Standard Lesson

This is My Story: Encouraging Students to Use a Unique Voice

3 - 5
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Five 30- to 45-minute sessions
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Teaching your students to appreciate voice is a key part of helping them develop a distinctive voice in their own prose. In this lesson, students listen to different versions of familiar stories, learning to identify what makes a strong voice. In Once Upon a Fairy Tale, the characters retell a familiar tale from their own perspectives, imparting motivation that works in a contemporary context. Students compare this retelling with a traditional version of the story in order to understand the value of a strong voice in narrative writing. They apply what they have learned in two writing activities, one creating a story with an online Fractured Fairy Tales tool, and the other writing a story or essay on a self-selected topic.

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From Theory to Practice

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.
  • 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.
  • 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

  • Computers with Internet access and printing capability

  • Once Upon A Fairy Tale by the Starbright Foundation (Viking Children's Books, 2001)

  • Little Red Riding Hood illustrated by Maria Montovani and Renzo Barsotti (McRae Books, 2001)

  • CD player

  • Poster paper

  • Egg timer

  • Writer's notebooks or folders

  • LCD projector (optional)



1. Obtain and familiarize yourself with Once Upon a Fairy Tale by the Starbright Foundation, which is a book accompanied by a CD that has recordings of fairy tales read by well-known actors and personalities. This lesson uses a version of Little Red Riding Hood included in the book and on the CD as an example.

If you cannot locate this book, you might use some of the stories from BookPALS: Storyline Online or Reading is Fundamental: Read Along Stories and Songs. Look for a story that shines with the author's personal tone. Questions to consider when looking for a text to teach voice include:

  • Do the feelings of the individual writer come through in the words?

  • Is there enthusiasm and commitment to the topic?

  • Is the tone perfect for the topic and purpose?

  • Does the author show feelings rather than just tell them?
2. Choose another version of the fairy tale you selected that does not display a strong authorial voice. For Little Red Riding Hood you might choose a traditional version, such as the one illustrated by Maria Montovani and Renzo Barsotti.

3. Choose a story to read during Session 1 that contains some of the characteristics listed in Step 1.

4. Prepare a definition of the term voice to share with students. You want to think about what constitutes a strong voice, how to analyze it, and how to assess it. In particular, the website 6+1 Trait® Writing: Scoring Practice offers samples of scored student work and an explanation of why the writing received the score it did.

5. Review the Voice Activity and prepare to share it with students.

6. Visit and familiarize yourself with the Fractured Fairy Tales tool. (To use it, you will need the latest version of the free Flash software. Visit the Technical Help page for a free download.) If you do not have classroom computers with Internet access, reserve two sessions in your school's computer lab (see Sessions 1 and 4). Bookmark the tool and the Voice Activity on the computers your students will be using.

Note: You may choose to print off the Voice Activity and share it with students on paper if you do not have computers with Internet access in your classroom.

7. For Session 2, prepare five large pieces of poster paper. Each paper should have one of the character's names on it from the Once Upon a Fairy Tale: Little Red Riding Hood, Version #1 as follows: Poster 1-Iris Brown, Poster 2-Wolf Van Big Baden, Poster 3-Woodcutter Gunderson, Poster 4-Alberta Louise Johnson, Poster 5-Hannah Milner Primrose Red Brown.

8. Make copies of the Voice Rubric for each student in your class.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Understand the concept of voice and its purpose in a writing piece

  • Develop critical thinking skills by learning to identify an author's voice to develop characters and the plot in his or her writing

  • Adjust their use of language to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences for different purposes, while exhibiting style and voice to enhance their message

  • Apply what they have learned by creating and revising their writing to incorporate a distinctive voice

Session 1: Introduction of Voice

1. As a class, read the piece you have chosen for its strong voice (see Preparation, Step 3). You may read this piece out loud, make copies for each individual student, or use an overhead to introduce it.

2. Discuss with students what they liked about the author's writing and what they think the author could improve. During this discussion, introduce the term voice. Ask students what they think an author's voice is, jotting down their responses on chart paper. Work with students to develop a definition of voice (see Preparation, Step 4). Ask students to identify words or phrases from the story that they think demonstrate the author's voice, and discuss why and how.

3. Distribute the Voice Rubric and review it. Talk to students about the importance of referring to the rubric as they are working with voice in their own writing to help remind them of what is important.

4. Have students work with a partner to complete the Voice Activity. You may choose to guide students in this step by having volunteers read the writing aloud to the class or students may complete this step independently and then regroup after a few minutes.

5. Ask students to compare the writing pieces they read. Some questions to guide the discussion include:

  • Were the two writing pieces similar?

  • What do you notice that is different?

  • Do you think the author cares about this topic?

  • Did you sense the author's enthusiasm or commitment in either piece?
6. Ask students to think about their own writing that they have done in the past and the topics they have chosen on their own. Have them share topics that were exciting to them. Talk about the importance of enthusiasm in writing. Discuss how enthusiasm for a topic can lend to the development of voice in our own writing. When an author feels strongly about a topic the writing piece will shine with personality, honesty, and commitment.

Session 2: Identifying Voice

Note: At the beginning of this session, you should have the posters you have prepared (see Preparation, Step 7) spread out on individual tables.

