Since I came to Virginia Tech I have been fascinated by the topic of voice in writing, and I am curious about using digital literacies to help students become better writers. I think to point adolescents toward the usefulness of what they are setting out to write, teachers need to help them focus FIRST on three simple steps. For each of these three steps teachers can support students in their writing endeavor, and I’d like to share a query to ponder for each of the three that I present.
1.) What is the purpose of the piece that I am about to write?
Support: In a survey of over 400 adolescents that my advisor conducted in 2008 she found that “communication” was there #1 reason for writing outside of school and “grades” were there #1 reason for writing in school. Bridging the gap between out of school and in school writing purposes should not be that big of a leap. Regardless, the purpose of the piece of writing should be TALKED about with someone. Talking is one of the best ways to develop writing and whether it is with the teacher, a friend, or a classmate, talking about the purpose of the piece a student is selecting to write about is a critical first step.
Query: How can teachers use digital literacies to support purpose and students discussion of purpose?
2. Who is your audience?
Support: Teachers have long since used freewriting and writer’s notebooks to guide students in this process, and that is a great place to start, write arounds that invite other students’ perspectives on an issue can spark deeper thinking and audience considerations.
Query: How can digital literacies support audience consideration and discussion?
3. What voice will you use in addressing your audience? How will your voice serve your purpose?
Support: Engaging with an audience takes knowing the audience, regardless of written or verbal communication. When Michelle Obama spoke to the graduates at Virginia Tech last year I was impressed. It was clear by her message that she had done her homework by studying her audience, and I was engaged. A real life example, such as the first lady’s commencement speech, that exemplifies how other people consider voice in relation to audience can help students understand the packing that needs to be done for the communication journey.
Query: How can digital literacies help students research and gain information that will help them craft an authentic writing voice for the audience they want to address?
I have read theoretical articles, composed co-created rubrics with students involving voice, read recent research on the topic of voice and assessment and the subjectivity that comes along with how one could possibly assess a person’s voice in writing. How can voice be measured? For the last year and a half I’ve had “voice” on my radar.
Recently I have been rightly convinced that I need to push it back further in my dissertation studies. The topic is slippery, much like the topic of Interest that my professor discussed in my motivation and cognition class last night. I may still include it in my analysis. I think voice will be an area that I revisit often, because I think with “third space” learning environments and in preparing students for the future, purpose, audience, and voice need to be at the forefront of writing instruction.
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