Revision Strategy #3: Rubber Banding

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

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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

Revision Strategy #1: Clouds

Posted November 7, 2013 & filed under Lesson Plan, Notebook.

Revision is not easy. Even for the professionals among us, revision can be tricky. And teaching revision to young writer can be a real doozy! At WITS we practice stealth revision. That means that we break complex process of revision into parts and introduce those parts one by one. Here’s one example.

Clouds

After a student finishes her story, ask her about the different emotions in the piece.  How would she describe the feeling that goes with each part?  Does she need to add any clarification?  If so, get her to mark the place in her draft with a cloud symbol.

Then, on a separate piece of paper, the student can draw a cloud symbol and write inside it what the character was feeling at that moment.  The “cloud” is for those times when you just might need to tell (rather than show).

It helps students to have a list of synonyms (cheerful, dejected, fuming, distraught, unruffled) for common feelings (happy, sad, angry, frustrated, calm).  If they keep this list in their writing folder, they can refer to it throughout the year, and you will notice richer language in their revisions.

Here is a second grader’s revision using the cloud technique:

cloud rev ex wits

-Marcia Chamberlain, WITS Houston

Story Surgery

Posted January 23, 2008 & filed under Fiction, Lesson Plan, Notebook.

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Story Surgery by Samantha, Entering Second Grade

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.”wits-blog-pics-007.jpg

posted by Amy Lin, Writers in the Schools

Flower Power

Posted January 14, 2008 & filed under Notebook.

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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

Carets, a Delicious Writing Treat

Posted January 11, 2008 & filed under Lesson Plan, Notebook.

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To encourage my students to revise, I bring in this lesson by Marcia Chamberlain. Students as young as first grade can learn to use the caret and delete editing symbols. Before students revise their individual pieces, we revise a piece of writing as a class. I bring in a carrot to help teach using the “caret.” Students use the carrot to point to where they want something added. To practice deleting, students take turns leading the class in making the loop de loop sign in the air; we create a funny noise to make with the movement.

In the above example, the original line of the poem read, “the sound of the big dolphins.” The students agreed that ‘big’ was a boring word, so they replaced it with ‘humongous.’ I asked the students to create the actual sound they believed dolphins make, so we could include that in the poem. “Tri tri” is what they came up with.

Then it’s time for students to revise their own pieces. I bring in red pens for students to revise with or let students select one of their colored pencils. The novelty of writing with a new implement is often enough to make revising exciting and fun!amy-lin-in-a-maze.jpg

C.A.R.E. for Your Writing

Posted January 10, 2008 & filed under Notebook.

Illustration by Georgie, Second Grade
Illustration by Georgie, Second Grade


In many of my WITS classes, I use a mnemonic called “C.A.R.E.” to help students remember the four basic ways to revise. I explain to the students that all writers think their writing is important, so they must CARE for it.

C=Cross Out ideas, sentences, paragraphs, words using the delete symbol

A=Add images, figurative language, dialogue, thoughts, using the caret, speech, and thought bubbles

R=Rearrange ideas to make sure they are in an order that make sense

E=Exchange “tired” words like big, nice, good, etc. for more vivid words

For younger students, I might focus an entire class period on a specific revisioamy-lin-in-a-maze.jpgn technique, exchanging ‘tired’ words for instance. I model that specific revision technique, letting the students brainstorm and give me suggestions. Then the students are prepared to CARE on their own.

posted by Amy Lin, Writers in the Schools

 

 

Don’t Burst My Bubble

Posted January 4, 2008 & filed under Lesson Plan, Notebook.

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I tell students that one way to develop their characters is by including their thoughts and dialogue. I draw a speech bubble and thought bubble on the board and then we discuss the differences. Students always catch on quickly because they read comics. As a class, we practice adding thoughts and dialogue to an example story.

When it’s time to revise on their own, students draw speech and thought bubbles directly onto their paper with a colored pencil, so they can see the changes they’ve made. Another way to do this activity is by having students draw their bubbles onto Post It wits-blog-pics-007.jpgnotes and then sticking them directly onto their draft.

posted by Amy Lin, Writers in the Schools