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A Teacher's Guide to
Getting Students' Work Published

By Glori Chaika

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Glori Chaika, an English teacher, shares tips for getting student-writing published. Chaika's students at Slidell (Louisiana) Junior High School are among the most-published kids in the United States.

Do your students love to write? Do you feel the quality is really excellent? Perhaps publishable? If so, there are steps a teacher can take to increase the chances that her students' work WILL be published.

STEP 1: APPEARANCES COUNT.
A teacher can help students get work accepted for publication by following a few simple steps. First, write a cover letter on the board. Your students can copy the sample cover letter or write their own, but seeing the sample will provide them with some guidance. The cover letter could be as simple as a statement attesting to the fact that the work is the child's original work and inquiring if the poem or story might be of interest to the people who read the magazine. In their submission packet students should also include the following information: their name, age or grade, address and phone number, school, school address and phone, principal's name, contact at school, and a statement signed by both the child and a parent or guardian attesting to the fact that this is the child's original work. The teacher could provide an information sheet for each child to fill out. Place the poem or story on top of the information sheet and the cover letter on top of that. It would be nice if all three were typed. The child should neatly fold these in thirds, and place them in a business-sized envelope, add a self-addressed stamped envelope, and the submission is ready to go in the mail. Publishing companies receive many submissions throughout the year. A sloppy submission may not get the same attention as one that shows effort to put together gets. Appearances do count.

STEP 2: WHEN TO SUBMIT.
When material is submitted makes a difference. I believe the earlier in the school year material is submitted to a magazine, the greater the chance it will be accepted for publication. My reasoning is that by the time spring comes, children from many schools have an arsenal of material they can and do submit to magazines, so the later in the school year it is, the greater is the competition for a poem or story to be accepted by a magazine. An ideal time to submit material is at the very beginning of the school year. A student can submit something he or she wrote at the end of the school year, just wait until the start of the next school year to submit it.

STEP 3: KNOW THE RULES.
If a magazine has rules for submissions, students should follow them. Submission guidelines are frequently printed in magazines. If a teacher does not have copies of the different magazines, he or she could write for the guidelines. If a magazine takes the time to create guidelines for the material they accept, students should take the time to follow them.

STEP 4: THE NUMBER COUNT.
Students should not submit many poems or stories in the same envelope. Publishers seem to prefer a maximum of three items submitted at one time. If a student has more quality items than that to submit, a child could wait a week or so, and then submit the extra material. The child could send it in a different envelope with another cover letter, etc. Another option, of course, is to submit the extra material to a different publisher.

STEP 5: SELECTING THE TOPIC.
Sometimes magazines are more willing to accept material on unusual themes than on more mundane ones. A poem about rainbows, for example, has to be pretty wonderful in order to get accepted for publication in a magazine. On the other hand, a poem written by a student about the dangers of smoking, drinking, or doing drugs, one that presents themes publishers might want to present, might stand a greater chance of being printed. Unless students know the topic about which they want to write, I ask them to brainstorm choices, and then we discuss which might make the best entry.

STEP 6: FINDING THE RIGHT TARGET AUDIENCE.
Material one magazine would not publish may be perfectly acceptable to another. Some magazines prefer to print poetry. Others prefer stories. Some prefer serious material; others don't. Short silly poems rarely win school-sponsored contests, but they do get published. If a student's poem is read to the class, and the class laughs heartily at it, this poem may be publishable in a magazine whose intended audience is that age. If a poem or story is rejected by a magazine, and the author believes in its quality, submit it to another. One of my students who loved to hunt wrote a beautiful story about the first buck he had shot. His story was rejected repeatedly until he discovered a magazine written for hunters. When he submitted his story to that magazine, his story was published. There are books on the market that list magazines that print students' work, and also describe what kind of poem or story that magazine is looking for. Some books I've used are: Writers Market Guide (F and W Publications), Market Guide for Young Writers (Prufrock Press), Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market (F and W Publications), and Young Author's Guide to Publishers (Prufrock Press). A student might leaf through these books to find outlets for his specific type of work. Students need to use all available resources.

THE LAST STEP: SUPPORT AND PERSISTENCE.
Sometimes students new to publishing are reluctant to submit work to a magazine because they don't know exactly how to do so. The easier a teacher can make it for a student to submit material, the greater the chances are that he will do it. It helps if a teacher disseminates the names and addresses of magazines that publish different types of children's work. Magazines do go out of business, so this list must be periodically revised. A teacher could also provide issues of the magazines that print students' work, especially ones with classmates' work, to make it easier for students to see what type of material tends to get accepted. If the cost of buying these different magazines is prohibitive, the teacher could display copies of classmates' poems and stories that have been accepted for publication and the names of the magazines that accepted them. It is important to do whatever one can to provide students a better idea of who publishes what. Most of all, be encouraging. Don't let rejection stop students from submitting material. Persistence is important. If at first a student's work is not accepted, he should not give up. He should keep on submitting. If one does not submit, one cannot get published. The sight of a child's face when he sees his work in print is worth all the effort.

A FEW MORE THOUGHTS FROM GLORI CHAIKA

"I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. As a teacher, I possess tremendous power. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration."
---Dr. Haim Ginott, 1976

Teachers are most successful in producing students who are academic risk-takers actively pursuing achievement if we ourselves are academic risk-takers actively pursuing achievement. Students attend more to what we do than to what we teachers say. How can we assign essays and ask students to rewrite until a cohesive, polished finished product is produced if we ourselves are not willing to also put in that level of effort? Students learn by example.

As an English teacher in a junior high, I assign many written projects and demand a polished product. My students get published and win competitions. I am constantly entreating my students to submit items for publication and to enter writing contests, and I go through the same processes as they do. Several times a year it is mandatory that my students submit their written products to a publishing company, and I levy similar requirements upon myself. When my students write, I write. Whey I require my students to submit material, I frequently submit material. As the responses arrive, we share the feelings of excitement or disappointment. If one of my articles is rejected and I still feel the ideas have merit, I rewrite and submit it elsewhere just like I encourage my students to do with their writings. If I enter a competition and am awaiting the response, I share my feelings with the students. The students and I are involved in each others' academic efforts. This year many articles, poems and stories were rejected, but some were accepted. This year we lost some academic competitions, but we also won some. I try to teach my students more than grammar; I try not to be the teacher on a pedestal admonishing students to do what I say but not what I do. I try to teach my students not only how to win, but also how to lose graciously. Both are valuable.

NOTE: Glori Chaika teaches gifted 6th, 7th, and 8th graders in a suburb of New Orleans, Louisiana. She is a published author who has won a Distinguished Teaching Award from Duke University. She was awarded a Fulbright Memorial Fund scholarship to study school systems and teacher training programs in Japan during the fall of 1997. Ms. Chaika was named the 1997 Elks Teacher of the year in her Louisiana parish.

Copyright © 2009 Education World®

08/01/1997
Updated 04/01/2009