Friday, October 25, 2019

Radical Revision!

Since 2019 marks the 10th Anniversary of this blog, on Fridays this year, I’m updating and re-running some past posts that sparked conversation or that I think still have a lot to offer people teaching or writing nonfiction. Today’s post originally appeared on September 2, 2016.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I think taking a break between drafts is a critically important part of my writing process. I’ve written about it here and here.

I discuss this important step every time I present the school visit program Creating Nonfiction: Researching, Writing, and Revising. I’ve given this talk many times over the years, updating it as I develop a better understanding of how I work and how I can best explain the process to young writers.

Recently, many teachers have told me they really like the Let It Chill Out part of my presentation and that it has made them re-think how they ask their students to revise. They’ve come up with lots of great ideas—letting manuscripts chill out during lunch and recess or over the weekend or even during a school break.

The best idea of all came from the fourth-grade teaching team at Kennedy Elementary School in Billerica, MA. As the teachers listened to me describe the 10-year process of revising No Monkeys, No Chocolate, they hatched a plan for a whole-school project I love.

This year, the first graders will write a piece of nonfiction. Next year, when the students are in second grade, teachers will share the No Monkeys, No Chocolate and Can an Aardvark Bark? revision timelines  on my website and ask the children to revise the piece they wrote in first grade.

Good idea, right? But it gets even better. Both drafts will be placed in a folder, and the students will revise the piece again in third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade. Wow!
Imagine how different the final piece will be from the original. It will allow children to see tangible evidence of their growth as writers and give them a true sense of how long it can take to write a book.


  1. I love the idea of this long-term revision plan. What a great way to show students that as you learn and grow as a person, your writing also changes and grows. I'm going to share this concept with my fellow teachers!

    1. Thanks, Michelle. On Twitter, Shirley Fadden suggested adding an art component. I think that's a great idea. Students will love to see how their artistic ability develops too, and art always enhances nonfiction writing.

  2. Melissa, you're onto something here! As a former 5th grade teacher, all academic subjects but most often math/science, the focus has most often been on a unit piece, and a month of revisions didn't allow enough chill time for the edits to be of much value. Revising the same piece each year allows the distance from their manuscripts. Well done!! I'm sharing your piece with all my writer friends!

  3. Wow--what a great idea! Love the whole concept of continuity here. It will be exciting to see how their project evolve over time!