A frustration I've had for a long time with teaching writing is that my students do not write to an authentic audience. While I am a reader, in their eyes, I am "just" a teacher who has to read their writing.
Real-world writing almost always involves an authentic audience. There is a small percentage of the population which writes only for their own personal enjoyment. However, the vast majority of people only write when there is a reason and a person on the other end of the message.
I knew I needed to bring that to writing class, but I just didn't know how.
I am a part of an excellent PLC on Facebook called 2ndaryELA. This is a massively large group of English teachers from around the world. Over the summer, someone posted about wanting electronic pen pals. I knew this might solve the authenticity problem I was experiencing, but I wanted a paper-and-pencil relationship. I posted in the comments that I was looking for "old fashioned" pen pals, and I left it at that.
Mrs. Burrow from Texas was also looking for paper-and-pencil pen pals, and a match was made!
We have written to our new friends twice, and we have received mail once.
"Mail Call!" day was ELECTRIC in my classroom! A student said, "I didn't know an envelope could make me so happy."
Putting myself out there and being a bit vulnerable has made a huge difference for my students!