Working with students to revise their writing is all about starting out small. What can they do that will improve their writing the most? I like to introduce each revising task with a little activity and then move onto their own writing. When students see that others also need to work on the same things, they are more accepting of changing their own writing.
Let’s get right down to it, shall we?
I dicut shapes (these just happen to be pumpkins, but you could do any shape) then cut them into halves. On each half, I write a related simple sentence and pass out one-half shape to each student.
Students then travel the room looking for a partner that has the other simple sentence related to their topic.
Once they have found each other, they work together to combine the two simple sentences. Once students have proved that they know how to combine sentences together I have them complete some station work like these Owl Compound Sentences.
Then students are ready to dive into their own writing to look for sentences that they can combine to provide sentence variety. I usually issue this task as a challenge of sorts. “I challenge you to find two sets of simple sentences that you can combine into compound sentences.” This challenge gets students in the right frame of mind to seek out simple sentences, and many will do much more than two.
Show Not Tell
On index cards, I write incredibly boring, very simple telling sentences. I pass out a card to each student and have them write what that would look like, sound like, and feel like on the same side as the sentence.
When students have brainstormed a few items then they flip the cards over and write a showing paragraph. We also use this as a bit of a game and read the new showing paragraphs to the class. Then the class guesses what the original sentence was.
Then, of course, I challenge my students to find one sentence in their piece of writing that they can turn into a showing paragraph.
Removing Unnecessary Sentences
This one may be the toughest for students, but it is also potentially the most important. There is no room in writing for extraneous sentences. Every single one of them needs to count.
I usually model this by writing a story with lots of extra sentences. Then as we read the story we decide on what needs to stay and what needs to go. This is really easy for students to do with someone else’s writing, but becomes infinitely harder in their own. This is why in the beginning I challenge them to remove just one sentence. Removing just one sentence can be the hardest challenge of them all.
Changing Overused Words
The way a word cloud works is that the more often you use a word the bigger it becomes in the word cloud. I used the copy for one of my previous posts on Reading Conferences to create this word cloud. The graphic instantly shows me the words that I used most often, and while I may expect to see reading and conferences prominently displayed I should be able to find synonyms to replace some other commonly used words such as students, get, and something.
After creating their word clouds, I have students choose at least one word to replace in their writing. This does not mean one word once but instead replace that one word every time you see it.
This activity can be quite a time-consuming task if you don’t ordinarily type your writing, but it is one that leaves a big impact on your writers.
I hope that at least one of these strategies will help you and your students to be successful writers this year. Be sure to check back in for more ideas on how to improve writing workshop in your classroom!
For more practice, and to keep students looking for more ways to revise their writing I love to use this Revising TicTacToe. It gives them options, and keeps them accountable!
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