Friday, January 3, 2014

Revision Across the Writing Process

I have been thinking a lot about my one little word for 2014. I have resolved to go with revision. Revision is not just about writing, but about life. The same fear that gnaws at us at the very thought of revising the words on the page is the fear that can sometimes prevent us from making choices that take us on a new path, course or direction in life.

I had the privilege of learning about revision alongside Maggie Beattie Roberts and Audra Robb from the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project during the Summer Writing Institutes 2011 and 2012. Over the next few posts, I am going to revisit the notes from these past summer institutes and explore not only how revision can lift the quality of our writing, but in so doing, I hope to also think about the power of revision to lift the quality of our life.

During over first day, Maggie helped us to think about the qualities of writing alongside the different stages of the writing process.

Writing Process
Qualities of Writing

How do we teach students to revise while collecting entries? After all, don't students need to have writing on the page to in order to revise it.  It made me think, though, how often do I encourage students to revisit previous entries in their Writer's Notebooks.  This is a habit I would like to encourage, and an option I would like students to entertain more without making it a mandate.  I need to think more about how to build it into their repertoire.  

One method for doing this might be building it into the link of the mini-lesson, and in the link remind students to: Remember that you can always go back into your notebook and revisit entries that you have written earlier to revise them.

Maggie directed us to this great article Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers (Sommers, N.) where student and experienced writers comment on their definition of revision, and what it means to them.  One thing that I would like to work on more with students is returning to an entry across several days to revise it for meaning, significance, and purpose.  Maggie outlined some of the following strategies, which I feel would make for a great "cheat sheet" while conferring into the collecting work students are doing. 

While I often do not spend a long time collecting in a UoS, I am toying with extending the collecting phase to allow more time for revision while collecting or keeping collecting short and embedding some of these strategies in teaching shares and mid-workshop teaching points. 

Below are strands of teaching points for revising while writing entries, revisiting entries written earlier, and strategies that help writers focus on meaning and significance inside of entries to lift the level of the writing.

Strategies to Collect Entries with Meaning in Mind 
  • Begin with place.  “It lives in the deepest part of ourself.” Fletcher
  • Our body is a map of our lives.  Scan it – write from a memory
  • Let smells or music (songs) bring you back to memories once lost

Strategies to Revise for Revisiting Entries
  • Remember audience. Think: Who is your reader? How might they affect your writing? How would you write differently if you were writing for (audience)?
  • Rewrite the beginning lines of your entry.
  • Start the entry in different places.
  • The bigger the issue/the smaller your write.  Pick the smallest (most manageable) part and start there. 
Strategies to Create Meaning, Significance, and Purpose Inside Entries
  • Writers use powerful images or objects (which stand for something bigger – symbol) and weaves them throughout the piece.  This image unifies the piece (beginning – middle –end).
  • Writers use a lot of colorful language to jazz up their writing. They choose words wisely and words that have power.  Writers choose words that are imbued with power and feeling (connotation) and that these are tied to significance, paint a vivid picture and see it in your mind.
  • Writers seek to connect with an audience through emotion and give a lot of emotions to help readers feel with them.  
  • Use flashback and flash forward. 
  • Think about powerful actions and begin with them.  Create a balanced structure to take your audience on a journey.
  • Weave in or repeat a powerful quote a quote that is connected to the meaning and intention of the piece.
  • Uses varied sentence structure (pace, cadence, tone.)
  • There is a balance of word choice and image. Use shocking comparisons to leave an impression on the reader.
Over the next few weeks, I hope to focus on revision inside of writing workshop, and will support students with building a revision mindset or stance when writing. Who is with me? I would love to post some examples of student writing when practicing this work to show revision in action.  Please let me know if you would like to study this together. 

Also, comment below on revision success stories (or attempts) in your classroom. What have you found effective when teaching students to embrace revision? I leave you with this quote from Truman Capote.

“I’m all for the scissors. I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.” Truman Capote, Conversations With Capote, by Lawrence Grobel, 1985

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