Sometimes students resist revision because they are physically unable to envision how they can add or move text around, as we have learned to do on our computers. Story surgery is something students enjoy because it’s almost like an art project. This is an intense, time-consuming activity that often gets very messy. But writing isn’t a tidy process inside one’s head, so why should it be on paper?
Surgery tips: Many students cut straight across their paper, disregarding where a sentence begins or ends. This will ruin their surgery. Model cutting around sentences. I don’t allow students to glue down their revised piece until they’ve reread the whole thing over again. Story surgery works best with third graders and older.
Supplies: scissors, glue, their writing, another larger sheet of paper (not lined), an envelope.
1. Do not let children write on the backs of their papers for the piece you want to conduct the surgery on.
2. Model for the children how story surgery will work, using a sample piece of writing.
3. As you are modeling, have students give you ideas on what needs to be Crossed Out, Added, Rearranged, Exchanged (C.A.R.E.).
4. Actually cut the paper and move the text apart, you may add the new ideas (on the larger sheet of paper) in the new space you’ve created.
5.Reread all of the changes you’d made to your piece.
6. Paste all of the text that you want to keep onto the larger sheet of paper.
7. If you’ve had students write the dialogue and thoughts of characters on Post It Notes, have students incorporate that into their surgery.
8. In an envelope, students save the sentences, phrases, and words they’ve “cut out” of their final piece.
I tell the students, “You never know—the sentence you’ve cut out this time might be the inspiration for your next piece of writing.”
posted by Amy Lin, Writers in the Schools