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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|
- understand the concept of voice and how it is created by analyzing a story to determine aspects of a character's personality.
- create or revise a piece of their writing to incorporate strategies that demonstrate an understanding of voice in writing.
- If you have enough copies for groups of three-to-five students to share, proceed to the readers’ theater performance prepared by students the night before. If not, read one copy of the book aloud to the entire class, pausing at the end of each page so all students have the opportunity to experience the illustrations.
- Have readers stand so that they are spread apart, preferably one in each corner of the room. Readers will perform the book for the class by reading it so all four voices may be heard.
- Ask students to discuss the literal voices they just heard: What made each character sound different from the other? Be sure to focus this discussion solely on the readers’ theater presentation of the book.
- Students then list the “facts” of the story—things that remain the same regardless of who tells the story. For example, each voice includes two dogs who play together, two children (a boy and a girl), a woman, and a man. Each voice sets the story in the park where the man looks ragged and the children play together.
- Assign one voice to each student and group students according to their assigned voices. Explain the Character Analysis Chart with a brief model. I choose to use the first voice. For a fact, I say that she is rich because she has a “pedigree Labrador” and the illustrations show her in a neighborhood with a large house. For a personality trait, I say that she is judgmental, maybe even prejudiced, because she describes the other dog as “some scruffy mongrel” and has a pinched up face in the pictures. Encourage students to find multiple supports for each of their assertions.
- For homework, students should complete their charts at home that evening. Since they will not be able to take a book home, encourage the students to make rough notes about the traits that can be explained more fully at home.
- Allow students a few minutes in their groups to discuss their completed charts and determine which characteristics they would like to share with the class. While this discussion occurs, the teacher could walk around the room to check the assignment.
- Discuss each character’s personality with the whole class, supporting assertions with evidence from both the text and the illustrations. Since the illustrations are so rich and clearly reflect characters’ personalities, students enjoy finding pictorial evidence. Allow this, but be clear that textual support is also needed. Limit the amount of time spent on each character because students will quickly find more support for their assertions and discussion of each character will be lively. You don’t want to end up skipping a character because too much time was spent on the one previous.
- For homework, ask students to list in their writer’s notebooks the techniques they feel Browne used to distinguish one voice’s story from the next.
- While walking around the room to check the homework, explain that all good writing, not just fiction, has a distinct voice to it. Voice is often based on the point of view of the person writing the essay or story, and it reflects a particular set of attitudes that allow readers to hear the words spoken in their heads in a specific tone. You may want to use Noden’s words, describing voice as the “rhythm and sound of an author’s words” and relate voice to music.
- Ask students to share their lists of ways they think Browne distinguished one voice from the next. Have an example ready in case students are afraid to share. One might be varying sentence length, with the first voice using longer sentences than the others. This might reflect her more advanced age, social standing, and educational level. Other examples include sentence structure (simple vs. complex), word choice, word order, etc.
- Have students brainstorm situations in which there may be more than one point of view. For each situation, include a list of the various “voices” that may be involved. For example, a parent-teacher conference could include the voice of the parent, the teacher, a younger or older sibling of the student, and the student.
- Have students form groups of three-to-five students and choose one of the brainstormed situations or an alternate scenario with teacher approval. Have them list the “facts” of the story—what will definitely happen regardless of who is telling the story. Group members will choose one of the possible voices and, in their writer’s notebooks, brainstorm how they will make their character’s voice clear.
- For homework, students should complete a rough version of their character’s story in their notebooks for the next day’s class.
- Students should spend a few minutes in their groups sharing their stories and offering suggestions for revision so that each individual voice clearly reflects the character’s personality.
- Using a computer lab or the classroom computers if there are enough for each individual student, students create a Stapleless Book from their rough drafts. (You may also wish to have them draft their stories using the Stapleless Book Planning Sheet.)
- Allow volunteers to share their completed books, and display all the books on a bulletin board.
Students will be assessed through teacher observation during class time based on on-task behavior. You may also choose to assess their completed charts using a chart rubric, and their finished stories can be assessed using a voice in writing rubric.