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Teaching Voice in Reading and Writing

Updated on August 7, 2013

Teaching and Understanding VOICE in Reading and Writing

Teaching voice to students can be a daunting task. Voice is not exactly a concrete term that students in middle school understand. Many continue to struggle with it in high school and college. My approach with my middle school students is by teaching through reading as opposed to teaching it in writing. As their reading skills become more analytical I concurrently hold discussions in class. By encouraging my students to discuss their point of view and ensuring them that their opinion really matters they begin to realize they actually have a voice - A RESPECTED voice. In turn, they begin to perfect their expression through dialogue as well as in their respective writing. I have been surprised many times by my stubborn and/or rebellious students. Once they realize I value and respect their opinion they begin to flourish.

Tips for encouraging “oral” voice as an introduction to “written” voice.

Building trust and relationships in your classroom.

First and foremost lay down the rules – everything depends on mutual respect. No one should feel their opinion does not matter. Always praise and encourage your students.

Socratic Seminars - Find an interesting topic for your particular age group. A topic that is borderline controversial will inspire different opinions. Have the group silently read the article. Place half of the class in a circle – this group will take turns discussing the topic. The other half of the class will sit behind another student in the discussion group. They can pass questions or comments in the form of notes to the person in front of them. If someone on the outside group feels strongly enough to speak they can move to an empty seat in the discussion group – they will state their question or comment and then step back out. Once you can bring the discussion to a close have them write a journal entry on the topic. Helpful rules would be; only one speaks at a time, if you disagree do it respectfully and then support your own point of view, if you misunderstand a previous speaker’s opinion ask for clarification, if you agree with another speaker state what you agreed with or liked. Socratic seminars are great for encouraging true discussion, creating respect, analysis of opinions and the development of voice and point of view. Once students learn to orally “voice” and analyze opinions their development of using “voice” in writing will have a more definite foundation.

Understanding Voice in Reading and Writing

So, what IS voice?

Voice should embrace the writer’s point of view while purposely connecting the reader and the writer.

VOICE shows the writer's personality. The writing should display the characteristics of style, personality and opinions that are unique to the writer. It should contain a personal point of view with connections for the reader that you would not find in say an encyclopedia entry. In other words, the writing should not sound like an informative list, but rather personify the writer’s point of view and experiences. The reader should be able to sense the sincerity and honesty of the writer. The writer should be candid and diplomatic while also writing from the heart. In the end, the reader should feel enlightened about the topic while also feeling connected to the writer. The challenge is to use descriptive language while minimizing the use of the words “I” and “You”.

Voice – A Guide for Analysis

  • The paper shows the writer's personality.
  • The writer has written the paper to be read and understood, not just as an assignment.
  • There is a connection between the writer and the reader.
  • The paper is honest and sincere; it is written from the heart.
  • The language helps the reader "see" what is happening in the writing.
  • The reader gets a real sense of the writer’s humor, sadness, happiness, suspense, or excitement from the writing.
  • The writer shows his feelings and emotions in the paper and shows interest in the topic while taking the reader into consideration.

Describing the Characteristics of Voice – What the reader should be looking for;

  • Sincerity - Shows honesty, from the heart, true interest in the topic
  • Candid & Clear - Shares feelings about the topic, speaks directly to the reader
  • Descriptive - Uses language that enlightens the topic for the reader. Sensory details are especially useful.
  • Purpose - Written to be read and understood, not just “heard”.
  • Advocates Point of View - Supports view with facts and experiences.
  • Informative - Presents facts and connects them to the reader through personal experiences.

Evaluating voice in your own writing

Many times I ask my students “Does the reader understand and believe your point of view? know what you are trying to say, but does the reader?”

Educational hubs by MissOlive include;

MissOlive's hubs are written and published by,
marisa hammond olivares, copyright 2011
All rights reserved.


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    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      7 years ago from Texas

      Marcy - thank you very much. Great point here, "I often have to explain to students that their writing should synthesize the material, not just repeat it."

      Wordsntone - Yes, this would work well with any age group. Discussions are a great inspiration for thought, reading and writing.

      EuroCafeAuLait - Mutual respect is very important - isn't it? We should all feel we have a voice - literally. Encouraging this approach with young readers and writers is highly beneficial to their development.

      Thanks to all for reading and commenting.

    • EuroCafeAuLait profile image

      Anastasia Kingsley 

      7 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      I really liked what you said about mutual respect. Voted Up and Interesting. Thanks, Miss Olive :)

    • Wordsntone profile image


      7 years ago from Bridgeport, CT

      Excellent insight. Not a bad idea to apply to college age students as well.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 

      7 years ago from Planet Earth

      I'm so glad this popped up on my screen today - these are great ideas for adult learners as well as school children. I often have to explain to students that their writing should synthesize the material, not just repeat it. They don't always get it, but they usually make some strides forward. Their majors are outside of the subjects I teach, and they generally don't have to write in other classes, so I hope to improve that skill while they're in my classes.

      Very good hub - voted up, useful and interesting.

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      7 years ago from Texas

      Hi TattoKitty - I'm curious how your narratives went. What grade do you teach?

