Toolkit for "Own Your Voice"

This toolkit for "'Own Your Voice'" is a three-part activity for grades 8–12 that engages students with the Maria Hinojosa interview and asks them to conduct their own interviews that amplify “voice” and tell untold stories. 

In “'Own Your Voice,'” Maria Hinojosa speaks with Teaching Tolerance’s managing editor, Adrienne van der Valk, about breaking barriers as a Latina, telling untold stories and empowering the next generation. Use the interview as an exemplar to teach about the structure, questions and responses found in strong interviews. The three-part activity for grades 8–12 in this toolkit uses a Text Graffiti activity and a close reading of “Own Your Voice,” and then challenges students to conduct their own interviews.


Essential Questions

  1. How can interviews help give voice to untold stories and perspectives?
  2. What kinds of questions do strong interviewers ask?



Part One: Text Graffiti

Using Text Graffiti, expose students to snippets from “‘Own Your Voice’” before they read the full interview. This strategy helps ease students into a theme or topic by activating prior knowledge, making predictions and preparing for content and conversation. Later on, this step will help students think about the kinds of interview questions that solicit meaningful responses. For more information about the Text Graffiti strategy, log in to Perspectives for a Diverse America to see examples. You can also see the strategy in action here.

  1. Separate the quotes by cutting along the dotted lines.
  2. Tape each quote to a larger piece of paper.
  3. Tape each larger piece of paper to student desks or onto the walls of your classroom.
  4. Instruct students to read and comment in direct response to the quote in front of them, writing their thoughts on the surrounding paper.
  5. After about one minute, have students rotate to another quote. Use music or a timer to keep the pace moving.
  6. Provide students with “How to Graffiti a Text” ideas, such as:
  • Write what you think the quote means and why.
  • Draw a picture or symbol of what you think the quote is saying.
  • Explain what the quote makes you wonder.
  • Predict something about the full reading based on the quote.
  • Write what the quote tells you about the reading.
  • Tell about how the quote reminds you of something in your own life.

Respond to what another student wrote.


Part Two: Close reading of “Own Your Voice”

  1. Print copies of “‘Own Your Voice’
  2. Have students read the interview, first on their own and then aloud as a class.
  3. Have students make connections between Hinojosa’s statements (from the earlier Text Graffiti activity) and the corresponding questions van der Valk asked to get those responses from her. How much do the questions have to do with the quality of the responses? What do they notice about the way the questions are posed? How else might the same question be phrased? What do the question and the response leave out of the interview.


Part Three: Students conduct interviews

  1. Have students conduct their own interviews. You can determine the interview subjects/topics based on your existing learning goals and/or your students’ interests and inputs. However, keep the “own your voice” theme from the Hinojosa interview. In other words, the students’ goal should be to use interviewing as a means for documenting a person’s authentic “voice” and perspective.
  2. Use the TT interview as a “mentor” or “anchor” text example of what students’ final product should look like. (Note: Students’ interviews can be significantly shorter.)
  3. Present the basic five-question format van der Valk used to structure her interview, and suggest that students follow the same general format:
  • How did you get started? Or, How did you decide to do X? Or, What made you choose Y?
  • Tell me more about X. (For example, your work, your knowledge, your experience.)
  • What are your guiding principles?
  • Talk about what inspires you. What do you hope to accomplish?
  • Tell me about someone who has made a difference in your life.

Once students have completed their interviews, publish them into a class volume. As a class, have students create a title for the volume.

Teaching Tolerance collage of images

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