Revision Strategy #2: ThoughtShots

Posted December 9, 2013 & filed under Lesson Plan, Notebook, Student Writing, WITS People.

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

I’m Important!

Posted February 15, 2008 & filed under Notebook.


The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown is a great way to introduce the paragraph, main idea, and supporting details. Each page of the book starts, “The important thing about…” and describes what’s important about shoes, daisies, spoons, the sky, and the wind.

After I read the book, we discuss the pattern of the paragraphs. First, the class creates a paragraph together, with “The important thing about our class is…” The students discuss their ideas, and we decide on one main idea. The students give me ideas for supporting details, and I write everything on the board.

Before students write individually, I have them brainstorm aloud what they might use as their topic sentence. I’m amazed by what the second graders say: “The important thing about me is I enjoy my life” and “The important thing about me is I have compassion and mercy.”


The important thing about me is that I love to cook. I get dough and sauce and spin the dough in the sky. I get it warm in the oven. Then I get it flat to eat. I get cheese, pepperonis, and sauce and put the sauce first and then the other ingredients after the sauce. And wallah—you have a pizza. Then I can eat my pizza. The important thing about me is I love to cook.

by Sierra, 2nd Gradewits-blog-pics-007.jpg

posted by Amy Lin, Writers in the Schools

Flower Power

Posted January 14, 2008 & filed under Notebook.

After the students have been through the entire writing process with one piece of their writing, I put this poster on the board. To help the students see writing as a reiterative process, I compare it to the life cycle of a flower. We discuss the various steps that went into creating that first piece of writing. From then on, any time we write, I refer back to the poster to remind students what part of the writing process we’re at. “The Writing Cycle” focuses on each step of the writing process but also reinforces what students have been learning in science.amy-lin-in-a-maze.jpg

posted by Amy Lin, Writers in the Schools