Columbia Links

LESSON PLAN5

This lesson was developed by Sue Laue, program manager, Columbia Links, Columbia College Chicago, and Billy Montgomery, journalism professor, Roosevelt University and Columbia College Chicago.

 

Overview and Purpose
Each of us as writers and journalists has a unique way of telling a story, a unique “voice” that is our own style.  When speaking about something we’re passionate about, this unique voice comes through loud and clear.  But sometimes when writing, our voice can become muffled and not as unique.  A writer strives to keep his or her own voice, and often does this by writing as if they were speaking, somewhat informally.

To drive this point home, this lesson plan has been selected from the American Society of Newspaper Editors high school journalism website.  This lesson has been used with Links reporting academy students to show how to develop your voice as a writer.  The response from students was very positive and enthusiastic, and helped them develop their writing “voice.”  The website has hundreds of lesson plans on numerous subjects (see materials below for link).

Common Core Curriculum Standards - www.isbe.net
This lesson applies the State Common Core Standards for English Language Arts and Social and Emotional Learning, Grades 9-12. Teachers are aligning their teaching and curriculum with these new federal and state learning performance standards to produce a common achievement outcome for all students. Scroll down to bottom of lesson plan for individual standards and their relevance to this lesson.

Materials/Sources for Teaching the Lesson
American Society of Newspaper Editors, Journalism Lesson Plans Archive, www.schooljournalism.org.

Learning Links for the Classroom
In this section of the lesson plan are classroom teaching options, discussion and question/answer prompts and journaling and writing assignments for assessment and evaluation of student learning and knowledge.

Definition of “Voice”
Writer's voice describes an individual’s writing style.  It refers to the unique blend of written expression that a writer creates by his or her choice of words, sentence construction, use of descriptive or colorful phrases and adjectives, character and scene development and dialogue.  Strong writers have a strong “voice” or characteristic phrasing and writing that identifies them compared to other writers.  For example, Ernest Hemingway’s voice was direct, descriptive, factual and informative, while describing a scene vividly but with economy of words.

Teach 1
Activity
Ask students to close their eyes and envision the most interesting thing they experienced over the weekend or on a vacation.  Allow about five to ten minutes of absolute quiet while students reflect.  No talking is allowed, except for the teacher. This is an individual exercise.  Playing classical music in the background may help concentration and relaxation for remembering the details of a past experience.

Discussion:
Divide students into small groups of five to six individuals, and ask each member of the group to describe his or her "interesting experience" to others in the group.  Each person is limited to speaking for no more than five minutes.  A timer will sound at five-minute intervals, signaling the change in speakers. The discussion should take at least 20-30 minutes.  The teacher may demonstrate this with an experience of his or her own.

Writing
Students are asked to return to their desks, and are instructed to put their descriptions in writing. They have 15 minutes to do this writing assignment.

Teach 2
Activity
Students return to the small group they were in for the discussion above, and take turns reading their descriptions to group members. When finished they return to their seats.

Reflection
The teacher facilitates a class discussion on how many stories sounded the same, both orally and in writing. What, if any, were the differences between the two?  While guiding this discussion, the teacher can incorporate points about the natural progression of storytelling.  How we tell the story is what sets us apart stylistically.  It is what gives us our own unique voices.

Ask students if they were more natural when speaking about their experiences than when writing about them.  Why did some feel the need to tell the story differently in print?  Take remainder of the period to do this, and continue for a second class period if more time is needed.  This exercise illustrates clearly to students that writing as if we are speaking often is the best way to create our own voice.

Assessments
Writing 1
Have students imagine another experience they have had, such as learning to swim or to dance or play a sport.  Ask them to write a short story as if they were telling the story verbally to a friend.  Ask them to compare their voice in this story to the one they completed in the writing assignment above.  Ask students to compare and contrast for the class how they did in maintaining or sharpening their voice this time.

Writing 2
Assign students to make a list of as many words as possible to describe a disturbing scene or experience they have had.  Since this may be especially personal, ask for volunteers to tell about their experience and read their list of descriptive words.  This could range from how cooking a favorite dish looked, smelled and tasted to the emotions that were aroused when they witnessed an accident or a bullying situation at school.  Finding expressive words helps to sharpen writing skills and personal voice.

Common Core Curriculum Standards - www.isbe.net
This lesson applies and reinforces the following selected Common Core Curriculum Standards for English Language Arts and Social and Emotional Learning, Grades 9-12.  Teachers are aligning their teaching and curriculum with these new federal and state performance standards to produce a common achievement outcome for all students.  To find other common core standards that may apply to this lesson, visit www.isbe.net.

Grades 9-10
English Language Arts
Writing – Text Type and Purpose
3. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.

3. a. Engage and orient the reader by setting out a problem, situation, or observation, establishing one or multiple point(s) of view and introducing a narrator and/or characters; create a smooth progression of experiences or events.

3. b. Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, pacing, description, reflection, and multiple plot lines, to develop experiences, events and/or characters.

3. c. Use a variety of techniques to sequence events so that they build on one another to create a coherent whole.

3. d. Use precise words and phrases, telling details, and sensory language to convey a vivid picture of the experiences, events, setting and/or characters.

3. e. Provide a conclusion that follows from and reflects on what is experienced, observed or resolved over the course of the narrative.

Writing – Production and Distribution
6. Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.

Writing - Range of Writing
10. Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes and audiences.

Social and Emotional Learning Standards
Early High School
Goal 1:
Develop self-awareness and self-management skills to achieve school and life success.

Standard A. Identify and manage one’s emotions and behavior.
1A.4a. Analyze how thoughts and emotions affect decision making and responsible behavior.

Grades 11-12
English Language Arts
Writing – Text Type and Purpose
3. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.

3. a. Engage and orient the reader by setting out a problem, situation, or observation and its significance, establishing one or multiple point(s) of view, and introducing a narrator and/or characters; create a smooth progression of experiences or events.

3. b. Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, pacing, description, reflection and multiple plot lines, to develop experiences, events and/or characters.

3. c. Use a variety of techniques to sequence events so that they build on one another to create a coherent whole and build toward a particular tone and outcome (e.g., a sense of mystery, suspense, growth or resolution).

3. d. Use precise words and phrases, telling details and sensory language to convey a vivid picture of the experiences, events, setting and/or characters.

3. e. Provide a conclusion that follows from and reflects on what is experienced, observed or resolved over the course of the narrative.

Writing – Production and Distribution
6. Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish and update individual or shared writing products in response to ongoing feedback, including new arguments or information.

Writing - Range of Writing
10. Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes and audiences.

Social and Emotional Learning Standards
Late High School
Goal 1:
Develop self-awareness and self-management skills to achieve school and life success.

Standard A. Identify and manage one’s emotions and behavior.
1A.5a. Evaluate how expressing one’s emotions in different situations affects others.

For additional Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) lessons that relate to journalism, visit www.lions-quest.org.  Lions Clubs International, Oak Brook, IL, has developed a set of lesson plans to teach social and emotional learning skills to teens, including listening, interviewing, questioning, communicating, researching, ethics and decision-making.

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