Prompting Revision through Modeling and Written Conversations
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This lesson helps students become more comfortable with the revision process, both as writers responding to their peers and as writers engaged in revising their own pieces. Once students watch authors Kate DiCamillo and Debra Frasier revise their own work through online videos, students develop a checklist to help them see what effective writers do to be able to create a well-developed piece of writing. Students are then guided through the process of revising their teacher's work. Later, students communicate their ideas for revision of their peers' work through a written conversation so that peers can remember and reflect upon their thoughts.
Effective Writers... : This checklist provides new writers with specific suggestions ranging from grammatical accuracy to reaching an intended audience.
Effective Writers...Written Conversation Sentence Starters: These sentence starters help students to frame their thoughts in a peer review setting in order to provide constructive feedback to another writer.
From Theory to Practice
Teachers at all grade levels strive to get students to see revision as an integral part of the writing process rather than a hasty, perfunctory step added at the end (if there is time). This lesson focuses on the power of modeling, discussion, and conversation as tools to teach and promote qualitiy revision. Regie Routman warns teachers not to "underestimate the power of talk on writing quality. Informal conversations among students as they write influences the amount and quality of revisions students are willing to make. Conversations with others help students express their ideas more fully and make them their own" (184).
Because writers often need a concrete record of suggestions that come from such conversations, this lesson offers the alternative of written conversations. "In this kind of discussion," Rober Probst explains, "students write simultaneous notes to each other"¦Compare this kind of active, one-to-one exchange with standard "whole-class" discussions in which two or three kids monopolize the conversations (Me! Me! Me!) while everyone else sleeps with their eyes open. When everyone is "˜discussing' with a partner in writing, then potentially everyone is engaged and acting upon the subject matter" (10).
Common Core Standards
This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.
This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.
NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts
- 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
- 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
- 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
- 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
- 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
- 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
Materials and Technology
- Ideally, before engaging in this lesson, students need to have watched their teacher model how to revise his or her work, participated in whole class sharing when the teacher assists students in providing meaningful peer feedback, and participated in student-teacher conferences. These experiences will provide students with the language necessary to present valuable suggestions when responding to another's work. Students need to be taught how to move away from using phrases such as "I liked it" and develop more specific criticism that will lead the writer toward improvement, such as, "I like that you used the word slither because it helped create a more precise picture in my mind about how the animal moved." If this prior experience is not available, you will need to scaffold more intensely for these skills and habits of mind throughout the lesson.
- Select a piece of your own writing you are willing to share and revise in front of your students. In this lesson, student will have an opportunity to observe their teacher during his or her writing process, helping them see that writing (including revising) is be challenging, complex, and recursive.
- Familiarize yourself with Kate DiCamillo's videos. This Website shows five drafts of the beginning of the novel, Because of Winn Dixie. Click Next to hear comments about each draft.
- Make copies of Kate DiCamillo's drafts. You may want to make a copy of each draft for every student, or you may want students to share.
- Preview Debra Frasier's videos online and decide which videos would be the most helpful for your students. Because these videos are hosted by YouTube, you may need to contact your Information Technology department for assistance in accessing them at school.
- create a checklist of effective writing habits after examining drafts and viewing online videos of authors discussing revision.
- respond to a sample of the teacher's writing using the class-created checklist of effective writing habits.
- apply what they learned during the teacher's modeling to help them evaluate their own and their peers' work.
- respond to the written work of peers and provide written suggestions for revision, concentrating on an agreed upon focus area.
- revise and share their own work using both the checklist and peer suggestions.
- Ask students to raise their hands if they have ever heard of the story Because of Winn Dixie.
- Show the students a copy of Because of Winn Dixie and complete a short book talk. Alternately, you may ask students who are familiar with the book to give a short summary to their classmates.
- Read aloud the first chapter of the book and engage the students in a discussion about what they liked about this chapter. You may wish to record their responses on the board or on chart paper.
- Explain to students that when authors write, they have to go back and revise their work many times before it is ready to be made into a book. The aspects of Because of Winn Dixie they like so much may not have been in the book in the first draft, or they may have been so different that they would not recognize them.
- Explain that the process of writing takes time and is hard work. Tell the students that you will show them the first five drafts of this story so they can see the revisions Kate DiCamillo had to make to the story before it was ready to be published.
- Provide the students with copies of the drafts. Give them time to examine the drafts and then allow the students to listen to Kate DiCamillo explain the process of writing them (click Next to progress through the drafts.
- Then share with students the Kate DiCamillo's quote about writing. Discuss the quote and ask students if they know how she feels when she says, "Usually, those two pages stink pretty bad."
- Direct students to take out their writer's notebooks and explain that together you will create a list on the board or projector that outlines all the things writers do to make their work better. Entitle this list "Effective Writers..."
