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Revision as a Learning Tool

For years, teachers have struggled with getting students to revise their writing. Many students assume that their first draft is all they have to say about a subject. Teachers have assumed that having students revise pre-typed text with errors would be a helpful exercise, but they found that students rarely transferred their learning to their own writing. Enter the learning tool of using a student's own work to teach revision and writing. In K-12 writing teachers have found an overwhelmingly positive response to helping kids learn to revise by using their own work as examples.

Why student writing is more motivating for revision

When students revise their own writing they begin to see how to make their own changes. Teachers who take ownership of their students' writing by grading the first piece handed in and telling the student what worked and what did not, do their students a disservice. These students will look at the grade and put the paper away. They will not learn about revising written work. Students however who are given the learning tool of resubmitting a paper after each revision will work harder to understand how to write more clearly or with voice. Taking ownership of one's writing is a complicated task for teachers to teach in K-12 writing. The only way to accomplish this is through giving students the experience of how revisions change a piece.

Ways to foster revision as a learning tool in K-12 writing

  • Photocopy students’ original work for them to use in revising
  • Teach all students in your class to peer revise; this introduces a new audience
  • Let students cut up their written work and glue it differently to a larger paper
  • Give students’ a revision pen in a different color each time they revise
  • Project students’ written work overhead and discuss with the class

Explicitly teach revision strategies tailored to what your students need

If students struggles with spelling, teach them to circle each word they think might be spelled incorrectly and how to find out the correct spelling. If students struggle with wrapping up their assignments neatly, teach them how to read the piece aloud to see if it has a beginning, middle, and end. Pair students to write an information piece together and remind them to revise all words that could be more formal (e.g. changing “belly” to “abdomen”). Using revision as a learning tool within students' own writing will help them use their strategies in their writing instead of on worksheets. These are the kinds of revision strategies that will help them throughout K-12 writing.

Pull out all the stops when it comes to revising student work and teaching revision as a learning tool. Create revision kits for each student or table group by using baskets filled with scissors, glue, Post-it notes, markers, mentor texts, and paper. When the materials are available, students will use them and the changes in their writing may motivate them. Most importantly, share your students' work. K-12 writing is personal for every student, and they need support and congratulations so they will want to keep writing.

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