February 21, 2011

Voice and Research Writing

There is an expected research paper voice and while the mode is driven by organization, voice still plays a part in this form of writing.

I'd describe the desired voice in this mode as; authoritative. Other descriptors would be strong, confident, and understanding. Lovitts 2007 p 36

It comes down to understanding the audience for the writing. There is a very clear and defined audience for research papers: other professionals or academics. Knowing the audience helps a student writer determine the voice (once they have the concept of voice in place).

You can help your students understand voice as a concept, and your expectations for a 'research voice' by using contrasting examples. (Here's where a search for appropriate mentor texts will help.)

For instance, you could provide strong and week thesis statements.

Also find or create contrasting examples. Demonstrate overly casual, or insecure voice, and contrast it with confident (fact supported) academic voice.

On one hand, you have an example of clear well supported, and authoritative writing.

Contrast this with excessively elaborate, vague and uncertain writing.

Examples of students attempting to hide a lack of understanding and content with elaborate long winded and confusing sentences could go a long way toward helping define the concept of ' research voice '

This reinforces the need to tune the writing to the audience.

You could also contrast the research piece with an expository piece to show differences in voice based on mode of writing.

While the voice of a research report is more constrained, it's there. By helping your students learn to recognize voice you clarify the intent of the writing and help build the concept.

Dennis/San Diego


Lovitts, B. E. 2007 Making the implicit explicit: creating performance expectations for the dissertation. Virginia, Stylus Publishing

February 17, 2011

Teaching Traits in the Second Grade by Cathy Rencavage

 "I think kids know when something is off in a story." Children are very savvy even at the earliest of ages.

This reminds me of a humorous story involving my second grade students a few years back. After being immersed in craft/trait instruction and investigating the qualities of effective writing, I introduced the students to our new Social Studies Program titled Social Studies Alive. It wasn't long into the first chapter when  one little boy raised his hand and stated, "This author does NOT know how to write!"

Another raised her hand and stated, "I agree, this book should be called Social Studies Dead because there is no voice behind the writing whatsoever!"

Little by little, before I knew it, chaos erupted in my classroom. Hands were shooting up here and there as students angrily shouted out..."There are no sensory details, not one!"

"Talk about redundancy, the rivers this and the rivers that..." Etc..., Etc... Etc... LOL.

As happy as I was that the students realized quality writing when they saw it, (Believe me, my heart was singing a very happy song!) I also realized that we were married to this text for the second half of the semester. Every time I asked the students to pull the book out of their desk I was met with moans and groans and chants about Social Studies Dead!

The moral of this long thread is... students know when something is off in a story. When students are immersed in trait instruction, they gradually begin to read through the lens of a writer and emulate the craft of authentic authors.


February 16, 2011

Voice & Point of View

This slam dunk classroom activity was shared by Tiffany, a first year teacher with a vision for writing with the traits...  

This last year was my first year of teaching and therefore the first year I taught the 6 Traits of Writing (and really learned them myself for that matter!) Here is an activity that I did in my classroom:
I gave each student in the room a photograph with a prompt on the back, they didn't know it at the time but someone else in the room had the same photograph with a very different prompt on back.

For example, two students would have a picture of an ice cream sundae. One prompt would say, "Write about this sundae as if you haven't eaten anything in a week", oppositely the other prompt would say, "Write about this sundae as if you are on a very strict diet." 

Two students would have a picture of a person about to jump out of an airplane with the ground visible far below - One prompt would say, "Write as if you are this person and you love thrill seeking and adventures," the other, "Write as if you are this person and you are deathly afraid of heights." I told the students to answer the prompt based on the photo and that they would eventually share their writing with a peer.

After everyone was done writing I explained that there was another person who had the same photo and the two partners met and shared their writings - obviously very different!

We then talked about how different writers have different voices based on their experiences, background, what they are writing, etc. To be honest, I'm not sure if this was a proper activity to convey the topic of voice or not, but the students seemed to understand the concept - they liked the activity and sharing the very different writings that could come from the same picture. Any thoughts or modifications? I'm open for further ideas too! :0)

Tiffany @ Mosinee

February 15, 2011

eMints: Great 6-Trait Resources

The eMints National Center is a terrific state wide technology training program offered to teachers in Missouri. I had the pleasure of reviewing some of the eMints materials in my capacity as a ISTE NETS standards reviewer. The resources offered by eMints are absolutely top drawer.
 With this in mind, I was delighted to find the following 6-traits materials on the eMINTS site.
Writing: 6 + 1 Writing Traits eThemes eMINTS Home page for eMINTS 6-Traits materials
eMINTS page on personal narrative.
These sites explain the different types of text structures that are used in expository writing. The text structures include chronological sequence, comparison/contrast, description, problem/solution, and cause and effect. (tags: writing 6-traits)
Grammar: Interactive Writing Activities eThemes eMINTS
These sites feature interactive grammar and writing sites that are fun to use with SMARTboards. The online games and quizzes cover topics such as nouns, verbs, sentences, proofreading, capitalization, punctuation, plurals, and more. (del.ious.us tags: writing 6-traits)