Revision Strategy #3: Rubber Banding

Posted July 18, 2017 & filed under Lesson Plan, Notebook, Student Writing, WITS People.


With younger children, this concrete activity called “Rubber Band Stretching” works well.  Demonstrate how a rubber band starts out small and can be stretched much larger.  Read a simple sentence out loud, and ask for suggestions about how to expand it.  After a student successfully stretches a sentence by adding new words, hand her a rubber band ball.  When a second student stretches the sentence further, the first student passes the ball to the second.  The game continues until it is impossible to stretch the sentence anymore!  Students then apply the lesson to a piece of their own writing.

With older students, the rubber band can be used to discuss sentence length in more complexity. Bring in a strong piece of writing that includes short, medium, and long sentences.  Discuss the various effects.  If you have a geo board, you can actually record or map out the sentences using rubber bands.  Show how the rhythm of a piece changes depending on sentence lengths.

As a spinoff activity, ask students to map out sentence lengths in advance.  Then, try to write a paragraph that fits, and notice how the paragraph sounds.  For older students, it is empowering to see how they can control the rhythm of their piece just through sentence length.

-Marcia Chamberlain, WITS Houston

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

Second Saturday Workshops: How to Get Published

Posted April 24, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

WITS is offering a teacher workshop called Teachers as Writers:  How to Get Published. This is the final Second Saturday Series offering of the 2012-2013 school year.

  • Location:  Bright Sky Press (2365 Rice Blvd)
  • Date/Time:   May 11, 2013 from 10:00-1:00
  • Cost:  $75.00
  • PD:  3 hours of G/T credit (TAGT approved)
Don’t miss this workshop!  If you are a teacher who has either written a book or has ever said, “I should write a book about that,” but you don’t know how to start the process of getting it published, this workshop is for you.  A panel of published authors will be sharing their experiences, offering some tips, and answering your questions about the process of getting your work published.  Come and be inspired and energized.  To get more information, contact Tina Angelo at [email protected] and go to the Writers in the Schools website to register.

Authors to present at workshop:

DownloadedFileSince retiring from the practice of law, Andrea White has published four books of historical fiction: Surviving Antarctica, Window Boy, Radiant Girl, and Windows on the World, the first book in the Upcity Chronicles trilogy, about a young girl who time travels back to the Twin Towers. In 2012, Windows won the Spirit of Texas award, established by the Texas Library Association for middle school fiction.

DownloadedFile-1Karen Walrond is a speaker, writer and photographer. Karen’s bestselling book, The Beauty of Different, is a chronicle of imagery and portraiture, combined with written essays and observations on the concept that what makes us different makes us beautiful. Her writing, images and other projects have been featured on, USA Today, Huffington Post, Good Housekeeping and Wondertime magazines, among others.

imagesAs Publisher of Bright Sky Press, Lucy Herring Chambers handles all editorial functions and oversees publicity and social media. Bright Sky’s goal is to create well-crafted volumes that exemplify the visions and voices of our region and distribute them to the broadest market possible. Before becoming a partner in Bright Sky Press in 2008, she taught English at St. John’s School, taught Early Childhood classes and worked as a free-lance writer and editor.

DownloadedFile-2A former educator, Karen Vanek has taught both students and teachers in the Houston area.  Karen’s most recent self-published book is Santa Claus Meets the Tooth Fairy, Author House, 2012. She also self-published Queen Elizabeth I of Ballinger: The Early Years of Liz Routh Russell. Blurb, 2008. Karen’s other publishing experiences include: Co-author of “O-fish-ial Research Project.” Science and Children, January, 2009; Advisory Board, Instructor Magazine, Scholastic, Inc. 2004 – 2008; Contributing editor, Learning to Teach, Scholastic, 2005.

Dates Announced for Second Saturday Series for Teachers

Posted December 4, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Following a successful Fall Series, Second Saturdays are back in the Spring with four exciting new workshops for teachers:

Teachers, Words, and Art (January 12 at the Menil Collection)

Civil “Writes” (February 9 at the African American Library at the Gregory School)

Music and Poetry (April 13 location TBD)

Teachers as Writers: How to Get Published (May 11 at Bright Sky Press)

For more information, read a description of the workshops here or contact Tina Angelo

Second Saturdays Series Launches This Weekend

Posted October 11, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Second Saturdays is a series of writing workshops held on the second Saturday of the month and designed for classroom teachers who want to enhance their own skills as writers as well as those of their students.  Taught by professional writers, each interactive workshop provides concrete and innovative strategies and lessons that teachers can take directly into their classrooms–transforming classrooms into incubators for creativity and innovation.

FALL 2012

Creativity and the Personal Narrative (October 13)

Creativity and the Expository Essay (November 10)

 Writing the Short Story (December 8)

Click here for detailed information

For more information contact Tina Angelo at 713-523-3877 or [email protected]

“WITS is the only professional development I’ve ever looked forward to. Finally, someone taught me to teach writing the way I always envisioned I could.” — 7th grade teacher

“The WITS program has saved my life as a teacher and has reminded me that writing is enjoyable.” — 11th grade teacher

“WITS makes you want to teach writing because you have concrete ways to do writing in your classroom.” — 5th grade teacher

5 Reasons to Get WITS in your School

Posted August 10, 2011 & filed under Notebook.

WITS Writer Dr. Melanie Malinowski and her student Deandrea Stevens at this year's Blooms reading.

5) Students gain self-esteem through authorship and public performances.

4)  In 10 years of data, WITS students show marked improvement in literacy skills and higher standardized test scores.

3) We tailor the project to match your students’ needs and your school’s budget.

2) WITS in-services and professional development workshops have changed teachers’ lives.

1) WITS is ranked the #1 literary program in Texas by the Texas Commission on the Arts.

Call Writers in the Schools today at 713-523-3877 or email Long Chu at [email protected] to sign up for the 2011-2012 school year.