A great writer has a strong voice. "Voice" is one of the 6 Traits of Writing, but a lot of teachers don't see it as one of the more important traits.
On June 24, 2006 I saw Garrison Keillor perform an episode of Prairie Home Companion in Salt Lake City, and I again wondered about voice. How does a writer come by a strong voice -- where does that confidence come from? I remember the first time I heard my voice through the sound system of a big auditorium; it was unnerving. But now when I hear myself like that, it's not a big deal. Speaking from experience, I got better as a writer once I got used to my voice, and that included actually listening to my recorded voice, becoming accustomed to it, "hearing" my voice as I composed, and then making editorial decisions based this awareness of voice.
So when I had my classes write about their thoughts on 9/11 and played their recorded voice back to them, I asked them what they thought about their voice.
Do you think seniors in AP English would have more confidence in their voice than my 9th graders do? I did. But I was wrong. 63% of the seniors responded negatively (e.g. "I sound weird"), while 65% of the 9th graders felt the same (e.g. "I sound like a freak").
Do you think girls or boys have more confidence in their voice? Out of the five seniors who responded positively to the experience (e.g. "my voice sounds more professional, cool") 4 of them were boys. All six 9th graders who responded positively were boys.
I think that if I get them more accustomed to their voice, they'll be better writers. That's why I include podcasting in my curriulum.