Teacher Consultant

Kevin Hodgson

Southampton, Massachusetts

Western Massachusetts Writing Project

Writing the Voiceover Script

Pre–Writing

In the pre–writing phase, students use planning sheets and storyboards to plan out their stories. Since this is a collaboration between sixth-graders and second–graders, the thinking and planning takes some time and does often require teacher assistance to keep focus.

In this phase, students think about setting, characters, and basic plot design. They also begin to sketch out the scenes. Some of the writing at this point may start to come together as narration for the script they will write in the next phase.

Drafting

The first draft of the script is often done on the computer, with one person taking on the role of scribe and the entire group working on the brainstorming of the story and character dialogue. This can be a messy process, as there are often competing voices to steer the story in different directions (even if the framework had already been decided in the prior phase). A script is developed in the play format, although some groups decide that a short story format works best for them. The sixth–graders have already (earlier in the year) done a unit on playwriting, and so they can fall back on the genre.

Revising and Editing

Revision of the scripts is often left to the older students, who work to refine the dialogue and make sure the story is as coherent as possible, and that all members of the group have enough dialogue and characters. They often refer back to the original storyboard to make sure they are on track with the story, although some stories change considerably during the drafting phase.

I have my students read through the scripts, taking on different characters, to determine how the vocalizing of the words might be different from the way the words seem on the page. This “read aloud” strategy is important, as it gives voice to the characters and the dialogue.

We also color–code the scripts, so that there is some visual representation of the characters when considering the revision of the words and story. If the mix of characters is viewed as unbalanced (although we do not worry about a complete balance – some characters are going to have more lines and parts than others), there is more writing and editing that takes place.

Proofreading

I do use a scoring rubric with my sixth–graders, although the writing element is really just one part of the overall assessment for this particular project. We use checklists, too, for proofreading to make sure that they have examined the scripts for errors.