4 ways to teach revision as part of the writing process
By Christy Burke
Students should be taught that writing is a process and revision is an important part of that process. Here are four ways to teach your students about revision.
- Model the process
Use past student papers and revise as a class. You can do this by passing out a copy of a student paper or projecting it onto your white board. Then, you can start by performing a think-aloud to show your students how to think about improving the writing. Choose a sentence that is unclear or lacks details and show them how to revise the sentence for clarity and to make it more interesting.
Now it’s their turn. Have your students go through the paper and look for ways that it can be improved. Ask them what they might add, delete, or change, then perform these revisions in front of them. This model helps them to understand areas that could be improved in their own writing.
- Students revise their own writing
Ask your students to revise their narrative writing. You can start by having them find sentences that lack description. Model this as well. Present them with an example sentence like, “She was very tired”. Show them how to add sensory details to improve the sentence. You could write something like, “Her eyelids were heavy as she slowly dragged her feet up the stairs”.
You can also show your students how to add dialogue to their narrative writing. Ask them to find examples in their writing where dialogue might make it more interesting and add depth to the story.
- Delete unnecessary words or phrases
Have your students look through their writing for repetitive words or phrases. Show them a list of strong verbs and have them check a thesaurus to replace words like “nice” or “good” with a more descriptive word or phrase. This is also where you can teach them how to use literary devices, such as metaphors or personification to make their writing come to life. Again, model this first, so your students understand the process.
- Revise for clarity and effect
Show your students examples of writing where the author starts in the middle of the story to build interest and create suspense. Ask your students to write three different introductory paragraphs for their narrative essays. They might start in the middle of the story or start with dialogue. Show them examples from novels of great first lines and have them start by revising the first line of their narrative essays. After they do this, they are ready to revise other parts of their narratives to add interest. They can also go through and delete parts that are unclear.
After students are taken through the revision process, have them write a second draft of their narrative essays. Then have them read the original and the second draft aloud with a partner. The partner should then discuss how the revisions helped to improve the essay.
Students could then write a reaction paragraph discussing the revision process, what they decided to revise and how their choices made their essays stronger or more effective. Once students understand the revision process is more than just checking for grammar and spelling mistakes, they will be able to write with more clarity and description.