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Jul 27


Use audio to help you organize your thoughts, and learn how to deliver a speech that will make an impact on its listeners.

When you’re graduating high school, the valedictorian is often asked to address the student body, and, specifically, the class community you grew up with. They might give your community advice, reflect on the good times you all had together, or will speak about how you might strengthen your school community.


First, imagine you are the valedictorian of your graduating class. Jot down a basic outline of what you would like to say to your school community. What final message do you want to give to them all? What is the one thing you think your class community needs to hear?


Second, read over your outline and ideas. Don’t write out your actual speech. Instead, just start recording your speech. Say what you really want to say to your class.


Third, listen to your recording. If you don’t like your speech, record again. After you finally have a take you like, send your audio file to someone in your class. Ask them if they liked your final message to your community, and get their feedback (if their feedback makes you want to record again, do it).

Listen to the speeches of your classmates. Are your messages different? The same? Is there some unifying theme people have identified in your community? Comment on their work.

[Creative Commons Lisence: John Walker, non-commercial,

Jul 27
Grace's picture

Web Searches

So how do you improve your Google searches? To find better quality content (content from reputable sources, peer reviewed works, accurate information, etc), you need to know how to use the Google Search bar using the right search terms and format. 

  • Explicit Phrase: If you are looking for something like electoral college reform, you can make the search more precise by putting the phrase into quotes:  "electoral college reform"
  • Explicit site: Many sites and sources are, in fact, vetted and well-edited, like newspapers, television stations, magazines and other news sites as well as government research sources, universities, etc. So if you are looking for presidential election results, try focusing your search on an organization that did extensive work on the elections, say, The New York Times. So your search would be:  site:nytimes.com presidential election results (NOTE: start your search with the word 'site' followed by colon and the site url with NO space)
  • Explicit type of site: So you may want to limit your search to JUST government sites or government research sites. So if you wanted to do a search of polio studies, but wanted to see what government health sources had to say, you could set up your site this way:  site:*.gov polio  You could do the same thing with a search of academic materials or nonprofit organizations in the same way:  site:*.edu  or  site:*.org
  • Excluding words: Say you wanted to limit your search to exclude related but unwanted material. Say you wanted to look at how money was spent during the campaign but you wanted to exclude what was spent on advertising. To do this, use the "-" sign in front of the word you want to exclude. So your search might be:  campaign spending -advertising
  • Conversely, if you want to expand to use synonyms, put the "~" symbol in front of the related word or synonym

 A good source for information on Google searches is Google: http://www.google.com/insidesearch/

When looking at websites themselves, you should perform the CRAP test to make sure the information is reliable. CRAP stands for Currency, Reliability, Authority, and Point of View/Purpose. Information provided by Champlain College

  • Currency: When was this resource published?  Given your topic, will current or historical information be more useful? Maybe a mix of both to compare how things were then to how things are now?
  • Reliability: Is this information balanced? What publisher is putting out this resource? Are there references listed or a bibliography telling you how the author is supporting his/her ideas?
  • Authority: Who is this person writing this source, and why is what he/she says something you should care about?  Have they written other articles on this topic?  Are they thought of highly in their research communities?
  • Purpose/Point of View: Is this fact or opinion? Is it biased, and if it is, in what way?

Go to the Champlain Library page for more information on CRAP testing: http://www.champlain.edu/academics/library/get-help/research-how-tos/eva...

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Kevin Huang] 

    Jul 26
    admin's picture

    Free Images and Sound

    A bank of images and sounds is incredibly helpful when you're pulling together a digital story -- and it's even better when it's free!

    Content on the Internet has generally been created by and is owned by individuals and corporations. They own the copyrights, meaning that most creations are not free for the taking. Unfortunately, we all have gotten sloppy in how we use material gleaned from Internet searches -- it is, after all, so easy just to copy or download and incorporate into our own work. 

    However, it is good practice to attribute all work that you use that is not your own. In the case where there is a clear copyright, you can try contacting that person or corporation to explain what your intended use is of the work to see if they will grant you permission to use. Generally most creators are fine with content used for educational purposes and will generally charge for commercial use. There are many sources for "free" content and we've listed just a few sources here. Even in using "free" content, you should attribute the content to the creator or the source wherever possible. Much of the content linked here is governed by the rules of Creative Commons licensing; for more, go here: https://creativecommons.org/

    And if you see some photos that you like on the Internet, here are two sites where you can search for the creator and the copyrights:

    Check out these resources for free images and sound. Some restrictions apply.


    Search for Creative Commons and Copyright & Reusable Images

    Google Advanced Search [see: Usage Rights]
    Bing Search [see: License]

    General Stock Sites

    Government Sites


    Clip Art & Icons

    Museum Collections


    See other image sites recommended for reuse or public domain.

    LIBGuides with Joyce Valenza

    Copyright free music

    Sound Cloud

    Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Sarah Gliech, 2016
    Jul 26

    If only ...

    Learn how to take take a rant about issues at school, and turn it into a productive piece of writing that can be used to create change. 

