Soapstone writing is a system designed to help student improve reading comprehension and writing. It is usually written with the first six letters capitalized in order to emphasize the acronyms, like so: SOAPSTone writing. Students use each acronym as a jumping-off point for analyzing, understanding and writing text.
Begin With the Speaker
The "S" in SOAPSTone stands for "speaker." This is the voice telling the story. It might be a character or the actual author. Remind the students that they can't just name the speaker -- they must tell as much as they can about the speaker. The more thoroughly students can describe the speaker, the better they can understand the speaker's motives. In writing, describing the speaker helps students write text that will describe how the characteristics of the speaker are shaped by the speaker's experiences.
Consider the Occasion
The "O" in "SOAPSTone" stands for "occasion." Students should ask themselves "What is the occasion?" They should think about the circumstances that prompted the writing of the text. For example, a current news story might trigger the writing of an opinion column. Or, perhaps the author adopted a pet and decided to write a story about a lost cat. In writing, the occasion is the motivation behind the need to tell a story.
Think About the Audience
The "A" in SOAPSTone stands for "audience." Tell your students to think about who the readers of the story might be -- young children just learning to read, teenagers, adults who like fantasy novels are just a few examples. Students should describe as many characteristics of the audience as possible. When writing, students should determine their audience before they start writing, as the choice of an audience will dictate not only the subject matter, but the readability levels and vocabulary as well.
Determine the Purpose
The "P" in SOAPSTone stands for "purpose," and it refers to the author's reason for writing the text. Being able to determine the purpose is especially important in nonfiction, as it allows students to identify the thesis. Student writers should determine their purpose for writing before they even write the first word. One way to do this is to have the students ask themselves, "What do I want the reader to learn or experience?"
Identify the Subject
The second "S" in SOAPSTone stands for "subject." The students should be able to identify and describe the subject in only a few words or phrases. Once they are able to identify the subject, they should be also able to identify related themes. For example, the subject of nonfiction is often closely related to the lesson or thesis. When writing, students should determine the subject at the beginning, as this will help them flesh out their themes.
Describe the Tone
The "T" in SOAPSTone stands for "tone," and it describes the overall attitude of the author. In fiction, it can also describe the tone of the main character and how it changes as the story progresses. Tone is often conveyed through diction, imagery and syntax, so one way to help students identify tone is to have them describe some of the images in the text, or the setting. Writers use tone to develop their own unique voices.