The idea of the thoughtshot comes from The Reviser’s Toolbox, a great book by Barry Lane.
After a student finishes a story, encourage him to find places where he might add thoughtshots. Barry Lane breaks down thoughtshots into three categories: flash-forwards, flashbacks, and internal monologues.
I have found that lessons on flash-forwards and flashbacks go a long way. Students become adept at finding places in their rough drafts where they can add a related memory from the past or ruminate about the future.
Be sure to show students examples from books that they are reading or texts in their language arts curriculum. These models will reveal to them the “code words” that signal a flash-forward (I imagine, I think, If, etc.) or a flashback (I remember, Once, In the past, When I was young, etc.).
Some WITS teachers encourage students to use arrows in their writing to indicate where they are adding a flashforward or a flashback.
Here is an example by a student, inspired by the Judith Viorst book Alexander and the Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, who revised his story to include a flashback and a flashforward:
When I walked into class today, the teacher said, “Test!” My eyes popped open wide. This was not the kind of news I needed on a Monday. Then, I accidently forgot to put away my backpack, and Molly tripped on it, and the teacher gave me the eye! When I sat down, I missed my chair because SOMEONE had moved it.
Now, the teacher is blabbing on and on about how nice everyone looks today, which reminds me that the teacher told us last Friday to wear a shirt and tie on Monday for School Picture Day. I’m wearing a Hawaiian shirt with orange flowers because Mom forgot to do the laundry! I bet this photo will turn out worse than last year’s when my hair was green. I can picture my parents pulling out today’s photo at my wedding. “Look who you’re marrying!” they’ll say, and everyone will laugh! I knew this was going to be a horrible, messed-up, rotten egg kind of day.
Revision is difficult to teach, but given a few (but not too many) techniques, students are able to make their stories better.
-Marcia Chamberlain, WITS Houston