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How Do You Teach Voice in Writing?
After teaching students how to write for an audience and with a purpose and how to effectively evaluate point of view, I felt good about myself once again. I called my mom and told her what a smart son she had. Then I realized my students had no idea how to effectively maintain a personal voice while writing. In shock, I called my mom, advised her to give me up for adoption, and cancelled the appointment with my time management advisor. I was too busy.
I had work to do. I had to teach my student's not to turn in dozens of bland assignments. Here's what I came up with.
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Explain Voice to Students
When I began teaching, I had no idea how to teach voice. I wasn't even sure what it was. I asked several colleagues "How do you teach voice in writing?" I'll summarize their answers: "Voice, you either have it or you don't. You can't really teach it." Translation: "I don't know what it is either."
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.
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- Show students two sample passages. You can find two of your own or use some of mine as examples: Memorable Moments from the 2007 NBA Finals and Reflections: What I Should Have Known About Essay Writing.
- 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: the first to entertain; the second to inform or persuade.
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Effective Voice in Student Writing
- If helping students with revision, instruct students to read their draft (rough or final).
- Ask: 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.
- If using this assignment for revision, have students read their rough draft and change sentences, words, or phrases that do not convey their chosen voice.
- Divide students in to groups of 3-4.
- Instruct each student to read his or her draft to the group.
- Listeners should identify passages that should be changed.
- Instruct students to work individually on revision.
- After revising, instruct students to reconvene and read their final draft.
- Each group should choose the best revision and share it with the class.
- Teaching experience.