1. Have students listen to the CD Version #1 of Little Red Riding Hood from Once Upon a Fairy Tale.

2. Have students get into five groups. Each group should begin at a table with one of the posters. Explain to students that they will have three minutes at each poster to discuss and record what they can remember about the character from the story. Do not give them too much instruction, but have them work with their group to talk about what they know about the character just from listening to the story. Set the egg timer for three minutes and let students begin.

3. As students are working, circulate and prompt them as needed with questions such as:
  • What do you know about this character?

  • Were they funny in any way?

  • What did they say that helped you learn something about them?

  • Think about the way the author wrote this story. Do you think you could hear the author's voice?

  • Could you tell what the character was feeling by what the character said and did?

  • Did you think it was interesting to hear each character's point of view?

  • Did the author show us how each character was feeling rather than just telling us?
4. After the timer goes off have students move to the next poster and remind them to first read over what the last group wrote and then add their own thoughts to this character's poster. Students should work on all five posters.

5. After the timer goes off for the last time, tell students to stay where they are. Ask them to discuss the poster that they have just finished. They should choose five of the examples from the character poster to share with the class. These can be any of the comments written from any group. Give students another two minutes to discuss and select what examples they will share.

6. Start with the Iris Brown group and move through the posters numerically.

7. When students are sharing, prompt them to think beyond what is written by asking them questions such as:
  • How do you know this about the character?

  • What did the character do that made you think that?

  • Why do you think the author chose to write the story from the characters' points of view?

  • Did the author use a different tone with each character?

  • Did you feel bad for any of the characters?

  • How did the author's use of voice help develop each character?
8. Finish the session by asking students to think of other versions of Little Red Riding Hood that they have read in the past. How were the versions different? Do they remember if the author's voice was present in the other versions they have heard? Ask them to think about this idea for the next session.

Note: After the discussion, hang the character posters in the room where students can refer back to them during Session 3.

Session 3: Comparing and Contrasting

1. Begin by reading the version of Little Red Riding Hood you selected for its lack of a strong voice (see Preparation, Step 2).

2. After the reading, ask students to compare both versions. Have a discussion focusing on these questions:
  • Why do you think the author chose to tell the first version from each character's point of view? How does this relate to voice in the story?

  • Did your feelings change about the characters in either of these stories? How and why did your feelings change?

  • Did you feel the authors added a personal touch in both versions? Which version seemed to have a unique (something special) to it?

  • Which version did you enjoy the most and why?

  • In which version do you feel the author made a stronger use of voice? Why? How did this affect your reaction to the story?
3. Conclude the session by giving students a couple of minutes to write about their favorite version of Little Red Riding Hood. Have them give three reasons why they chose the version as a favorite. Remind them to provide details about the writing and why they chose the version they did. If time allows, have students share their writing with a partner. Students can refer back to the posters as they work; you might also make the version read to them during Step 1 available for review.

Session 4: Revising Writing for Voice

Note: During this session, students will use the Fractured Fairy Tales online tool to help give them ideas and to start practicing using voice in their own writing. Pair students up or have them work individually at a computer. If computers are not available for all of your students, hook a computer up to a projector and complete this activity as a group.

1. Using the Fractured Fairy Tales tool, go over the definition of a fractured fairy tale. Ask students if they think either of the versions of Little Red Riding Hood they heard were fractured fairy tales.

2. Read the Little Red Riding Hood example from the Fractured Fairy Tales tool. Allow students to brainstorm some ideas for their own fractured version of this story, reminding them that they want to refer to their rubric and find a way to express a unique voice in the story.

3. Tell students to use the tool to plan and write a fractured version of Little Red Riding Hood (if you want, you can also give them the choice of rewriting The Princess and the Pea and Jack and the Beanstalk, which are also included in the tool). Remind students to take their time when brainstorming and answering the questions before they start writing.

4. Once they have answered the questions to help organize their story, have them print the responses and start writing rough drafts.

5. Students should work on writing and revising their stories. If time allows, have students share their fractured fairy tale with a partner.

Note: You may want to give students more than one session to complete their stories. However, to do so, they will need to print what they have written using the tool and then work on it offline, as the tool does not allow them to save.

Session 5: Applying Voice

1. This session should consist of writing time for students. Encourage students to choose a topic that they feel excited about and about which they can write using a strong voice.

2. Encourage students to choose any type of writing they like. They might choose from a personal narrative, a fictional story, or RAFT writing. RAFT stands for Role, Audience, Format, Topic. An example of a RAFT is:

R: Mouse

A: Cats

F: Persuasive Letter

T: Please don't eat me!

Students could write a persuasive letter to the cats from the perspective of the mouse.

3. Walk around the room and support students while they are working.

4. Have three to five students share examples prior to the conclusion of writing time. After each student has shared ask the class to reflect on these ideas:
  • Can you share what you think the author did well?

  • Did you notice if the writing contained enthusiasm, personality, or commitment?

  • Did the author use voice in his or her piece?
5. If time allows, provide students time to work with this writing piece through the writing process in following sessions.



Student Assessment / Reflections


  • Observe students during all group activities and discussions. You want to make sure they understand what the components of voice are; if you think they do not, you will want to include additional review with other texts before having students write on their own.

  • Collect the writing piece from Session 3 to assess how students decided on their favorite version. Look for supporting reasons based on the writing and the author’s use of voice.

  • Collect students’ writing from Sessions 4 and 5, and use the Voice Rubric to assess how well they use language to communicate effectively while exhibiting a unique style and voice.


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