Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Behind the Books: Making Revision Visible

When I visit schools, kids (and their teachers) often seem stunned by how much time it takes to create a book and how many people are involved in the process. So when No Monkeys, No Chocolate was released in August 2013, I decided to create a Revision Timeline on my website.

The timeline documents the book’s 10-year journey from inspiration to publication and includes twelve videos (including one from my editor), four downloadable manuscripts (three of which were rejected), and sample sketches from illustrator Nicole Wong. Here's a picture of how I set up my office while filming the videos. I set the camera on top of all those books.

Students can view all the videos on the timeline in about 15 minutes and get the message “Professional writers revise—a lot.” loud and clear. In other words, kids shouldn’t balk at the idea of revising their writing assignments a few times. They should understand that it’s a natural part of the writing process. Just like practicing a musical instrument or going to soccer practice.

For a more powerful lesson, they can print out the four manuscripts and do text-to-text comparisons. This will show them that very little of the initial draft remains in the final manuscript, but the core idea—that living things are dependent on one another—is present in every single draft. It didn’t change because wanting to share that concept with young readers was my purpose for writing the book, and my determination to do so kept me motivated for 10 long years.
I’m so delighted with the response the timeline has received from classroom teachers, teacher-librarians, literacy coaches, and curriculum coordinators. All kinds of educators love it.
We’ve all heard the expression: show don’t tell. That’s exactly what this timeline does.

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