Sunday, August 21, 2016

Develop Voice in Student Writing

RE-PRINT - Mazenglish, 2011

We all want our students' writing to sing. Creating voice where there is little to none, however, is a challenge. As my AP Language students progress in their writing and ability to argue and deconstruct style, I reach a point where top students wonder if they will ever write a 9, and good students wonder how to make a 6 into a 7. The key to higher scores is often sophistication of language. It's diction, syntax, tone, style, voice, mood, attitude, and command of language. Top papers just sound better. And it's the way they command the language that makes the difference.

To that end, I use an assignment writing op-ed commentary as a way to model effective style/voice, and as a way to help them find their own. We analyze numerous pieces of commentary during the year, as they are great pieces for style and opinion/argumentation. In crafting their own, students are challenged with finding some topic on which they have something interesting to say. To begin, we do a few short journal entries entitled "Angry Talk," Happy Talk," and "Interesting Talk." They often share their ideas - and even a few choice sentences - as a way of generating ideas and discussion.

Often, this assignment produces some of the best writing I see from them all year. In fact, it works as well with my College Prep kids, too, despite being reluctant readers and writers. So, op-ed commentary just may be a nice addition to your composition components.

Oh, and by the way, the term "op-ed" does not mean opinion-editorial. It actually stands for "opposite the editorial page."

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