Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Some Suggestions for Mentor Texts to Highlight Voice in Writing

     Our school division is embracing the 6 +1 Traits of Writing. The traits were developed by author Ruth Culham. Currently, our school is focusing on learning more about highlighting the trait of voice. Voice is the way writing comes alive! It sounds like the writer or the main character is sharing his or her story right in person. There's nothing dull or plain about it, and it grabs your interest. It's clear what the author's purpose is with the writing as well. Writing has a great voice when an author adds descriptive vocabulary, gives a story a unique spin, and brings a heartbeat to the writing!

     I've listed a few of my favorite examples to highlight voice in a variety of ways. Please click on the book titles or author names for links to more information about them. :)  

Enemy Pie by Derek Munson 
Told in a first person voice, the story is expressive and there is a honest voice present that kids can identify with. The book has its own website at: One of my favorite websites for writing instruction inspiration, Writing Fix, has a lesson where Enemy Pie is used with other traits that are focused on: ideas and organization. You can view it through Williamsburg Regional Library's subscription to Tumblebooks storybooks online. Also, you can watch it being read aloud on the Storyline website:


Alice the Fairy  by David Shannon 
Scholastic, who publishes many of Culham's professional resources, has an example voice lesson posted on its website that you can access by clicking here. You can go directly to a three page PDF of mini-charts from Scholastic through this lesson as well. You can show the charts under the document camera, paraphrase them on a larger chart intermingled with class comments about the book, or keep as a growing anchor collection of mini-charts for the classroom. 

This Is Your Life Cycle by Heather Miller 
This book is told in a game show format, "hosted" by Bob Beetle. Miller writes in the voice of Bob, and the author creates a clear, distinctive character that sounds just like you are sitting in the audience. It grabs the attention of the reader and they stay tuned for the whole "episode!" Great texts to connect this story to are Harry Bliss's Diary of a Worm/Spider/Fly trio.

The Night I Followed the Dog By Nina Laden 
This is a first person narrative of an evening of a boy investigating a night in his dog's life, which leads to many surprises! You can read the entire text online through Tumblebooks courtesy of Williamsburg Regional Library.

Thank-You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco - This is a memoir from Polacco's childhood.  Her voice of worry, being upset, and relief as a student who struggled as a reader come out clearly in the word choice throughout the story.  Polocco is a master storyteller because her voice is authentic and knowing. I highly recommend doing an author study on Patricia Polacco. Her texts that are written as memoirs show how everyone has a story to tell and a voice to share. As I say, she "makes the ordinary extraordinary just by writing it down!" 


One Green Apple by Eve Bunting
Bunting wrote this story as an internal conversation spoken by the main character who is trying to find her words and confidence in English. It's an interesting way to look at a book where the main character is literally seeking to find her own voice. Eve Bunting, who is one of my favorite authors to do an author study with students, writes in a distinct style that helps the reader understand this character's perspective in a wonderful way. When she does indeed find her voice, it is clear that she is empowered and has unlocked the power of sharing your own voice.

Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street by Roni Schotter
In this book, a girl named Eva searches for ideas for writing.  The voices of characters are distinct throughout the book as each gives their advice for Eva about writing. The advice includes ideas such as  to watch around yourself carefully, don't neglect the details, "try to find the poetry in your pudding" (use words in a new way), stretch the truth when needed, and make something happen rather than waiting for it. You can also tie in discussing character traits as each character is distinct in this text. Check out a great guide for a lesson on one of my favorite sources of inspiration for writing lessons. This site is called Writing Fix, and the lesson also features two more traits of discussing ideas and word choice. Scholastic also features a lesson on their teacher resources section of their website.

I will post about more texts that are great for voice and various traits throughout the year, so stay tuned! :)


  1. I *love* this post, and I hope you don't mind, but I linked back to it from my blog. You have great information! Thanks for your wonderful ideas.
    Comprehension Connection

    1. Thank-you! I will be posting about more mentor texts for reading and writing over the next few months, so please stayed tuned!

  2. Thanks for sharing. There were some new ones on here for me to add to my list! I'm now a follower! I look forward to hearing about more mentor books on your list!

  3. Thank-you Tara! Please stayed tuned! I'll also be posting about new mentor books in a special post for the August 10-for-10 Picture Book event. You can find out more about this event by looking up the hashtag #pb10for10 on Twitter. There were well over 70 bloggers that posted and participated last year! :)