Teaching Revision

Yesterday in my Methods class, we focused on teaching revision strategies. I went to the old classic, Barry Lane's After the End which has great ideas about how to teach revision. After skimming the book, I decided to model a specific strategy for my students, one that Lane calls "Growing Leads." I told my students the following "story":

I have a really interesting story to tell you. It's a story about betrayal and loss. This is it. It happened when I was little and it was a really sad day. My brother had a shovel. And then my other brother was punished by my parents. Any questions?

My students reacted almost immediately, asking a variety of questions which I wrote down on the white board. You can probably imagine some of the questions they asked, everything from "What were your brothers' names?" to "Why was your brother punished?" After we had covered the white board with questions, I went through each, giving an answer using complete sentences. Soon, my students had a good idea of the real story . . .

One day my parents were having a yard sale. They had to run some errands and they left my teenaged brother Ted in charge. My younger brother Jim decided to go with them, but before he left, he looked at my brother Ted and said "Don't sell my little red shovel." A while later, someone was poking around the yard, somehow saw Jim's shovel, and wanted to buy it--and Ted, being the good capitalist that he is, happily made the sale. You can imagine Jim's despair when he returned and his shovel was gone.

After I had answered my students questions, I talked with them about how each complete sentence could be a lead to my story--I asked them to choose which ones they thought would be particularly effective. Then, I asked the students to divide into pairs and try this strategy with their own writing (I had asked them to do a freewrite at the beginning of class about how they spent their Halloween). As the students shared their freewrites and asked each other questions, the noise level was higher than it had ever been in my class.

After they had gone through the process themselves, we talked about how this activity would encourage students to be willing to revise their work--they would see how many different possibilities there were, at least for the lead.

My students loved this activity.

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