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Monday, December 6, 2010

Sidetracked: Voice vs Conventions

Most of us were probably "taught" writing the same way:  a bunch of red pen all over the place or one nice "ok" in red at the bottom.

It's hard for us to let go of that red pen.

Teaching the process of writing, however, calls for the students to hold the "red" pen and to make their own revisions and edits.

They may not catch every error we would (and why should they?) and might not write every sentence to perfection, but making changes at all is pretty remarkable when most students just love to rush right up after a period of time writing and shout, "I'M DONE!!" while waving a notebook or paper in your face.

It's important to "listen" to students' writing, too.  Even while actually reading it.  Overlook the conventions:  the misspelled words, the lack of punctuation, the sentences that aren't made up of all the right parts.  We have to remember that the benchmarks we "grade" and the components of writing are SEPARATE for a reason.  PROCESS, CRAFT, CONVENTIONS.  Don't dock a student on voice just because the handwriting or spelling is illegible. 

Here's an example of some great student voice from one of my second grader's writing pieces.  This is a personal narrative that she brought to completion (through the entire writing process) back in September. It was her first piece of the year. I've typed it for you with the correct conventions, but even without, her VOICE was amazing!

First, it was almost night time.  We were playing with the puppies. I was five years old.  My dad, grandpa and I fell in the green grass.  I got covered with puppies.  I was laughing.  Next, I saw my dad fall in the green grass.  We played until the stars came out.  The puppies fell asleep.  It was time to go in the house.  Then, I called my cousin over and we crawled into bed.  Mom and Dad kissed me on the cheek goodnight.  "Sleep tight.  Don't let the bed bugs bite!"

(I bolded my favorite lines.)

Look for great voice in your student's writing today.  Overlook their errors in convention and process.  Celebrate the personalities and stories they bring to their writing through the craft!


  1. Covered with puppies is such a vivid description! Great example of voice!

  2. She brings this voice to all of her writing. I love second graders' writing! They so enjoy telling stories! :0)