June 26, 2022: Whose Voice is Missing?
Earlier this month I had the privilege of attending a week-long Teacher Institute on Early American History. It was intense, inspiring, and insightful. I will most likely be spending the next few weeks processing, studying, and digesting the information, as I explore ways to use the materials and resources in my own classroom.
One of the sessions that really resonated with me was one in which the scholar continually asked us, whose voice is missing? Whose story is not being told? These are important questions to ask when we are studying and teaching history, but I also think these are valuable questions for writers.
They took us through a 5-step process to teach our students, to help them uncover the multiple layers in the stories in history that they will come across. This thinking routine is from Project Zero, and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. I think it can be a very valuable tool for writers as we plan and outline our own stories, whether they are grounded in history, or entirely fictional.
Step 1: What is the story?
This is pretty self-explanatory and this is what writers do all the time. What is the story I want to tell? Who is it about? What is going to happen? Where and when will this take place? Why are these events happening? How will the challenges and struggles within the story be resolved?
Step 2: What is the human story?
Is there anything in this story that speaks to the human condition? What in this story can connect with humanity-at-large? What transcends the story?
Step 3: What is the world story?
Can anything in the story be connected to the global world? The larger picture? Where do these events or people fit in the world?
Step 4: What is the new story?
Does this story contain any new perspectives? If there a new way of looking at this story? These events? These characters?
Step 5: What is the untold story?
Who, within the story, is being left out? What perspectives are being ignored? Whose voice is being silenced?
Whether using this with students in the classroom, or during my own writing process, I think these five questions can be very powerful in looking deeper, and writing more comprehensively.