Building Student VOICES: Tips for Teachers (Note: As the site is built, links to the student works cited will be made. If you would like to order a copy of the anthology, use the contact form below. Cost is $20 shipping included.)
The Louisiana Writing Project and the members of the LA Writes!
Committee have put together these ideas about good writing. We invite classroom
teachers to use this anthology of student writing to promote creative works of
non-fiction, poetry, and fiction. As you can tell by our acronym – V O I C E S –
we want to hear the vibrant young voices of Louisiana’s young people. We feel
that these six categories capture the essence of good writing:
Teachers may use whole group prompts to invite students into the writing
process or allow students to choose their own topics. Once everyone has
something written down, including the teacher, use the student samples from
current and past anthologies as models for the various aspects of V O I C E S.
The influence of form, purpose, and audience on writing becomes more evident
through these examples. After revising their writings, teachers and students
need time to read their pieces aloud to partners or small groups for feedback
and suggestions. Giving students time for sharing and revising their own
writing will allow their VOICES to bloom.
A writer’s voice conveys his or her unique personality or attitude through words.
The writing “sounds” like a real person “speaking.” Judges like to sense the
person beneath the words. Writers achieve voice through the topics they choose,
careful word choice, attention to detail, and beginning and ending strategies.
Voice often refers to tone, mood, or style.
See: “drum beats” by Destinee’ Hamilton; “Creepy Crawling Creatures” by
Caitlin Mikesell; “A Beauty Explained: Music” by Elena Marino; “Ms. Herrera”
by Morgan Baudoin; “War” by Luke Dorcy; “Biology” by Claudette Breaux;
“Snow Fall” by Daniel Levy;
Originality is the uniqueness of a piece of writing. An original piece shows the
reader a new or unusual perspective on the subject. Have we seen this before, or
is it a fresh look? Does the piece use tired, over-used expressions or clichés?
Originality offers a unique manner in which a writer arranges words to achieve a
particular effect. Surprise in writing deviates from expected patterns. It may go
against the expectations of the reader. It forces the reader to go back and think
about the events leading to the surprise. The writer can surprise the reader
through sound and meaning and form.
See: “”The Dog Ride” by Catie Dunlap; “I Liked the Midnight Walks We Took”
by Hannah Marcotte; “Cry of the Components” by Katherine Hymel; “War” by
Luke Dorcy; “Once Upon a Starry Night” by Emma Long; “Voodoo Night” by
MacKenzie Duncan; “Crepe Myrtle Tree” by Catherine Cerise;
Imagery/ Figurative Language
Have you ever read a piece and seen a clear image in your mind? The writer’s
use of imagery and figurative language which helps readers create pictures in their
minds. Good writing helps us see, smell, touch, taste, and feel what is in the
poem or story. Figures of speech surprise the reader through their sounds
(alliteration, onomatopoeia, repetition) and unexpected comparisons (simile,
metaphor, personification) and humor (hyperbole, satire). Writing punctuated
with imagery/figurative language is fresh, lively, and unexpected.
See: “Colored Flowers” by Evan Cherry, “Ants” by Yume Jensen; “Voodoo
Night” by MacKenzie Duncan; “drum beats” by Destinee’ Hamilton; “Toledo’s
Hills” by Daniel Levy; “Spring” by Mason O’Toole; “The First Day of School”
by Kaitlyn Stamps; “Ruby Falls” by Maddie Taliancich; “Turning the Mud” by
Alex Dugas; “How I Got to the Railroad” by Torrie Douglas;
“Show; don’t tell” is a good way to achieve clarity and specificity. Insert the
names of things (periwinkle rather than flowers); substitute a vivid verb rather
than a vague one (sauntered rather than walked). After first drafts are written,
have students look for labels and clichés, then find ways to substitute specific
words to communicate your meaning. Writers should use the active voice.
Clarity and specificity also refers to organization, logic, believability, and
See: “Snow Fall” by Daniel Levy; “Voodoo Night” by MacKenzie Duncan;
“Ants” by Yume Jensen; “I’m Three Inches Tall” by Kylon Segura; “I Love the
Audubon Zoo” by Sarah Christopher; “The Hunt” by Jack Haslauer; “Catch your
Breath” by Kathryn Prendergast; “Ms. Herrera” by Morgan Baudoin; “War” by
Economy is using the fewest number of well-chosen words to express meaning.
Writers should: use precise words that capture meaning rather than several words
that approximate it, eliminate unnecessary modifiers and prepositional phrases,
and avoid using redundant word phrases. Keep it simple. Word economy is a
skill that is developed through revising then re-reading and revising more.
See: “Once Upon a Starry Night” by Emma Long; “Snow Fall” by Daniel Levy;
“Secrets” by Maddie Taliancich; “The Hunt” by Jack Haslauer; “Ants” by Yume
Significant writing changes readers or gives them insight. It draws readers in and
helps them care about a character or an idea. When readers identify with the poem
or a story or a character, the work has personal significance for them. When a
writer works to achieve this significance, the writer is drawn out of him/herself
and moves into the mind of the audience/reader. Keep it close.
See: “Biology” by Claudette Breaux; “drum beats” by Destinee’ Hamilton;
“Chemistry” by Hannah Marcotte; “Bullet Poet” by Sidneisha Allen; “Familian
Chaos” by Kathryn Prendergast; “In Handcuffs” by Nicole Stebbins; “Diet” by
Grace Morse; “Secrets” by Maddie Taliancich;