    Do you have problems with your school community? Maybe you have suggested a club that should be formed, or a problem that should be fixed, or a subject that should be taught, but it feels like your school just won't do anything about it. 

    Action Plan:
    1. Without any preparation or concern, record an audio rant about an issue at your school. Let out your emotions, and let out your frustrations. Record for as long as you need to. Say what you want. This doesn't need to be perfect. 

    2. Listen to your recording. Take note of good points you made, and what you were most passionate about. 

    3. After you have analyzed it, write a letter to your school that is articulate, reasonable and appropriate, stating your opinion about the "problem" you think should be fixed -- and offering a solution. 

    Remember to comment on your peer's letters. 

    Record your letter and send it to someone at your school who will listen. Your voice might provide all the convincing they need!

    [Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Mackenzie Rivers, 2015] 

    Jul 26


    Think of someone you admire, someone who has helped change your life for the better. Write a poem that reflects on how this person has helped shape you as a person.


    1. Create a list of mentors in each of your communities (family, town, school, teams, etc). These are people who have sparked at least one positive change in your life.

    2. Pick one of these people and think about the change you have experienced because of this person. Write your poem. Don’t mention their name, just their actions.

    3. R
    ead your poem to your mentor and ask for their reaction. You never know, you might be able to turn their reaction into the last line of your poem.

    4. The best will be published in The Voice, YWP's digital magazine.

    5. Comment on the poems of your peers.

    [Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photi by Kevin Huang, 2015]


    Workshop > Commenting - Part II
    Jul 26

    Commenting - Part II

    There is a fine art in giving and receiving comments. This is an important lifelong skill.

    Feedback or commenting is critical to great writing. And the more comments you give to your peers, the more you will receive. Share and be generous. To provide valuable feedback, you must read the writer's piece carefully and thoughtfully. What do you like about it? What questions are you left with? Is there an area that could use some improvement? Be clear, be kind, be engaged when giving comments. If your class set up guidelines on commenting in Commenting - Part I, review them before starting this challenge.
    (Read more in Resources)

    In this exercise: 

    • You and a classmate share a piece of writing, something relatively short and -- if possible -- needing a little help to lift it to the next level.
    • Read the piece through, without stopping.
    • Read it a second time, this time with a pencil in hand to make marks and comments as you go.
    • Take turns providing verbal comments. Always start with the positive. What do you like most about the piece? Then move on to some constructive criticism -- you might discover the one little problem that eluded the writer. (Remember: Great writers have great editors!)
    • When it's your turn to receive feedback, listen with an open mind and an open heart.

    (Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Shenali Wijesinghe, Colombo, Sri Lanka, 2016)


    Debate - Part I

    The community you are born into is not always the community you live in for the rest of your life. Practice the skill of debating and articulating your opinions by using this difficult topic as a stepping stone. 

    • Conduct a debate with yourself on paper. What are three reasons to stay in your hometown after high school? What are three reasons to move? Don’t be afraid of your own opinions.
    • Analyze your own debate. Do you feel like you have your answer? Why or why not? 

    [Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Ethan Powell] 

    Jul 26

    Physical Issues - Part I

    By using your oberservational and photography skills, look around your community for physical issues. Use your pictures to create a positive change in your community. 

    Think about some of the physical issues in your community. Are your roads dangerous to drive on? Has your local playground been vandalized? Have people stolen street signs in your town? 

    1. Find a friend and take a walk around your community. Using a phone or a camera, document all of the physical issues you may see in your town (a broken swing, a cracking sidewalk, a road with faded lines, etc). 

    2. Make a slideshow of these pictures and think about why each of these physical issues might cause a problem, or even a threat, to your community members. 

    3. Be proactive. Send a letter and a link to your slideshow to local officials to point out the problems in the neighborhood!

    [Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Harlie Johnson]  

    Jul 26
    admin's picture

    On Commenting (and Sprouts)

    Feedback from your peers is a critical part of the writing and editing process. 

    ​Commenting on others’ work helps you focus on what you notice about a piece of writing. With practice, you learn how to express what you notice in a way that’s well received. When you receive comments from a peer who has taken the time to read with understanding and inquiry, you’ll appreciate their thoughts and suggestions.
    Peer to peer feedback strengthens critical thinking, the ability to take criticism and to view one’s own work in a more objective way and to make good revisions.
    Robust and regular commenting also helps students build community and try harder. You and your peers will learn about and gain appreciation for one another.
    Concepts: Good commenting takes time; don’t be discouraged. Keep your focus on commenting; nudge rather than issue edicts.
    The stages:

    • Affirmation (I read it, I liked it, I wish to acknowledge it)
    • Affirmation with Observation and Question (I read it, I noticed this and I wondered about this)
    • Affirmation with Suggestion (I read it, I noticed some things and had these thoughts for improvement)
    • Affirmation with Sprout (I read it, it made me think of my own experience, opinion, viewpoint and so I SPROUT a connected story.)

