Friday, November 23, 2012

Teaching Large Scale Revision: Working with Our Most Proficient Writers

Here are some more notes from the past, looking for principles that still hold true.  I think it becomes all too EASY to leave our most proficient writers to their own devices, after all, these writers "get it" and often do what we teach them, but how do we take them even further? It is our job to teach ALL of our students to grow.  Do our most proficient writers reach their full potential in our workshops? 

It would seem that the habit of mind that would most support these writers would be teaching them how to make their revision work in more meaningful and complex.  After all, revision is a habit of mind, and when writers develop this habit and learn to do it well, it causes them to approach writing with a more reflective stance, work with increased independence, and of course, lifts the level of their writing.

Trouble We Encounter with Proficient Writers
     These writers often do EVERYTHING we teach them
     At times, these writers are reluctant to take risks (teacher-pleasers)
     These writers sometimes see revision as something I did wrong
     These writers look at revision as too much extra work; and need to learn to see revising as an art.
     These writers might move through revision TOO fast, this work helps them to slow down

Think about them as professional writers, look at their writing with an adult lens (professional writer), but translate into words that are accessible to kids.  “At its core, the truth of the matter is, revision is matching what is in your heart with what is on the page.”  

Logistics and Content
It helps for students to write on one side and skip lines when drafting because it makes it easier to draft and revise across pages and manipulate scenes in order to revise on a larger scale versus a line or word here or there. The following are some tips for large scale revision shared at a TCRWP reunion in 2007 with an all-star staff developer (who happens to be our staff developer, Colleen Cruz):
  1. Writers ask themselves questions about their writing to help plan their revision work, such as: Where is the trouble or tension (that's what makes it interesting to read)? Who is the audience? Does it make sense?
  2. Writers experiment with different structures that highlight the important parts of their pieces (flashback, flash forward, framing etc.)  There are two parts to stories: the outer stories (actions/reactions); the inner stories (feelings/responses). Often call external and internal.
  3. Writers consider the pacing of the text at different places and make changes (sentence structure, punctuation, content) to help slow the reader down, or speed them up.
  4. Writers work with intention - uniting what seem to be unconnected pieces in order to create layers
  5. Writers revise dialogue, making sure to break it up for rhythm and timing.  Ask: What work do we want dialogue to do in this scene? Again, we see we’re coming back to intention and the writer's purpose.
  6. Writers use objects as metaphors that will match their intended meaning, making sure it is placed with care and weighted throughout the piece (don't bang the reader over the head with it) so that the message resonates with the audience.

Reflecting on the Principal Gala at the Botanical Gardens (2015)

It is important for leaders to retreat to the mountains. This event stands at a cross-section. We need it to determine the road ahead. ...