- Instruct students to look at Kate DiCamillo's drafts and think about what steps she took to make her work better. You may begin the list and then ask students for their own suggestions. See a Sample Effective Writers... Checklist to get a sense of what a finished list will look like.
- Ask students to look through their own writer's notebooks and locate the changes they have made to their own writing. Inquire if students have anything to add to the list after searching their own notebooks.
- Inform students they will continue learning about how revision can improve writing in the next session.
- Ask students to open their writer's notebooks and review the Effective Writers... list created together in the last session.
- Explain to students that you wil be showing them selected videos of another author, Debra Fraiser, working through the writing process. Based on what they see and hear in the videos, students to revisit their Effective Writers... list and make suggestions for additions.
- Then direct students' attention to the board or projector where a piece of writing completed by the teacher is visible. Read your work aloud and then model how to revise your own work using the Effective Writers... list as a guide. The writing piece does not have to be complete, nor should the revision be exhaustive.
- Once you have made some changes on your own, ask the students to give you suggestions for revising your work, again referring the list as a guide.
- Then, instruct the students to take out their writer's notebooks and choose an unfinished piece. It can be a piece they like, don't like, or would like to improve. This must be a piece of writing they would not mind sharing with others.
- Explain they will read each others' work and provide their peers with specific feedback to help improve their work, but instead of doing this orally, they will write their feedback on a separate piece of paper. (Teachers may choose to have students complete their written conversations on sticky notes instead of on a separate sheet of paper in the students' writer's notebook.) Encourage students to write as if they were having a conversation. Students should compliment work and point out areas that need improvement.
- Distribute copies of the Effective Writers Sentence Starters, or a similar handout you create based on your own classroom conversations, and engage students in a conversation about how this strategy could help them become more successful writers.
- Ask the students to focus only on one focus area on the Effective Writers... list, such as writing an interesting beginning or creating a picture in the reader's mind. Explain that this helps to focus their feedback. As a class, you may want to choose the focus area together.
- Place the students into cooperative learning groups of three and arrange their desks so they are sitting together.
- Instruct students to switch notebooks with each other. Give the students time to read their peers' work and write down suggestions for improvement. Students who finish early can make additional suggestions outside the focus area.
- After this first response, students should switch notebooks with the third member of their group.
- Instruct students to read their peers' work and the second students' feedback. Once they do this, they will have time to respond in writing to the second student's comments and then write down their own feedback (students may disagree with the first person's revision ideas). Again, explain that this is like having a conversation, but in written format.
- Finally, students should return notebooks to their owners and read each others' comments. Let students know they will continue in the next session.
- Students should gather into the same cooperative learning groups and talk about their written conversation from the previous session. They should use this time to ask questions about the comments they received and to clarify or explain feedback.
- Then provide students with time to go back and make changes to their writing. Explain that they should consider the suggestions their peers provided, but they are not required to make these changes. These suggestions simply help the student to look at their work in a new way. Explain that the word revision literally means "to see again."
- Allow students time to meet with their partners to discuss the changes they made to their writing based on their peers' suggestions.
- Gather students together in a meeting area. Form a circle and allow students to share their work with the whole class. Encourage students to discuss the changes they made to their work and ask for additional feedback.
- Give students time to discuss their thoughts and feelings about written conversation. Ask questions such as
- What did you think about our written conversations?
- What did you like about this activity?
- What did you dislike this activity?
- Was it helpful? In what ways? Why?
- What did you think about our written conversations?
- Give students time to compose responses to the Effective Writers: Reflecting on Revision questions. Adapt the sample checklist to reflect the qualities and characterstics generated in your classroom.
- After students have moved through the revision process and have polished the piece by editing their work, they can publish their work using the Flipbook or Stapleless Book interactive tools.
- This lesson could be used with writing in all content areas, including math. Students could use written conversation to revise each other's steps taken to solve a multi-stepped problem.
- Once students complete the lesson, the teacher can copy these written conversations on an overhead and discuss how to improve them.
- Once students become more comfortable with this process, the teacher may choose to allow the students to begin their own written conversation asking for help in a specific area of their writing (students may use the Sentence Starters for this purpose) instead of limiting students to a specific focus area.
- Teachers can engage in written conversations with students at any time. The student may write to the teacher asking for feedback in a specific area, and the student may respond to the teacher explaining how he or she revised the writing based on the teacher's feedback.
- Families can also be brought into this process. Teachers can ask families to make written suggestions to their students, and the students can write back to their families discussing how they revised the writing.
- If possible, invite an author to come in and talk about his or her writing and revision process. Ask the visiting author to bring in copies of his or her revisions to once again help students see that good writers rewrite often.
Student Assessment / Reflections
- After students have participated in written conversations and revised their work, students should complete the Effective Writers: Reflecting on Revision questions.
- As students continue to grow as reflective writers, assess and support their increasing capacity to provide constructive feedback to peers and to incorporate suggestions from classmates into their own writing.