A Solution to Revising and Editing Work in Writer’s Workshop!!!

25 11 2013

During Writing Workshop I have been having my students working on writing their memoirs and working on a choice piece (a piece on any topic they choose). In my mini-lessons for the memoirs I have focused on writing effective leads,using senses in writing and revision vs editing.

The thing I love about my students is their hate relationship with proofreading, revising, editing, multiple drafts… anything that that has to do with re-reading and changing what they have written! In the past I have  found that when asked to proofread, my students have just read their partner’s paper and changed a few grammar/ spelling issues and said it was good.

I took an idea from a journal that I read about  revising work using the Focused Question Card Strategy.  It has really worked well for my students. We talked a lot about the difference between revision and editing in the writing process first.

I explained the entire process below(lengthly, I know- it was hard to sum up how it works!!)

I taught them the revision card strategy during their first quick publish piece of the year (click here to read about the quick publish piece). We went step by step through the process and we talked about good questions to ask on the card. After the students turned in their quick publish stories and revision cards (they always turn in all their drafts and revision and editing cards to me) I noticed that the students had asked good questions, but most of their answers were pretty pathetic! For example- does my ending make sense? Should I add more details. The answer: yes!- no other comments. So I need to work on how to answer the revision cards.. but we had a good start with the question part!

Here is the revision card process that I use during writing workshop:

  • After the students have written for at least  20 min.  for a few days and they have some content, I tell them  that they can conference with a peer if they want.
  • I let students pick their partners since they will find people they are comfortable with and someone who will give them suggestions and be honest. Remind students that they as the writer is asking for help, so they should accept comments relating to their card.
  • Students must conference with at least 2 students for revising conferences and one other student for editing conference.
  • When it is time for drafting. The writer needs to take a note card and write one questions or concern that they have that they would like help with. If it is a yes/no question, they need to ask why.
  • They write their name on the side of the card
  • When they conference- the writer reads his/her piece aloud without the partner looking at the paper.
  • The listener only responds to that one question that the writer had. The listener writes the answer on the back of the note card and puts his/her name.
  • No editing is done at this conference. This is only time for revising.

Students then write more.

Another Revision conference

  • Same as the first, students can pick anyone to work with but it must be with a different conference partner than the first.

Editing Conference

  • With peers. This time students sit side by side and are looking at one writer’s piece at a time. The writer reads the piece aloud. Make corrections and changes. The writer is the only one who writes on his/ her paper. Then they switch, writer becomes listener etc..

I, the teacher finally looks at the paper:

  • The paper has had 3 people look at it before I even see  it one time. I have glanced at their work, and helped here and there, but not in-depth.
  • The writer then writes on a note card one thing they want help with from me.  They attach the note card to their paper.
  • At this point, the writer is giving me his/her best draft possible.
  • I then looks at the piece, and responds to the student’s question and makes one suggestion.
  • The piece is then returned to the student for them to make corrections and changes and turn in for their final piece to be graded.
  • I needs to keep in mind that the writer can ignore the suggestions that the I suggested. I need to have the student go back to the rubric and focus on the things that they are being graded on.
  • I don’t correct grammar unless it is a habit and is seen consistently from the student. If it is a habit I only comment on one thing at a time- too many and they don’t internalize it.

**The article was from September 2006,  in the Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy,  written by Alexa Sandman.

Interest Journals- Write about your interests.

3 11 2013

Interest journals are a neat way for students to share their writing with others for years to come. How does it work, you ask? Well, interest journals are simple to set up, yet provide a neat audience and it allows you to shake up your writing sparks (journal writing) time.


Here’s how I set them up: I got about 35 journals when they were on sale at the beginning of the year. I always like to have a few more than students I have. I label each journal with a broad topic. When the students come in, the journals are spread out all over the room. I review the topics with them and then have them go and find the journal they are interested in. When they sit down to write, they can review all the other entries on that topic by students whom I’ve had in the past, and by some of their classmates from interest journals we’ve done this year.

I give the students a few minutes to browse the other entries and then I have them start writing. When they are done, I make sure that they date and write their name at the end of the post. I like to do interest journals every few weeks, when I feel like we need something fresh.

Some of the topics I have used that my students have loved: shoes, life, being a teenage, books/movies/music, war/peace, shoes, I hate, I love, vacation/travel, video games, colors, family, sports, holidays, memories, middle school, seasons, goals- the possibilities are endless!

I store the interest journals in a simple clear rubbermaid tub next to the other tubs with their student’s individual journals.


Try interest journals out, and let me know how they go!

The Perfect Poem to Close Read!

