Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Behind the Books: Revision: Correcting vs. Improving

During school visits, I often show this slide and explain that it’s the three-page rough draft for When Rain Falls.
Then I ask the students if they can guess why there are red marks all over the paper.

What I’m hoping is that they’ll come up with are the words “edits” or “revision,” and sometimes they do. But more often they use language like “corrections” or “mistakes that need to be fixed.”

For a while, I accepted these answers and gently guided them toward the words “edits” and “revision.” But then I realized that the students had a misconception that I needed to address.

Writing isn’t like doing math. When it comes to word choice and crafting sentences and paragraphs, there are no right or wrong answers. Instead, writers should focus on transforming their writing to make it better—clearer, more concise, more engaging. Revision isn’t about fixing something that’s wrong. It’s about IMPROVING a piece of writing so that it better meets the author’s goals.

Revising is like doing layups until the basketball swooshes through the basket every time. It’s like playing a clarinet solo over and over until the musician is sure he or she will get it right at the concert.

This is what I try to stress to the children I work with during school visits, and I hope it’s what teachers are saying to students during writing workshop.

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