    With your teacher and fellow classmates, set the rules of good commenting as a group. Here are some guidelines about commenting that have been devised by other students with whom YWP has worked:

    • Positive, supportive observations and questions about the piece just read
    • Avoid ‘throwaway’ language such as ‘amazing,’ ‘you’re such a great writer’
    • Avoid passing judgment, good or bad
    • Avoid commenting on spelling, grammar and punctuation; these ‘gotchas’ don’t add much
    • It’s the classroom’s responsibility to make sure everyone gets a comment
    • Authors need to acknowledge – respond to – comments left on their posts

    About Sprouts: This is a feature that all of YWP's platforms have. It is derived from normal storytelling behavior: Someone tells a story and that triggers the listener to think of a story that is connected in some way. Same holds true with reading; a student reads a post and it makes her/him think of a connected story, opinion, experience, argument. Sprouts are a great way to respond to a post – Wow, that made me think of another story! And it can go on from there, sprout after sprout!

    (Photo credit: Meghan Smith)

    Jul 26

    Family Traits

    This is a poetry prompt that will get you to reflect on who you are, and a community that has greatly helped shape you as a person. You will produce something creative, and something reflective.

    Imagine you are deep in the woods, and deep into the rainy night, with nothing but your fire for company. You find yourself thinking about home... about your parents and family. You think about the traits you've inherited from them, but also the ways you're very different.

    1. Make a list of those similarities and differences.
    2. Make a "list poem" out of the traits list you have created and out of the setting in the challenge.
    3. Read your poem to yourself. Does your poem give you a new insight into how your community shapes you?
    4. Comment on the poems of your peers, and ask for their feedback on yours.

    [Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Kevin Huang, 2016]

    Jul 26

    Language and Length

    Knowing the audience you are writing to also means understanding their attention span, and interest level. Practice these skills by editing a piece of local news.

    Sometimes, you find a piece of writing that you think could be improved upon -- by you. Try it and see what the reaction is.


    1. Find a newspaper article in your local paper that you think would appeal to a broad audience, OR to an older audience.


    2. Using the same information in the article, adjust the LANGUAGE and the LENGTH of the article so it will appeal to an audience of your age. Write an article people your age would be interested to read. Make sure you keep the content of the article.

    3. Give it to a friend who is your age and ask their opinion of the article. Was it engaging? Interesting? Clear?

    4. Show the friend the original article and ask which one they preferred.

    5. Use their feedback to evaluate your skills in writing to a target audience.

    AND, as always, comment on the works of your peers.

    [Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Derek Pham]


    Jul 26

    Unique perspectives

    Create a slideshow of your community -- but from unusual angles. This workshop opens your eyes to new perspectives and is simply FUN!

    Take your camera (or smartphone) and go exploring in your community. Avoid the usual places (the welcome sign, the town green) and focus on areas that might go unnoticed. Get up close to your subjects and experiment. You might find beauty in a barbed wire fence or mystery in the door to an abandoned milkhouse. Think of your compositions as individual stories. See if your classmates can identify the places you choose. And have fun with it!

    (Photo credits: YWP Photo Library, photos by Essex High School students Josina Munson, Chelsea Somerset, Maggie O'Brien, Alexis Donna, Mya Burghardt, 2015)

    Jul 26

    Who - Part I

    Write about the history of your town in just one paragraph. Use that paragraph to practice adjusting your writing to a target audience. In Part I, do your research; in Part II adjust your writing.

    Writers are often thinking about WHO is reading their content — who their intended audience is. How old are their readers? How informed are their readers? How engaged are their readers? Writers often change their style to reach a certain, or a broad, audience.  

    1. Do some research on your town. How was it settled? When was it settled? Who were the founders? What was the main job/industry/export of your town at its founding? Gather what you think you need to know to understand the history of your town.


    2. In a paragraph, explain the who, what, where, why, and how of the founding of your town. Write the paragraph as if you were the only reader of the paragraph.

    3. Move on to Part II.

    [Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Kevin Huang]




    Explore the heart of your community through "man-on-the-street" interviews.

    In your community, what's the one place where you always run into people you know? The general store? School? A cafe? The park?

    • Go to this special place and using the broadcast news technique of "man-on-the-street" interviews, stop 5-7 people as they come and go and ask if you can interview them briefly (remember to bring notepad and pen and/or audio recorder).
    • Tell them that you're doing a story on the "heart of the community," that you think this is it -- do they agree? If so, why? If not, where do they think the heart is?
    • If you don't know the people you're interviewing, ask for their names.
    • Ask them to describe what they mean when they think of "the heart" of the community.
    • Record their answers and create a short audio story about your town's heart, using the clips from your interviews. 
    • Upload the finished version to your YWP blog. The best will be published in The Voice.

    (Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Susan Reid, 2014)



    Natural disasters can sweep in and change everything in an instant. In this workshop, the goal is to reflect and write.

    Tropical Storm Irene tore through Vermont on Aug. 28, 2011, destroying lives, homes, businesses, roads and bridges. Seven people died in Rutland, Windsor and Windham counties. 
    Was your community and/or your family affected by this storm -- or another devastating natural disaster? Write a personal essay about the experience OR if you were not personally affected, find and interview someone whose life changed because of Irene or another event.

    (Photo credit: Hurricane Irene, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Getty Images)