      We are doing a reading and writing benchmark this week. I'm anxious to analyze their needs - the holidays are upon us and Spring is right around the corner. Feeling the pressure.

      Thank you for stopping by and I'm glad you are interested in sharing the hub with your students. The video is a great tool too. Take care.

    • TattooKitty profile image


      8 years ago from Hawaii

      Wonderful hub to share with my students! They're in the process of writing personal narratives, so this info will be extremely helpful! Thanks ;)

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      8 years ago from Texas

      tsmog - what an amazing comment! Where can I possibly begin?

      You mentioned High school versus Middle school. The insight middle schoolers have has amazed me often. They are still wondrous and moldable. Not quite jaded yet. Thank you for recognizing the teachers on HubPages. There are many and I learn from them daily. As for Socratic questioning - it is a nice blend of conscious and unconscious thought. Guiding young students through the process and teaching them to reflect on those respective thoughts is truly a beautiful experience for me. Furthermore, the evolution of this beauty is watching their voice develop orally and in their writing. I get to sit back and relish in their respective thoughts as I listen and read their forthcoming pages. These great outcomes are a deep rooted reward for me.

      Thank you tsmog for stopping by and providing me with a smile, many inquisitive thoughts and warm compliments to last me a lifetime.

      Peace, MissOlive

    • tsmog profile image

      Tim Mitchell 

      8 years ago from Escondido, CA

      This is awesome. Voice, though transcendent between reader / writer, in my view, as I hand a note to the one in the circle, who chooses to voice, my voice, in their voice is somewhat of a democratic process too.

      That adds to the Socratic thought of questioning. Looking further I can see how a discussion, while using that as a model, the 'teacher' may touch upon conscious and unconscious thought. But, maybe that is high school and not middle school. I dun'no.

      It boils down to this for me, the contributions by teachers here at hubpages, and there are many, demonstrate the undaunting task(s) a teacher has with 'students' with any level of learning.

      I can go on and on. Maybe a hub is born. Finishing quickly, if possible, reading is layer upon layer upon layer, in my view, of discovery. A voice is discovered. In writing a voice seeks to be understood more than heard, again in my view.

      This modality you have put into play is not static. It is very much dynamic, fluid, incessantly ceaseless in potential. So, knowing that new discovery of 'self I end, going to the garden to watch the butterflies, while pondering just how well you have done this undaunting task, today - smile!

    • lbidd54 profile image


      8 years ago from The beautiful Jersey Shore

      Thank you for this outstanding hub. For me, in my writing, voice and tone are so important in trying to communicate to the reader exactly what I am trying to say. it's a constant struggle as I continue in the learning process.

    • Melovy profile image

      Yvonne Spence 

      8 years ago from UK

      Hi again MissOlive, Thanks very much for taking the time to explain. It sounds like a great practice that will have benefits for the children way beyond the classroom. They are learning useful skills for everyday life.

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      8 years ago from Texas

      Hi Melovy - great question and one I've been meaning to edit.

      Yes, the size of the class is an issue, however, there are other benefits as well...

      The "outside" group members are the "scribes". The scribes keep note of the discussion; WHO said or asked WHAT and what main points were made. The scribes can be used in a variety of ways at the end of the discussion of the inner group. Here are a couple ideas -

      1. the inner and outer groups switch places and repeat the seminar.The original scribe hands their notes to their partner as they switch places. (my personal rule - there is no note taking from the discussion group - only in the scribe group and vice versa)

      2. At the end of the discussion - the outer scribe group gives a brief oral description of the main discussion points they agreed or disagreed with. In the end, if the original topic veered into another area (this happens often, issues do overlap) they can make a request for a second seminar. It is AWESOME when this happens. This shows great interest and at times passion from the students. It is another opportunity to have them read, write and discuss issues. A skill required for developing voice on paper as well as in life. Plus, it promotes reflection and perspective.

      The idea is to promote discussion, thought and respect. To give a voice to all involved. It is a great lesson in interpersonal and communication skills as well.

      Thank you Melovy for prompting me to clarify. I'll try to edit the hub sometime today. I hope my explanation helped answer your question.

    • Melovy profile image

      Yvonne Spence 

      8 years ago from UK

      This is a really interesting hub. I’ve never heard of Socratic Seminars before, but they sound like a great way to encourage kids to speak up. I was intrigued that half the class sit behind the others, and wonder if you write a little more about that - is it just because the group is too large for everyone to join in or does it benefit the seminar in some way?

      Your classes sound great, and I admire by your compassion for your students. I suspect that alone helps enormously in their learning.

    • Maralexa profile image

      Marilyn Alexander 

      8 years ago from Vancouver, Canada

      What a super hub! Your description of how to teach your students "Voice" is excellent! It must be a wonderful experience for your young students. This will support them throughout their entire lifetime. What a Blessing!

      And isn't this so useful for people writing hubs. You have shown me something quite valuable the I will try to incorporate in my writing.

      Thank you for your hub. It is outstanding!

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      8 years ago from Texas

      Vinaya, I'm so glad to hear this HUB was useful - thank you. I look forward to "hearing" your voice across the Hub

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      8 years ago from Nepal

      Finding own voice in writing is the hardest part that I have found in writing. I have bookmarked this hub, it is very useful.


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