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Among the many questions which have dogged, fascinated and bewildered educators is: “What motivates students to write?” There is no silver bullet. There is no all-encompassing answer. Even so, let us wade into the swamp of possibilities.

One source of motivation to consider is that of the writer’s audience. When writers write, their work is consciously and unconsciously influenced by their audience. Writer’s Block is often a symptom of sitting at your desk with that imaginary editor peering over your shoulder and commenting on every word that comes out of your creaking keyboard.

In the traditional classroom setting, the intended audience for a writer is the teacher who evaluates the writing and often gives a grade. This select audience of one does prove motivating for some young writers.

But what about the others? What of those reluctant writers who don’t respond to the carrot of good grades, or a gold star on their paper, or a pat on the proverbial back from their teacher?

To motivate students who are unmotivated in writing “school assignments,” it’s time to look at considering a writer’s audience in the school setting. One strategy to motivate these reluctant writers is to broaden their audience from the lone teacher to an audience of peers.

Rather than writing to please the teacher or get that good grade, the student responds to the knowledge his or her work will be read by a wider audience of peers. Providing an outlet where writing can be shared respectfully among peers often proves to be a powerful source of motivation for the otherwise uninterested writer.

To provide a forum for the sharing of student writing, the designers of COW(Creative Online Writing) at Alieo Games have created a feature called theClass Bookshelf. Writers are given an opportunity to share their writing with their peers on a class bookshelf monitored by the teacher. In addition, if teachers wish to create a printed class anthology, the stories are easily downloaded and printed.

With no simple one-size-fits-all solution for motivating young writers, teachers must explore a wide variety of approaches to find those key elements which get each particular individual fired up about writing. So, for starters, think about the audience.