On Thursday, I got to spend a lovely day buried in the writing of children. I sat in a room with two of my favorite colleagues and we read stacks of stories written by students and submitted by their teachers for entry into our school's Young Authors contest. We read several "never-ending-stories" with page after page of nothing but dialogue. There were a couple poetry anthologies, a few nonfiction pieces, and some memoirs. Many of the kids took risks which appealed to me. I also appreciated thoughtful and creative presentation. But a piece with voice always stuck out. Even though we used a rubric as we read and commented on each piece, our own personal preferences colored our decisions about the winning entries.
I'm not sure how I feel about writing contests. Is there any evidence that it encourages young authors? Do competitions motivate students to write more? Do writing contests promote writing instruction? What do you think?
What is your opinion on writing contests?