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.
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.