Revision strategies your students need today
We write to understand; we use revision strategies to help others understand us.
Writing and reading is a recursive process that requires that a writer re-enter the work multiple times to revise and edit before a piece of writing can be considered finished. Most writing teachers agree on the five steps of the writing process: pre-writing, writing, revising, editing, and publishing.
Some students, however, often think of the writing process as “one and done.” They write a draft and then try to turn it in as a final product. They avoid the revision step altogether if possible, and yet it is in revision that students learn to think critically as they evaluate their writing.
So how do writing teachers get their students to engage in the writing process at a deeper level? They use revision strategies like these:
Look at models
The best revision strategy to use with your students is providing models.
Students need to see examples of what you’re asking them to do. Show them complete essays. Share powerful sentences. Demonstrate how effective transitions work.
Gather anonymous writing samples that meet the targets you’re looking for, but include examples needing revision as well.
Display the work using a document camera so you can interact with it. Invite your class to make suggestions for improving the samples by focusing on the skills you’re currently working on in class.
Reverse the outline
Have your students reverse their outlines. They begin by writing the thesis statement at the top of a new page, but then they copy-paste their topic sentences under that. With the thesis and topic sentences in place, it’s time to see how well they connect.
Every writer analyzes the essay skeleton they outlined, checking to see how interconnected the ideas are. Students may discover that their essay skeletons would be better if the topic sentences were reversed and arranged in a different order. Perhaps the topic sentences will need rewriting.
Details are critical pieces of information that add clarity to writing. They are necessary for improving understanding.
To get your students in the practice of adding details to their writing, encourage them to reread one paragraph or section in their essays. As they read, they are to think about one detail they could add for improved meaning. Let your students write the new detail on a sticky note and attach it to the paragraph until ready to write the final draft.
Collaborate with peers
Writing and revision do not have to be done in isolation. Ask your students to work with peers to reflect on what’s working and what’s not working.
Revision can be a collaborative effort. If your students bring several copies of their writing to class, they can exchange them in small groups. Group members interact with the text and with each other, making suggestions for improvement.
Revision is the most potent part of the writing process.
By encouraging your students to use revision strategies, you are helping them develop critical thinking skills and improving their ability to communicate with the written word.