Youth Voices is a vibrant home for young writers seeking an authentic audience and a space to publish writing across a wide range of genres. The site is essentially a social network, so students can easily align their interests and make meaningful connections with other young writers. Students touch on issues ranging from the environment and politics to personal narrative stories and video gaming. Some students also add multimedia components like video.
Students will need to create their own accounts and set up a profile. Once they have their own space, kids can begin writing blog posts, which are designated to certain areas (such as argument, stories and poems, video conversations, etc.). A convenient place to start is to access the Youth Voices Play Challenge -- a series of activities in a game format that orients users to the site and has them walk through several challenges, including commenting on other posts. Another area has a series of "missions" for students, in which they explore specific topics as researchers and writers.
The teachers behind Youth Voices carefully built and nurtured this site over many years, and it shows. The commenting feature on posts opens up a range of discussions, and writing on the site can be very powerful.
Best of all, the site is free and remains flexible for the needs of teachers and their students. One drawback is that many of the writers on the site are high school students, so the content and subject matter can walk the line of appropriateness at times. Any questionable content centers more on subject matter than on inappropriate language. If you're considering Youth Voices, it would be wise to monitor the site over a period of time to make sure it meets your educational goals and your school's expectations.
For teachers, the community of other educators on Youth Voices can be a powerful support group. The collective networking and thinking among the Youth Voices educators has resulted in usable classroom resources for you, including a series of writing challenges, discussions grouped along various themes, integration of art and writing, and curriculum-based documents that validate how online writing communities meet the needs of students across subject-area classrooms.