A Literature-Inspired Writing Lesson from WritingFix
Focus Trait: VOICE Support Trait: WORD CHOICE

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This lesson's author:

Jamie Priddy has been a Northern Nevada Writing Project Teacher Consultant since 2007. She teaches high school in Reno, Nevada.

Jamie keeps a personal portfolio of work here at WritingFix.

Teacher's Guide:

Mob's Voice vs. Hero's Voice

a poem for two voices inspired by To Kill a Mockingbird

This lesson was proposed for WritingFix by NNWP Teacher Consultant Jamie Priddy at an AT&T-sponsored in-service class for teachers.

The intended "mentor text" to be used when teaching this on-line lesson is the novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Before writing, students should listen to and discuss the writing style of this book's author, especially from chapter 15 of the book.

To our loyal WritingFix users: Please use this link if purchasing To Kill a Mockingbird from Amazon.com, and help keep WritingFix free and on-line. We thank you!

A note for teachers: These lessons are posted so that you may borrow ideas from them, but our intention in providing this resource is not to give teachers a word-for-word script to follow. Please, use this lesson's big ideas but adapt everything else. And adapt it recklessly; that's how you become an authentic writing teacher.

Teacher Instructions & Lesson Resources:

Pre-step (before sharing the published model): Share with students the idea behind a Poem for Two Voices. Tell them that two-voice poetry is just that – it is meant to be read by two voices. When two voices read, the sounds and rhythm of the poem come alive. Share this example poem with students by having two students read it aloud. Notice how this poem goes back and forth between two readers, but it also has a simultaneous line where the same words are read together.

There's a wonderful collection of poems-- Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman--that contains poems for multiple voices. The examples in this publication are marvelous to help show your students the power behind poems for two voices. If you have this book to share with your class, be sure your students notice how the poems go back and forth between readers, but also have many simultaneous lines where the same words (or sometimes different words) are read together.

Step one (sharing the published model):  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee creates a vivid picture of racial prejudice in the South in the 1930s. Chapter 15 clearly shows the difference in perspective between Atticus and some of the men of the town over the trial of Tom Robinson. Read this chapter aloud to students, and/or show them the scene from the movie. After you have read the chapter aloud, facilitate a class discussion about the different views of Atticus and the lynch mob about Tom Robinson. Ask students to speculate about Atticus’s character and why he would sit outside of Tom Robinson’s jail cell for the night. Also ask students to think about why the men in the lynch mob feel the anger that they do towards Tom Robinson. Through the discussion, guide students to think about whether each side has a valid argument, keeping in perspective the prevailing racial prejudice during this time period.

Give students the graphic organizer, Atticus vs. The Mob, to fill out after the discussion. This graphic organizer asks students to find specific quotations from Chapter 15 in To Kill a Mockingbird that support each side’s perspective over the Tom Robinson situation. The students should find two quotations from Atticus that show how he feels about Tom Robinson and the fact that he is defending Tom. The students will also need to provide an explanation for why each of these two quotations represent Atticus’s side. Then have the students find two quotes from the lynch mob and explain why these two quotes represent the views of the mob. ]

After students have had a chance to fill out their graphic organizer, show them an example of another Poem for Two Voices. Working with partners or in small groups, have students create a poem for two voices based on the scene from To Kill a Mockingbird, and the two voices for the poem are to be Atticus and the Mob. The poems will probably be short, so encourage students to choose words carefully...to choose words that demonstrate character voice. Select several poems to be performed.

Once the Atticus versus the mob poems are done, inform students they will be individually be writing a poem for two voices that captures emotions on a different topic.

Step two (introducing student models of writing):  In small groups, have your students read and respond to any or all of the student models that come with this lesson.  The groups will certainly talk about the voice, because that's the focus trait of this lesson, but you might prompt your students to talk about each model's word choice as well.

WritingFix Safely Publishes Students from Around the World! In 2008, we first began accepting students samples from teachers anywhere who use this lesson. Hundreds of new published students now go up at our site annually!

We're currently looking for student samples for other grade levels for this lesson!  Help us obtain some from your students, and we'll send you a free resource for your classroom!  Visit this lesson's student samples page for details.

Step three (thinking and pre-writing): The interactive buttons on the Student Instruction Page will help students decide on characters and a topic for their own poem. Once students have chosen their characters and topics for their poem, give them the graphic organizer (below) for the Poem for Two Voices. Guide students through the graphic organizer, asking them to focus on the voice of each character as well as the words they will use to show the characters’ differing points of view.

Share Original Graphic Organizers (for Pre-Writing)
from Your Teaching Toolbox.

We share graphic organizers with our peers, we find them in books, and we think we should also be able to find tried-and-true ones online at WritingFix. This year, if you create an original graphic organizer (or adapt one of ours) when you teach this page's lesson, and post it, we might just end up publishing it directly here at WritingFix, and we will post it here, giving you full credit.

  • Original graphic organizers for specific lessons, like this one, can be submitted as an attachment at this link. Look for the "Reply to this Box" beneath the post. To be able to post, you will need to be a member of our free Writing Lesson of the Month Network.

Step four (revising with specific trait language):   To promote response and revision to rough draft writing, attach WritingFix's Revision and Response Post-it® Note-sized templates to your students' drafts.  Make sure the students rank their use of the trait-specific skills on the Post-it® Note-sized templates, which means they'll only have one "1" and one "5."   Have them commit to ideas for revision based on their Post-It rankings.  For more ideas on WritingFix's Revision & Response Post-it® Note-sized templates, click here.

Share Original Revision Techniques or
Adaptations from Your Toolbox.

Inspired by Barry Lane's Reviser's Toolbox, the WritingFix website encourages its teacher users to adapt our lessons, especially the tools of revision we have posted here. If you create an original revision tool (or adapt one of ours) when you teach this page's lesson, and post it, we might just end up publishing it directly here at WritingFix, and we will post it here, giving you full credit.

  • Original revision ideas from teacher users of WritingFix can be submitted through copy/paste or as an attachment at this link. Look for the "Reply to this Box" beneath the post. To be able to post, you will need to be a member of our free Writing Lesson of the Month Network.

Step five (editing for conventions):  After students apply their revision ideas to their drafts and re-write neatly, require them to find an editor.   If you've established a "Community of Editors" among your students, have each student exchange his/her paper with multiple peers.  With yellow high-lighters in hand, each peer reads for and highlights suspected errors for just one item from the Editing Post-it.  The "Community of Editors" idea is just one of dozens and dozens of inspiring ideas that is talked about in detail in the Northern Nevada Writing Project's Going Deep with 6 Trait Language Workbook for Teachers.

Step six (publishing for the portfolio):   The goal of most lessons posted at WritingFix is that students end up with a piece of writing they like, and that their writing was taken through all steps of the writing process. After revising, invite your students to come back to this piece once more during an upcoming writer's workshop block.  The writing started with this lesson might become even more polished for final placement in the portfolio, or the big ideas being written about here might transform into a completely different piece of writing. Most likely, your students will enjoy creating an illustration for this writing as they ready to place final drafts in their portfolios.

Interested in publishing student work on-line? You might earn a free classroom resource from the NNWP! We invite teachers to teach this lesson completely, then share up to three of their students' best revised and edited samples at our ning's Publish Student Writers group.

To submit student samples for this page's lesson, click here. You won't be able to post unless you are a verified member of this site's Writing Lesson of the Month ning.


Learn more about Harper Lee by clicking here.

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