Thursday, May 19, 2011

Voice: The Basics

Even when teaching children to write, one of the desired outcomes is for them to find their voice. The Six Trait (or 6 +1 Trait) Program designates voice as one of the six (or seven) traits children should use when writing. (Other traits include: ideas, organization, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions, and (presentation).)

By their definition: Voice is the writer coming through the words, the sense that a real person is speaking to us and cares about the message. It is the heart and soul of the writing, the magic, the wit, the feeling, the life and breath. When the writer is engaged personally with the topic, he/she imparts a personal tone and flavor to the piece that is unmistakably his/hers alone. And it is that individual something–different from the mark of all other writers–that we call Voice.

Scoring guidelines are also provided when using this program. On a 5 point rubric for third through twelfth graders, here is how basic scoring would play out and what the writer needs to accomplish to earn a certain score.

5 - The writer speaks directly to the reader in a way that is individual, compelling, and engaging. The writer crafts the writing with an awareness and respect for the audience and the purpose for writing.

3 - The writer seems sincere, but not fully engaged or involved. The writing has discernable purpose, but it not compelling.

1 - The writer seems indifferent to the topic and the content. The writing lacks purpose and audience engagement.

(Definition and rubric wording taken from

Hmn? I think depending on the day, my mood, how productive and/or motivated I am, the weather, etc. etc., my scores would vary greatly on this scale! There are days I'm definitely a five and days I'm definitely a 1. And I figure, it never hurts to go back to the basics to polish my own writing.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!



  1. I agree with you, Debra, my voice changes with the day, etc. But I think it's terrific that kids are learning about voice and how to express it. I don't remember that actually being taught in school when I was growing up.

  2. This is a fairly recent development in education. It's a valuable skill to learn even for those who won't grow up to be professional writers!

  3. Hi Debra,

    Great post!

    Hee hee, it's really difficult to put a different slant on same subject matter. In the end, the result is the same! Writer Voice is unique, and quite different from every day talk voice, which a lot of people assume is the same thing.

    Though it's not so surprising a lot of people misunderstand the psychology of "traits" within writing, how each forms a pattern and why graphologists can analyze handwriting and predict personality traits. Interestingly, psychologists can do much the same from reading various pieces of typed script.

    Writer voice is such a fun subject, and so many interesting avenues to explore re entering a person's mind from the way they express themselves within words. It's a subject that could be discussed for weeks, and with loads of sample material for experimental purposes and analysis. ;)


  4. This IS a topic that could go on forever...and it really is a fun that has many, many different interpretations.