27 10 2013

We did a close reading of the poem, Abandoned Farmhouse by Ted Kooser last week. I read the poem aloud, then had the students read it again individually and then hold their thinking and note their observations, thoughts, questions etc.. 
Then we brok the poem down and looked at the tone of the poem. We found words that stuck out to us that showed the tone (broken, something went wrong,money scarce, winters cold). I had the students wrote the mood down and then find specific lines that supported the mood. We noted how each stanza talked about a different person: a man, woman and child. I had the students go back to the poem and find out specific things we knew about the people in the poem, and list them (the man was tall, the woman liked lilacs, the child played with a tractor etc..). We looked at repetition, figurative language and we discussed specific word choices that the author made.

Click here to check out the poem

Although we did a close reading of this poem, the students really did a nice job. They noticed a lot of really interesting things.   I liked this poem because we could discuss all of the things I mentioned above and the students were able to understand the poem. They didn’t feel like the content, topic or language was above their heads. It was a manageable length to close read, and  It didn’t scare them.

After we read the poem I had my students write a journal prompt about a place where they live, or have things. What would their room, house, or objects say about them. I also showed them this image. I felt this image really went well with the poem. They shared their writing and we all enjoyed a close reading and a writing session.

Screen Shot 2013-10-10 at 8.50.02 PM

Give a try, and let me know how it went! :)

From lists to graphics- creating writing territories

28 08 2011

At the beginning of the year, I always want my students to make a list of of writing territories (ideas that they can keep in their writing notebook for when they are stuck and have nothing to write about).

This year I am going to throw magazines at them and have them cut out words, pictures, write and draw their own words, pictures and symbols to create a collage of things they like, believe in, hate, love, experiences they have had, favorites, memories etc… 

I will have them store this in their writing folders so that they can pull it out when they don’t know what to write about.

How do you have your students share writing territories? 


Why Do Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears? Writing and Discussion Activities

18 12 2009

Why Do Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears?  is a clever West African Tale on cause and effect and inference. It is also a good book to look at taking responsibility for your actions. There is so much to discuss.

The book has really unique, rich pictures that capture the attention of many (it is a Caldecott Winner). I read this as a writing spark today and then had the students write. I gave them the following ideas to get them started:

–Have the mosquitoes go in front of the council and try to explain his actions. What do you think he would say?

–Write about why animals do certain things (why are bats out at night? What does a Salmon swim upstream? Why does the sun go away at night?)

–Throughout the story, one animal blamed another animal for their actions. Do you think this was right? What should each animal have said? Do you think that only the mosquito was to blame? Why or why not?

–What is the moral of the story?

–How does one misunderstanding become a big problem?

–What do you learn about the lion from the way he handled the problem?

–Have you and a friend ever had a misunderstanding? What happened?

Emotion Poems~Bring out the Emotions!

14 12 2009

Today during writing workshop, I gave my students some sparks and they ran with it…. We brainstormed what courage is and made a list as a class.

Then we read, Courage by Bernard Waber. It is a really great book that asks the question- what is courage? This book shows the everyday kinds of courage that normal, ordinary people exhibit all the time, like “being the first to make up after an argument,” or “going to bed without a nightlight.” This books  explores the many varied kinds of courage and celebrates the moments, big and small, that bring out the hero in each of us.

I then showed them the poem “Fear” by Raymond Carver. This is a catalog- list type poem. We looked at the poem and discussed it. The students loved pulling out their favorite lines, and discussing lines that they would change. We had an interesting conversation on the last three lines. I then showed the students the Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotion and we went through the various emotions besides the common love, fear, hate, joy etc….

I then let the students lose to choose an emotion and write a poem. I encourage them to write their poem with a twist at the end to follow the same format as the original poet. They really got into writing their emotions out on paper. When we did a quick share at the end of the period, we noticed and discussed that as the list got longer, then poem got deeper, because the writer had to think harder about what that emotion evokes. Some students took their writing notebooks home to work on their poems (I have to call that a success for the day! :) )

What is Good Writing?

3 12 2009

An important lesson I want my students to take away from my class is to look more closely at writing and to appreciate writing. To start having my students think about good writing, I have them bring in their own examples of what they think is good writing. I then have students write in their writing notebooks their ideas of good writing. They get into groups and share their ideas and create one list. I then have each group share their ideas and we make a list on chart paper. I took a picture of our chart this year:

I then have the students share their examples of good writing with each other. I come back to this lesson and we look at what we feel are good writing samples throughout the year. I find it helps the students to appreciate writing when they read, and I find that they  write content with more meaning. I am always reminding them of what we agreed on was good writing, and encourage them to use these ideas in their own writing.

Out with the Prompts, in with the Sparks!

29 11 2009

Over the past few years of teaching, I have noticed that students want choice, choice in what they read and what they write. I completely agree with them. As adults, we don’t like being told what to read. If we start reading a book and don’t like it, we put it down. I encourage my students to do the same thing- if you don’t like a book, choose something else. There are too many good books out there to read one you don’t like. I also believe that there is a book for everyone, if people don’t like to read, they haven’t found a book genre they enjoy yet.

