s Your Audience?

by School's Out Washington | | Posted under Afterschool and Summer News, STEM

by Stephanie Lingwood, Girl Scouts of Western Washington

This question is one of the fundamental questions you ask when you create a youth program. Who are your kids? What is their experience? What are their needs, their interests, their environment? The answers to these questions help you decide whether you need to do career exploration, homework help, or extended investigations of dinosaurs.

Is your writing style appropriate for the education level of your readers (or listeners)?

The same holds for good writing. Your audience shapes your approach, language, tone, and the overall structure of your end product. Are you writing for an academic audience, which means complex sentence structure and five-syllable-word vocabulary? Or are you writing something that you hope your afterschool colleagues will read in their spare time, which means that a simpler writing style (complete with dino references) is appropriate?

In this meeting of the fellowship, we finally got to dive into those questions and start thinking about the ultimate readers of…whatever it is that we’ll be writing. Up until now, the fellowship has been more internally focused. We’ve observed and analyzed our own programs, identified questions we’re interested in, and started gathering data. The data has taken many forms, from kids’ handwritten notecards to extended interviews with afterschool program staff. We’ve reflected on how we do our jobs, and made changes to our work to see what will happen.

Now we begin our transition to producing our final product. Our exploration today of one particular outlet for our writing –  the Afterschool Matters journal – let us see different styles and approaches we could use in writing an article. We got into discussions about things like tone, reading level, graphs, and what the reader might be expected to do with the information. With only two months left (!) until our Big, Huge Writing Retreat (emphasis and title from yours truly), these discussions will help us as we begin to create our final products.

[This article is 6th in a series on the STEM Afterschool Matters Fellowship, an intensive research project for afterschool providers and school teachers.]

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