Writing: Voice

A great question:


Some of the best educators on Twitter weighed in with their advice and insight, so if you’re on Twitter, I highly recommend reading some of the comments. And since this is my blog and personal pensieve, I choose to explore this a bit further.

Rebecca is correct: the five of the six traits are skill-based, concrete and easily translated into learning targets and success criteria, and Voice stands out as an gossamer butterfly – hard to capture. Her metaphor is better. My apologies for a weak attempt.


My suggestion was to use mentor texts from a variety of sources. A #pairedtexts approach is useful. Thinking of speeches by recent Presidents and other leaders, both great and ignominious, would also provide rich conversations about voice. Ultimately, the goal is to help guide student writers to define, defend, and develop their own voices.

Craft and Structure:

Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.

Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.


I put together a Google Doc of how the 5 other writing traits supports our discussion and analysis of Voice: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Yd9MY8gMOSZbgm5urJ7eb818jiFPZM-5rx5_IeQtS_0/edit?usp=sharing

Here is a selection of texts which may provide writing students with ideas of voice:

Resource 1

Just started reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky today and the meandering voice of a teenager could not be missed:

From The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Resource 2


 – June 16, 2015 – In the same speech announcing his candidacy, Donald Trump said, “I will build a great wall—and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me—and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.” Trump’s belief that Mexico should finance construction for the wall led Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to cancel a meeting with Trump in June 2017, and again in February 2018. Peña Nieto has repeatedly said that Mexico will not fund the border wall.

Resource 3 (pair with #2)


Resource 4

Compare Pride by Ibi Zoboi to Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen:

Pride by Ibi Zoboi
How do we teach 'voice?' Using mentor texts and then discussion/analysis questions for students to find their own
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Resource 5

And though this is a great media literacy lesson, too, consider the “voice” the headline uses (word choice, etc.) that runs throughout these headlines:


Maybe voice is difficult to ‘teach’ to adolescents because their voices are still developing; however this does not mean their voices should be marginalized or misjudged. Adolescent voices are often brilliant. Perhaps whenever we have young authors in our care we must remind them, and ourselves, often and kindly, that their voice matters, is growing, and writing is a way to hold onto and reflect on one’s growth. Writing is the best way to provide our own histories with personal primary documents. (I’m going to find those sixth grade journals someday, I swear.) Voice evolves, strengthens, breaks, and regenerates. Consider whose voices to we tune-out, and whose voices do we ache to hear?

PS I’ve been writing this blog for over a decade and want to thank those who read my voice. In truth I’d probably continue to talk to myself, but it’s nice to know you’re out there, too.

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