Three-sentence overview: This writing assignments asks students to assume the voice of a person from history they have researched. Focusing on a topic or belief the person showed passion about as history unfolded, the students write an essay modeled after NPR's "this i believe..." podcasts. Ideally, students publish their essays by recording them onto the classroom iPod, so they can be played back for the class.
|A person from history who can be researched
||Listeners of N.P.R.
||a "this i believe..." essay and podcast
||One to which the character from the novel would have an emotional attachment.
Writing skills (traits) to stress while teaching this lesson:
- The focus trait in this writing assignment is voice; students will help their audience understand the importance of a historical period through their writing's passion, word choice, and tone.
- The support trait students will work on is organization; they will make sure their introductions hook the reader/listener and organize their writing so that their beginning is strong, the middle is bold, and the conclusion convincingly ties all the pieces together.
- Several saved "This I Believe" podcasts whose content would be of high interest to your students. You can subscribe for free to the weekly podcast, and have it downloaded automatically to your iTunes each week, and save episodes whose content would inspire your students. A word of advice on saving podcasts that you like and want to save: don't let them run until the very end; as soon as a podcast plays in its entirety, your iPod will erase it the next time you sync it. If you turn off the iPod before it runs to its last second, it will save on your iPod. You can also purchase any of NPR's audio CD collection from the series, which contains many of the "best of" of the series saved permanently to CD. The paperback version of the series would allow your students to follow along with the printed text as they listen.
Pre-step…before sharing the podcasts: In small groups, have students compose five or six original sentences they believe a character from a novel they are studying might say out loud. Ask, "How will you write your sentences so that the words sound like they might come out of the character's mouth? Don't just write sentences that mention topics/ideas the character is interested in. Write sentences that would be said in a manner you believe your character would say them."
Discuss the concept in voice in writing as students share out loud which sentence they think captures their character's voice the best.
Step one…sharing this i believe... podcasts: Students will listen to several different podcasts from the National Public Radio program “this I believe..” in order to become familiar with the format of these essays that are read aloud by their authors. If you have the ability to print the essays so that students can follow along as they listen, they will probably see learn more about the essays' format faster.
Yvette Deighton--who inspired this lesson at WritingFix--suggests the two on-line essays below. Yvette explains, "The essays I have chosen are written by people who were driven to make an impact or do something extraordinary in the world. Both of these podcasts emphasize the idea that we--as individuals--can and have the responsibility to make a difference."
After students have been introduced to the format of the “this i believe...” essays, have them work in small groups to analyze the text (podcast) for specific words that helped set the mood or tone of the essays. The podcasts can be downloaded to your classroom I-pod to be played for the whole group. Use this graphic organizer to help the students record and discuss evidence of voice in the podcasts. You will also want to have available this handout of faces for students to fill out the second half of the graphic organizer.
If you have time to analyze written voice further, you might also want to find additional text samples for students to analyze. For example, providing students with a poem, a letter, and a science text book could help students identify differences in mood and tone in different genres.
After students have listened to the podcasts and analyzed voice, you will want to facilitate their thinking about organization. Ask them to talk about each podcast's beginning, middle, and conclusion.
Inform students, they will be composing a "this i believe..." essay in the voice of a person from history they are reading about
Step two…introducing student models of writing: To give them an idea of the writing assignment at hand, in small groups, have your students read and respond to any or all of the student models that come with this lesson. The groups should certainly talk about the voice and organization, since these are the focus of the lesson.
- Because this is a new lesson at WritingFix, we're looking for student samples for all grade levels for this prompt! Help us get some, and we'll send you a free resource for your classroom! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Step three…thinking and pre-writing: Students now need to spend some directed time thinking about what the historical person they are researching would believe enough in to write a "this i believe..." essay about. They can have a discussion that yeilds this information in pairs or in small groups.
After they have had a chance to brainstorm and reflect on what a historical persona believes passionately about, use this essay-planning graphic organizer to have students begin thinking about writing the essay from their person's point of view.
At the end of the first page, you will need to take a “break” from the pre-writing for an activity about good introductory sentences. Here is WritingFix's one-page handout on this topic: Little Red Riding Hooks. Although the examples on this handout are aimed at a fictional story, the same methods work for non-fiction and persuasive writing. Have students create eight possible leads for the topic they are writing about, share in groups, and have the group help each writer decide which method might work best for introducing their essays.
Once students have completed the graphic organizer, you will want to set some timelines for the rough drafts. You might have them use this voice drafting sheet, which will require them to re-visit the focus trait as they write.
Step four (revising with specific trait language): To promote response and revision to students' first drafts, 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.
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 out loud and on-line): If your students had fun doing this writing, they might enjoy sharing their original podcasts whole-class or in small groups.
Interested in publishing student work on-line? We invite student writers to post final drafts of their original at WritingFix's Community of Student Writers. This is a safe-to-use blog for students and teachers. No writing is posted until it is approved by the moderator. Contact us at email@example.com if you have questions about getting your students published.