6-Trait Lesson Plans: Voice

Teaching and Assessing Writing with the 6-Traits

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Finding Their Voices

It has been said that Voice separates writing that is read from writing that is unread. Children quickly grasp this concept, especially when they hear a variety of Voice rich examples and are asked to discuss what makes each writer different. Ask them: Where does the writer’s personality shine through? Which sentences? Which words? Where in the story does passion and commitment evoke something unique and interesting?

We can listen to a parent, sibling, or friend speak and immediately identify the individual. Voice in writing conveys that same personality imprint. It is Voice that compels the reader into the mind of the writer.

For students, finding their writers' Voice can be difficult. They must summon the courage to speak from the heart, risking ridicule and rejection. We must work to sensitize students to their audience. The piece written for the teacher or parent will likely have a less authentic Voice than that written for peers. This can be turned to our advantage by encouraging creative writing about personal topics.

Help your students find a topic they are passionate about; then, help them to show their audience the passion. What better way to get in touch with their feelings and find their voice? Once a writer learns to craft a piece about topics they know intuitively, they are better prepared for more academic, research driven writing.

To encourage Voice in students make them very aware of their audience. Ask them: Do you want to be boring? Or do you want your friends to hear what you have to say? Can your words make the class laugh, cry, or cringe? By emphasizing the peer audience, you motivate students to use the power of Voice. These days, web-publishing student work means a whole new sense of audience, one that extends beyond the classroom to the real world. Reaching a wider audience becomes an authentic task that will energize students.

Methods and Tactics that work:

One of the most effective methods for teaching Voice is to practice adding Voice to lifeless prose, and removing Voice from powerful writing. Try rewriting the dull office memo, or stripping the adjectives and metaphors from a Pat Conroy passage…you will soon have a better sense of this mysterious trait. For this very reason, this week’s activities include several of the best practices for understanding Voice:

  • Finding and listening to good examples of Voice.
    • See this week’s readings for a bibliography of examples.
  • Re-writing to add and remove voice.

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