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Abstract

Across theory, research, and learning standards, there is a clear call for authentic writing experiences to increase achievement and engagement. According to theories of authenticity that stress its subjective nature, a writing task is authentic when a student perceives it as relevant to the real world—as they define the real world. Moreover, there is a need for authentic writing in classrooms that connects to increased student engagement, but the reality of writing instruction across schools in the United States remains rote and teacher-centered. These narrowed views and perspectives are further exacerbated when it comes to teaching African American youth in classrooms. Using qualitative interview data involving 12 African American students in the middle grades, the researchers examined the following questions: 1) How do African American adolescents describe their classroom writing experiences? 2) What factors do African American adolescents desire related to authenticity for writing instruction? Researchers found 24 present, desired and undesired practices expressed by participants when describing their classroom writing experiences. In this article, eight of the most prevalent factors (i.e., expression, personal connections, sharing with peers, sharing with teachers, structured writing, student and teacher choice of topics, and writing for impact) are illustrated to understand how these variables contributed to authentic writing experiences. Findings from this study suggest that more research is needed within classrooms that attempt to increase the perceived authenticity of writing tasks among African American youth.