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Lots of Voice: Helping Students Develop Strong Writing Voices

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❶Because of the "Headline News" experience, Ciccone's students have been able to generate writing that is focused, detailed, and well ordered. Explain to students that when authors choose their writing voices carefully, they are much more likely to create pieces with a lot of energy, as David Shannon did with Alice the Fairy 5.

Teaching Students to Maintain a Personal Voice in Writing

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Teaching and Assessing Writing with the 6-Traits

You can't really teach it. Here's what I teach now:. Each writer has a distinct personality. Each writer has passions, opinions, prejudices, and information. Words should capture the writer's personality.

Writers with strong voice capture the reader's attention with individuality, liveliness, and energy. Strong voice makes the writer's purpose clear. Strong voice helps readers experience the emotions of the writer and understand the writer's ideas. Careful word choice, punctuation, paragraphing, and style help strengthen a writer's voice. Activity Show students two sample passages. You can find two of your own or use some of mine as examples: Read the first sample passage and ask the following questions: Does the author convey his or her voice?

How does the reader know? What can be inferred about the author of this piece Write the student responses on the board Read the second passage and ask the same questions. Discuss how these two passages, written by the same brilliant author, have two distinct voices with two different purposes: Effective Voice in Student Writing If helping students with revision, instruct students to read their draft rough or final.

Who is your intended audience? What voice would be most effective? Discuss that when you determine the most appropriate voice for your purpose, write with that voice. Remind students that knowing the audience is the key to finding your voice.

Students talked about times they had let their friends down or times their friends had let them down, and how they had managed to stay friends in spite of their problems. In other words, we talked about some tense situations that found their way into their writing. Moving From Fluency to Flair.

Ray Skjelbred, middle school teacher at Marin Country Day School, wants his seventh grade students to listen to language. He wants to begin to train their ears by asking them to make lists of wonderful sounding words. They may use their own words, borrow from other contributors, add other words as necessary, and change word forms. Among the words on one student's list: Grammar, Poetry, and Creative Language.

Kathleen O'Shaughnessy, co-director of the National Writing Project of Acadiana Louisiana , asks her middle school students to respond to each others' writing on Post-it Notes.

Students attach their comments to a piece of writing under consideration. While I was reading your piece, I felt like I was riding a roller coaster. It started out kinda slow, but you could tell there was something exciting coming up. But then it moved real fast and stopped all of a sudden.

I almost needed to read it again the way you ride a roller coaster over again because it goes too fast. Says O'Shaughnessy, "This response is certainly more useful to the writer than the usual 'I think you could, like, add some more details, you know? Anna Collins Trest, director of the South Mississippi Writing Project , finds she can lead upper elementary school students to better understand the concept of "reflection" if she anchors the discussion in the concrete and helps students establish categories for their reflective responses.

She decided to use mirrors to teach the reflective process. Each student had one. As the students gazed at their own reflections, she asked this question: Trest talked with students about the categories and invited them to give personal examples of each.

Then she asked them to look in the mirrors again, reflect on their images, and write. One of his strategies has been to take his seventh-graders on a "preposition walk" around the school campus. Walking in pairs, they tell each other what they are doing:. I walk among my students prompting answers," Ireland explains. Kim Stafford, director of the Oregon Writing Project at Lewis and Clark College , wants his students to discard old notions that sentences should be a certain length.

He explains to his students that a writer's command of long and short sentences makes for a "more pliable" writing repertoire. He describes the exercise he uses to help students experiment with sentence length. Just use 'and' when you have to, or a dash, or make a list, and keep it going.

Stafford compares the first style of sentence construction to a river and the second to a drum. Joni Chancer, teacher-consultant of the South Coast Writing Project California , has paid a lot of attention to the type of questions she wants her upper elementary students to consider as they re-examine their writing, reflecting on pieces they may make part of their portfolios.

Here are some of the questions:. Why did I write this piece? Where did I get my ideas? Who is the audience and how did it affect this piece? What skills did I work on in this piece?

Was this piece easy or difficult to write? What parts did I rework? What were my revisions? Did I try something new? What elements of writer's craft enhanced my story? What might I change? Did something I read influence my writing? What did I learn or what did I expect the reader to learn? Where will I go from here? Will I publish it? Chancer cautions that these questions should not be considered a "reflection checklist," rather they are questions that seem to be addressed frequently when writers tell the story of a particular piece.

Nancy Lilly, co-director of the Greater New Orleans Writing Project , wanted her fourth and fifth grade students to breathe life into their nonfiction writing. She thought the student who wrote this paragraph could do better:. The jaguar is the biggest and strongest cat in the rainforest. The jaguar's jaw is strong enough to crush a turtle's shell. Jaguars also have very powerful legs for leaping from branch to branch to chase prey. Building on an idea from Stephanie Harvey Nonfiction Matters , Stenhouse, Lilly introduced the concept of "nouns as stuff" and verbs as "what stuff does.

In a brainstorming session related to the students' study of the rain forest, the class supplied the following assistance to the writer:. This was just the help the writer needed to create the following revised paragraph:. As the sun disappears from the heart of the forest, the jaguar leaps through the underbrush, pumping its powerful legs.

It spies a gharial gliding down the river. The jungle cat pounces, crushing the turtle with his teeth, devouring the reptile with pleasure. How will Students' Nonfiction Writing Arrive? For a final exam, Sarah Lorenz, a teacher-consultant with the Eastern Michigan Writing Project , asks her high school students to make a written argument for the grade they think they should receive.