To get back to my original point of this post, I found that having students write to a prompt, doesn’t work. They create pieces that are manufactured to fit what we want to read, not necessarily what they care about. Instead of giving my student’s prompts, I ry to give them sparks- or ideas to get them started writing about what they know and care.

I also have found that students sometimes need a spark to ignite their fire when writing. When I do my warm it up at the beginning of class. I usually show the students an object, quote, or picture. Sometimes we listen to a song and write and I even show some video clips to spark ideas. I have found or thought of  too many ideas to actually use them all in one year. I thought I would share some of the places that I get my inspiration for writing “sparks”

When I show them these sparks, I tell them they can always write about what comes to mind, what the picture, song, object, video clip is about or anything else they want.

Writing Spark ideas:

Time Picture of the Week: http://www.time.com/time/potw/

MSNBC  Week in Pictures: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3842331/

You Tube Video La Chance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nD19Os5oUTg – I had my students write about being lucky, or a time when they had luck etc.. Some of my students wrote about one of the events they saw on this video.

You Tube video :  it is a story of two Cleveland high schoolers featured one sunday on ESPN a few months ago- get the tissues.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O04L0XboS8c

The Beatles Song- We Can Work It Out- I told my students they could write about a time when they had a disagreement,or how they worked out differences.

Theme & Symbolism in one quick hit!

9 11 2009

Fly Away HomeI find that students constantly struggle with distinguishing the theme from the plot. I try to read a lot of picture books and have them tell me the theme after we have read it. I recently  read Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting to my students and I had them pick out the theme. It is a story about a dad and young boy who live in an airport because they are homeless. It is also a good segway into discussing the topic of homelessness and reasons people are homeless etc… We also talked about symbolism (the bird represents that there is hope and that the boy and dad have hope to someday get a home). This can be used as a warm up to spark student’s writing ideas in their writing notebooks.5 minute picture book= symbolism, theme and a discussion, or at least a thought in student’s s mind about a social issue- can’t go wrong!

Writing Groups & Organizing Writing Workshop

3 11 2009


After 11 long weeks of not loving my organization system for writing workshop, I finally have found a system that works for my students and me! I have broken down my main components below:

Writing Folders:

Each student has a writing folder that they keep in the room at all times filed in a crate by their class period. Beside their works in progress and final pieces, in their writing folder is: a Books I have Read sheet, Written Piece Log, Personal Proofreading Sheet, Spelling Sheet and Writing Workshop Planning Sheet.  It may seem like a ton of papers but I have color coded each piece and they know what color to grab to get what they need. The problem I had with the writing folders was that the students were shoving them in the crate at the end of the period and they took forever to find their folder. To solve this problem I gave each  class period a color and each writing group a number. I wrote on the student’s folders their group number in the color of their class period. When the students go to get their folder, they know what color tab and what number tab they can find their folder in. I also have assigned a writing group leader for each group. This persons job is at the beginning and end of class to pass out and collect the writing folders. That way there are only 4-6 students at the crate instead of 30! The students can grab their entire hanging folder ( because it has the colored & numbered tab on it) and pass out the file folders to their groups- so far, works like a charm! I posted a picture of the writing crate above. I am going to split half of the folders into another crate because their folders are getting jammed with all the writing (not necessarily a bad thing :) )

Writing Groups:

My students meet in writing groups when we have writing workshop. To get them into groups, at the beginning of the year I had them write on a note card three people they feel comfortable and would like to work with, and one person they would prefer not to work with. I then had the tedious task of putting my students into groups that worked. I guaranteed them that they wouldn’t get the person they didn’t want to work with, and said they would get at least one of the three they would like to work with.  When we have writing workshop, the group meets together to share their writing, comment on it, get help  (if they ask for it) or work on writing activities that we are doing in class. Writing groups have become a safe place for the kids to share their work and listen to each other. I have to admit that we don’t meet every single time we have WW, but I try to get them to meet at least once a week.


When students need a conference with me during WW, I have them write their name on the whiteboard in a list. Then I work my way down the list. I use this method after I have walked around the room and made sure everyone has something to start on and doesn’t have any housekeeping type questions. I have found that when the students see where they are on the list, they can estimate how long until they can get help. This helps them to go on to something else, without sitting with their hand up or constantly walking up next to me while I am working with someone else.

Revision/ Editing Student Conferences:

When my students want a  revision or editing conference. They put their name on the board and then the first two names work together, then the next two etc.. I wasn’t sure if students would like this method, but I have found that for those who want someone to revise/ edit their work now, they can get immediate feedback. Since everyone is on a different step in the writing process, If students wait for their friend to be done, they may be sitting around waiting a while. Putting their name on the board allows them to meet with someone who is on the same step as they are in the writing process.


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