Exploring Author's Voice Using Jane Addams Award-Winning Books

6 - 8
Lesson Plan Type
Estimated Time
Eight 45-minute sessions
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This lesson uses Jane Addams Award-winning books to explore author's voice and style. The Jane Addams Book Awards are given to children's books that effectively promote the cause of peace, social justice, world community, and the equality of the sexes and all races. After reading and examining The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark by Carmen Agra Deedy, a Jane Addams Honor Book in 2001, students choose another Jane Addams Award-winning book for personal investigation of author's voice. This lesson is designed for students in grades 6 to 8, but can be adapted for other grade bands as well.

From Theory to Practice

A helpful first step to developing an understanding of voice is to identify and distinguish other authors' voices. Examining the author's voice in model texts is one of the best techniques to use with students.

Voice is like verbal fingerprints that a writer imprints on the page. It is a mix of individuality, confidence, engagement with the topic, and reader rapport, and something that keeps the reader reading.

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 9. Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (Houghton Mifflin, 1998)

  • The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark by Carmen Agra Deedy (Peachtree, 2000)




1. Gather a Selection of Jane Addams Award-Winning Books, including Honor books.

2. Pair students with a partner. Consideration should be given to which students work well together, get along, and will be able to stay on task.

3. Make copies of the H Diagram and Book Notes sheet for each student. Make copies also of the Essay Rubric, Puppet Show Rubric, and Presentation Rubric.

4. Gather a few popular titles from other book awards that can be used during the discussion in Session 1, Step 1. Possible selections include:

5. Students should already have read and examined Number the Stars by Lois Lowry before beginning this lesson. In addition, students will need a basic understanding of the events surrounding the Holocaust.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Discuss different book awards, and read and examine books that have won the Jane Addams Book Award, focusing specifically on the author's voice in each one

  • Identify and compare the author's voice in several pieces of literature

  • Engage in critical discussions of shared texts

  • Share their understanding of author's voice using writing, speaking, and presentation skills

Session 1. Introducing the Jane Addams Book Award

1. Begin the lesson by having students discuss what they know about book awards. This discussion will probably lead to the naming of some of the more popular awards (e.g., Caldecott Medal, Newbery Medal). Have some award-winning books on hand for display to make this discussion of the books more meaningful (see Preparation, Step 4).

2. Introduce the Jane Addams Book Award, explaining that books that win this award have a common theme of peace. Encourage students to visit the Jane Addams Peace Association website to learn more about the award and see if they recognize any of the books that have won the award over the years.

3. Introduce the picture book The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark by Carmen Agra Deedy and read it aloud to the class. This book won the Jane Addams Honor Award in 2001.

4. Review the concept of author's voice by first having students think about something ordinary, such as a trip to the mall. Ask them to describe the voices of a little old lady, a giggly teenager, a curious little boy, and a gang member. If each of these people were to write a story, how would the stories be different? What types of words would each one use? What would be the tone?

5. Summarize this discussion by leading students to the understanding that voice is the use of figurative language in a story that allows readers to hear and feel the personality of the author.

6. Together as a class, review The Yellow Star and take note of the author's voice throughout the story (i.e., proud, funny, determined, then inquisitive in the author's note). If students have already read Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, use the H Diagram to compare the voice of Lowry in that book (i.e., innocent, harsh, proud, determined, hopeful, then a good friend in the afterword) with the voice of Carmen Agra Deedy in The Yellow Star.

7. For closure and to check for understanding, have students respond to the following prompt in their journals:
How could you add voice to something that doesn't normally have voice, for example, your science book, VCR directions, or a recipe?

Sessions 2 and 3. Exploring Jane Addams Award-Winning Books

1. Share various Jane Addams Award-winning books with the class. Have students sit with their partners, and gather enough books for each pair to have one. Provide each student also with a Book Notes sheet. Invite pairs to browse and discuss the book they were given, rotating their book with another pair of students every three minutes. Have students jot quick notes (5 to 10 words) to themselves about each book on the Book Notes sheet.

2. After browsing all of the books, ask students to individually number the top five picture books that they have an interest in examining further.

3. Assign one book to each student before Session 4. Make every effort to assign students their top picks.

Session 4. Book Assignments and Projects

1. Distribute the book assignments to each student.

2. First, allow time for students to read and enjoy their books. As they read, they can begin to anticipate what the next step will be for them.

3. Discuss author's voice again by sharing some of the more insightful journal entries from the closing portion of Session 1, Step 7.

4. Give students another opportunity to read and enjoy their books, this time paying special attention to the author's voice.

5. Introduce the project that students will complete. The purpose of the project is for students to demonstrate their understanding of their assigned author's voice and style. Students may choose from the following list of projects:

  • Write a story of peace from your own experience, and then rewrite the story using your assigned author's voice. This is an individual project, and presentation to the class is optional. (Essay Rubric)

  • Explore the library for other books by your assigned author. Compare the book that you read with the other works written by the author to find similarities and differences in voice. Write a summary of what you find. This is an individual project, and presentation to the class is optional. (Essay Rubric)

  • Create a puppet show of the story you read. Be sure the author's voice is apparent to the audience and use a narrator if necessary. You may have as many as three people in your group, but all group members will need to write a report explaining their individual contributions. If you are working in a group, choose one book from those assigned to individual students. (Puppet Show Rubric)

  • Conduct a mock 60 Minutes interview of your assigned author in which his or her voice and style is discussed. The mock interview can be videotaped or performed live for the class. The script for the mock interview will need to be turned in and is an individual project; however, you can ask other class members to play a role in the interview performance. These class members will receive extra credit, but will also need to turn in their own individual projects. (Presentation Rubric)

  • Develop a reenactment of all or part of your assigned book. Be sure the author's voice is apparent to the audience and use a narrator if necessary. The performance can be videotaped or performed live for the class. The script for the reenactment will need to be turned in. This project can be done individually or by two students. If two students are working together, costumes are mandatory. Additional actors/actresses can be recruited from the class; these students will receive extra credit. (Presentation Rubric)

Sessions 5 and 6. Creative Work Time

1. Depending on which project each student has decided to do, pass out the related project rubrics (i.e., Essay Rubric, Puppet Show Rubric, Presentation Rubric) and discuss them with students. Answer any questions students have about the expectations for each project.

2. Allow students to work on their projects in class. Circulate around the classroom, monitoring students' progress and providing assistance as needed. To assist in monitoring students' work, use the On-Task Checklist to keep track of what students are working on and what they are expected to do. Use the "On-Task" column to casually mark whether students are on- or off-task throughout the sessions.

3. Have students finish their projects before Session 7 by working on them at home or during free time in school, if necessary.

Session 7. Let the Voices Be Heard!

Collect students' written projects and invite those who have prepared presentations to give them.

Session 8. Closure

1. Have students respond to the following prompts in their journals:
  • List three things you liked about this unit.

  • List one way to improve this unit.

  • Write a specific, positive comment about one of your classmates' presentations.

  • In your own words, what is the Jane Addams Book Award?

  • In your own words, what is author's voice?
2. Return the assessment rubrics to students. Be sure to include specific positive comments and gentle constructive criticisms on each one.

3. Form a circle and have a class discussion about the journal prompts. Make sure that every student has an opportunity to respond orally to one prompt. If time allows, invite students to respond to a second prompt or facilitate a whole-class discussion of each prompt.


Student Assessment / Reflections

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