July 11, 2013

Teaching Voice to Primary Students by Margaret McKanna

Guest Post by  Margaret McKanna

When it comes to effective teaching and learning, my inclination is to keep it whole. This is especially true in areas of literacy for students whose skills are still developing. Vicki Spandel asks the question:"So why do we study the traits if they're all part of a whole?' and then she answers: "Concentrating on a particular trait helps us see writing through a certain window...helps us appreciate how that trait connects us to others."

I'm all for celebrating voice in writing. Primary students understand this trait in a visceral way. Naming the trait of voice and celebrating it is critical to the development of young writers. Supporting voice while "opening windows" to other traits is also essential. It seems to me that voice has a unique relationship to the other writing traits. While ideas, sentence fluency, organization, word choice, and conventions are definitely where the rubber meets the road, I think voice is the fuel that sparks the engine and moves the writing forward.

Here's an analogy I find useful. As children learn to ride bikes, we support them as they practice the essential skills for bike riding: pedaling, braking, steering, and balancing on two wheels. We support these emerging bike riders by holding on to the seats of their bikes as they sharpen these skills and consolidate them to achieve proficiency. We coach on the side, offer tips for one skill or the other. The learners are completely engaged in the act of riding and I wonder how much our words contribute to their success. We hang onto the bike seats knowing there is so much more to learn. Meanwhile, the young riders are pleading for more independence, a chance to test their own measure. At some point, we need to get out of the way; we need to let go.

In Chapter 8, Teaching Voice within Writing Process*, Vicki Spandel has an excellent collection of lessons and strategies for teaching voice. My hope is to use this resource sparingly; a little will go a long way. Our instruction in writing ought to be slow, deep, and wide with one strategy. Then we must let go. Young writers need the time to experience writing, the pure satisfaction of it. They need time to share writing, the pure joy of it. They also need time to assess their own writing, the undeniable challenge of it!

Margaret McKanna is an experienced teacher participating in the online professional development class, Teaching and Assessing Writing with the 6-Traits.




marigrace said...

Margaret--I love the astute analogy!

marigrace said...

Love the analogy of riding a bike!

ramzan said...

so nice blogger

Horace said...

This is awesome!