Drawing on work they have done over the semester, students make a case for how much they have learned in the writing class. They can't simply say they have improved as writers — they have to give examples and even quote their own writing. They can't just say something was helpful — they have to tell me why they thought it was important, how their thinking changed, or how they applied this learning to everyday life.

Jean Hicks, director, and Tim Johnson, a co-director, both of the Louisville Writing Project Kentucky , have developed a way to help high school students create brief, effective dramas about issues in their lives. The class, working in groups, decides on a theme such as jealousy, sibling rivalry, competition, or teen drinking. Each group develops a scene illustrating an aspect of this chosen theme. Considering the theme of sibling rivalry, for instance, students identify possible scenes with topics such as "I Had It First" competing for family resources and "Calling in the Troops" tattling.

Students then set up the circumstances and characters. Hicks and Johnson give each of the "characters" a different color packet of Post-it Notes. Each student develops and posts dialogue for his or her character. As the scene emerges, Post-its can be added, moved, and deleted.

They remind students of the conventions of drama such as conflict and resolution. Scenes, when acted out, are limited to 10 minutes. The Play's the Thing. Romana Hillebrand, a teacher-consultant with the Northwest Inland Writing Project Idaho , asks her university students to find a literary or historical reference or a personal narrative that can provide a fresh way into and out of their writing, surrounding it much like a window frame surrounds a glass pane.

A student in her research class wrote a paper on the relationship between humans and plants, beginning with a reference to the nursery rhyme, "Ring around the rosy, a pocket full of posies. The student finished the paper with the sentence, "Without plants, life on Earth would cease to exist as we know it; ashes, ashes we all fall down.

Hillebrand concludes that linking the introduction and the conclusion helps unify a paper and satisfy the reader. Helping Students Devise Beginning and Endings. She brings to class two pieces of wire, the last inch of each exposed. She tells her college students, "We need to join these pieces of wire together right now if we are to be able to watch our favorite TV show.

What can we do? We could use some tape, but that would probably be a mistake as the puppy could easily eat through the connection. By splicing the wires in this way, we are creating a fire hazard. A better connection, the students usually suggest, would be to use one of those electrical connectors that look like pen caps.

If we simply splice them together with a comma, the equivalent of a piece of tape, we create a weak connection, or a comma splice error. What then would be the grammatical equivalent of the electrical connector?

Think conjunction - and, but, or. Or try a semicolon. All of these show relationships between sentences in a way that the comma, a device for taping clauses together in a slapdash manner, does not. In addition to his work as a high school teacher of writing, Dan Holt, a co-director with the Third Coast Writing Project Michigan , spent 20 years coaching football.

While doing the latter, he learned quite a bit about doing the former. Here is some of what he found out:. The writing teacher can't stay on the sidelines. Like the coach, the writing teacher should praise strong performance rather than focus on the negative. Statements such as "Wow, that was a killer block," or "That paragraph was tight" will turn "butterball" ninth-grade boys into varsity linemen and insecure adolescents into aspiring poets.

The writing teacher should apply the KISS theory: Keep it simple stupid. Holt explains for a freshman quarterback, audibles on-field commands are best used with care until a player has reached a higher skill level. In writing class, a student who has never written a poem needs to start with small verse forms such as a chinquapin or haiku. Practice and routine are important both for football players and for writing students, but football players and writers also need the "adrenaline rush" of the big game and the final draft.

High school teacher Jon Appleby noticed that when yearbooks fell into students' hands "my curriculum got dropped in a heartbeat for spirited words scribbled over photos. Take pictures, put them on the bulletin boards, and have students write captions for them. Then design small descriptive writing assignments using the photographs of events such as the prom and homecoming.

Afterwards, ask students to choose quotes from things they have read that represent what they feel and think and put them on the walls. Check in about students' lives. Recognize achievements and individuals the way that yearbook writers direct attention to each other.

Ask students to write down memories and simply, joyfully share them. As yearbook writing usually does, insist on a sense of tomorrow.

A Guide to Writing and Teaching. Sometimes she encourages these students to draft writing in their native Creole. The additional challenge becomes to re-draft this writing, rendered in patois, into Standard English.


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Teaching Voice in Writing – Teacher Background By Barbara Mariconda. We’ve all heard teachers talk about “voice” – how a piece of writing somehow has it – or doesn’t. Often referred to as “author’s voice, it is a frequently misunderstood concept, an illusive quality that often seems difficult, if not impossible to teach.

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Teaching Students to Maintain a Personal Voice in Writing written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 4/2/ Out of all the writing traits, voice presents the biggest challenge for students and teachers.

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Step 1: Explain to students that writing is more interesting and fun to read when it has what is called voice: personality, color, and emotion. Step 2: Ask students to tell you what they think it means for writing to have voice. Writing Traits: Teaching the Skills of Voice: teacher-created resources and lessons all focused on skills that make up the trait of voice Strategies for Teaching VOICE (K - 6) This is a quick and effective lesson on adding Voice.

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For this lesson, they work with the voice trait by imagining how they would use a magic wand to cast fun spells and putting their thoughts into writing. Voice: A Definition for Primary Students Sparkling, confident, unquestionably individual. Each of the six writing traits--voice included--can be broken down into multiple smaller writing skills that--when working together--make-up the bigger trait. Below, find some of our webmaster's favorite resources and lessons that focus specifically on just one of voice's sub-skill: imitating real world voices.