This lesson comes after students have read a lot about their topic and have taken a substantial amount of notes to reflect on. This lesson also reviews the concept of "talking back to the text" or responding to what has been read.
I start by telling students that now that they have taken a lot of notes, they are almost ready to draft. However, there is one more important thing that they must do to make their writing more interesting. They need to add voice. What that means is that the report needs to sound like an actual person wrote it, not a robot.
In order to do that, I need to consider the information that I have read and recorded and think about my reaction to it. I also have to consider what or how I want my reader to think and include ideas to direct their thinking.
I show them how I do this by reviewing notes that I've taken about my modeled topic. In this case, I've chosen to focus on a region of Vietnam because I know other student is focused on that. I then read through a few facts that I've recorded and think out loud, "It is really amazing that so many people live in this small area. That's really different than the other places in Vietnam" or "I never knew that there could be so many climates in a country this small. Most of Vietnam is really hot and tropical but this place is similar to Seattle's weather".
In order to respond to the text and add the author's voice to the writing, the author must review their notes and ask themselves questions such as, "What do I think about this? How do I feel? Why is this interesting or different? Can I compare it to something else? Why should my reader care or be interested in this?" Students will get now get a chance to try that out.
After I have modeled and reviewed how to respond to the text, I ask students to try it out with a partner. First, I restate the types of questions they might want to ask themselves then I ask them to find a section of notes that seems full of information or facts. When they start with their partner, they read a few facts to their partner and then make a comment about what they think about those facts. After one partner has had a chance to share, the other partner tries it out. Students go back and forth until the teacher thinks that everyone has had at least one chance to share.
I ask the class to restate some of the questions they ask themselves when they are responding to their notes. Students share out, "I ask myself why I think this part is important" or "Does this connect to anything else I have learned?", etc.
After this final review, students are given time to work independently. Their first task is to read their notes and respond to them. When they have responded to their notes, then they can continue researching and recording information for questions that have yet to answer.
After students have had a chance add their voice, I ask each student to share with their table group a place that they have added their opinion or thoughts.
They first share the fact that made them think and then share what they could add to their writing to allow the reader to hear their voice. Each student gets a chance to share.