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Teaching Voice with Anthony Browne’s Voices in the Park
|Grades||6 – 8|
|Lesson Plan Type||Standard Lesson|
|Estimated Time||Four 50-minute sessions|
The concept of voice is often difficult for middle school students to incorporate into their writing. This lesson, provides a clear example of an author who created four specific voices. By reading and discussing the characters in Anthony Browne's picture book, Voices in the Park, students will gain a clear understanding of how to use voice in their own writing. Students begin by giving a readers’ theater performance of the book and then discuss and analyze the voices heard. They then discuss the characters’ personalities and find supporting evidence from the text and illustrations. Finally, students apply their knowledge by writing about a situation in a specific voice, making their character’s voice clear to the reader.
Stapleless Book: Students select page templates and then design pages that can be printed out, cut and folded into an eight-page book.
Student writing often lacks voice, or a sense of personality or feeling. In Writing with Voice, Tom Romano defines voice as "the writer's presence on the page. It is the sense we have while reading that someone occupies the middle of our mind, the sense we have while writing that something or someone is whispering in our ear." (50). One method that Harry Noden recommends in Image Grammar to demonstrate voice in writing is a form of imitation he calls the Van Gogh approach. This approach introduces students to similar stories, such as "Little Red Riding Hood" or "Humpty Dumpty," written in contrasting styles. The story details stay the same, but the way the story is told, or the voice of the story, changes. The benefits in having students note the contrasts and how they contribute to the overall style and voice of a piece are numerous. First, students begin to experiment with voice in their own writing. Second, they begin to look at how their favorite authors distinguish themselves and begin to compare one author's style to another. Finally, according to Noden, students "discover how grammatical choices characterize an author's craft" (79).
This lesson combines Noden's form of imitation with using children's picture books in middle and high school English/language arts classrooms.
Noden, Harry. 1999. Image Grammar. Portsmouth: Heinemann.
Romano, Tom. "Writing with Voice." Voices from the Middle 11.2 (December 2003): 50-55.