Voices Literature and Writing

Voices Literature & Writing (VLW) consists of two components: Teacher Read Alouds and Writing Instruction. Both components integrate the teaching of the core social and democratic competencies and are fully aligned with the Common Core Standards.

Teacher Read Alouds

The Voices Themes

The Teacher Read Aloud Component is organized according to six social development themes: Identity Awareness, Perspective Taking (Emotional Awareness), Conflict Resolution (Social Problem Solving), Family, Friends, and Community (Achieving Goals), Social Awareness, and Democracy (Democratic Voices). For each grade level, there is a developmentally appropriate Central Question that helps students to explore these personally and social relevant themes. The Voices themes have evolved over the past twenty years. The current themes that are being used to develop the Literacy for Democracy Curriculum are somewhat different from the VLW themes and are in parentheses.

The Six Step Read Aloud Pedagogy

The reading and discussing of the read aloud titles within each theme and central question is organized according to the Six Step Read Aloud Pedagogy: Connect, Read, Discuss, Apply, Reflect, and Participate.

  • Connect: To begin, the teacher introduces the Voices Theme and Central Question and then engages students in related oral language activities that help students connect with each other and the text they are about to listen to.
  • Read: The teacher then reads the story aloud and engages students in an ongoing discussion that helps build comprehension strategies and skills.
  • Discuss: After listening to the story, the students discuss and debate the overall meaning of the text and the important issues in the story.
  • Apply: The students then participate in the Voices Core Activity for that theme and practice applying the core social and democratic competencies to the text and real life situations.
  • Reflect: At the end of each set of lessons related to a read aloud title, students write about and reflect on what they have learned.
  • Participate: Throughout each theme, students are working on a Theme Project in which they also are applying and transferring what they have learned to a service learning activity.

Close Listening and Deep Comprehension

In read aloud lessons, student learn to listen closely to the text and to apply complex reasoning skills and the core social and democratic concepts to the text so as to deepen their comprehension of its meaning. Close listening prepares them for close reading.

Writing From Sources and Critical Writing

Each day, students use their writing journals to analyze what they have discussed or experienced in the various read aloud related activities and at the end of the week they use writing to reflect on the personal and social meaning of what they have learned before sharing their writing with the class.

Writing Instruction

While the Teacher Read Alouds component provides short writing activities based on responding to the texts being read aloud, the Writing Instruction component provides comprehensive writing instruction that builds on the social, oral, and reading activities in the read aloud component.

Writing Pedagogy

The Voices Writing Pedagogy builds directly on the oral language and reading genre skills that students learn when listening to and discussing the read aloud books. For example, in Theme 1: Identity Awareness, students learn to tell stories about important events in their lives and to closely analyze the effects of important events in the lives of the characters in the books they are listening to and reading. This provides them with experience, background knowledge, and genre knowledge to begin writing their own personal narratives.

Short and Long Process Writing

The VLW Writing Instruction component provides students with systematic and explicit writing instruction in all of the major writing genres and skills, including grammar, required by the Common Core. In the first three to four weeks in each theme, students learn the writing genre knowledge and skills for that theme in a series of one-week writing activities. In the last 2-3 weeks, they apply these skills as they undertake the writing project for that theme, which includes all components of the writing process.

Narrative, Informative, and Argumentative Writing

Each year, students write personal narratives about important events, fictional narratives about real life conflicts, informative essays comparing points of view, explanatory essays about important personal goals, argumentative essays about the causes of important social problems, and argumentative speeches advocating solutions to these problems. This addresses all of the writing genres focused on in the Common Core State Standards.

Critical Writing

The goal of the VLW Writing Instruction component is to help students to be able to use writing to critically analyze the world around them.

  • They learn to write stories in which they tell and reflect up on the meaning of important events in their lives.
  • They write stories about real life conflicts and provide fictional endings which provide possible resolutions to these conflicts.
  • They write essays comparing points of view on controversial issues
  • They write essays explaining how they are going to achieve important personal goals.
  • They write essays arguing what they believe are the causes of social problems.
  • And they write speeches advocating solutions to these problems.

Each of these major writing projects requires and challenges students to write critically and thoughtfully about their lives and the world around them.

Program Components

Voices for Literature & Writing includes the following components. Click on the following link to get a grade level overview of the curriculum, specific titles, and other components. (link to VLW program components).

  • Teacher Read Alouds: five read alouds per theme in grades K-3 and three read alouds per theme in grades 4-6, includes chapter books
  • Teacher Guides: One teacher guide per theme
  • Digital Resources: Lesson resources for vocabulary development, discussion activities, and writing models; writing prompts and rubrics; graphic organizers; and background building videos
  • Teaching Masters: include a CD with printable resources for minilesson support, student partner activities, and school-to-home connections
  • Read Aloud CDs: Complete audio recordings of each Teacher Read Aloud
  • Assessment Handbook and CD-Rom: provides customizable tests, reteaching masters, end of week and end of theme assessments, pretests and posttests, and observational checklists
  • Theme Posters: posters for each theme that introduce the Central Question

Prices and Packages

  • Theme Packages: Purchase one or more Theme Packages for selected themes in a grade. $150 per theme.
  • Complete Grade Level Packages: Purchase all themes in a grade. $710 per grade per teacher
  • Visit the Zaner-Bloser website for more detailed product and pricing information. Click button below.
  • Education for Democracy Institute provides professional development support for all the Voices products. Click here for more about professional development.
  • Contact the Education for Democracy Institute for support developing a customized package for your school including both Voices products and professional development.


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