A Hot Mess

Jan 29, 2012 by

I think revision is the stage of writing that many students (and teachers) dread.  I am often asked for suggestions to help students embrace the act of revision.  As I have become more comfortable with the writing process myself, I have found teaching revision strategies to my students to be the most enjoyable part.  It is so rewarding to see them delight in make intentional changes to their writing.  But how do we do that?

This was the topic of a seminar I recently led.  I shared some of my ideas and invited the teachers to share some of their own.  One teacher raised her hand and said she had a suggestion that was “kind of silly” but really effective with her primary students.  She said she tells them that their draft isn’t finish until it looks like a “hot mess”.  Just naming this for her students has changed their perception of the revision process.  Instead of dreading revising, they now look for opportunities to revise.  Such a simple thing but so powerful!

Here are a few more simple tips to help students revel in the revision process:

  • Create an anchor chart:


(from Sonya Wright-Shepherd’s Pinterest Page)

  • Use spider legs: encourage students cut and tape pieces sticking out from their drafts to elaborate on their ideas with more details.

(from No More I’m Done: Fostering Independent Writers in the Primary Grades by Jennifer Jacobson)

    • Perform surgery on a draft:  encourage students to cut their drafts apart (they need to write on only one side of the paper if they are going to do this) and tape their revisions in.
    • Use insertion points: teach students that they can elaborate on ideas in the middle of a draft by using a symbol such as a star and then using that same symbol on a clean area of the paper to mark where the inserted writing starts.  Celebrate students who use lots of insertion points!
    • Create a “process” bulletin board: spotlight examples of student writing at various stages to celebrate students who revel in “not being done.”
    • Share the writing process of professional authors.  Here are some great picture books you can use:

Arthur Writes a Story by Marc Brown
Aunt Isabelle Tells a Good One by Kate Duke
Author: A True Story by Helen Lester
Chester by Melanie Watt
From Idea to Book by Pam Marchall
From Pictures to Words by Janet Stevens
How to Write Your Life Story by Ralph Fletcher
If You Were a Writer by Joan Lowry Nixon
Look at My Book by Loreen Leedy
Nothing Happens on 90th Street by Roni Schotter
Show, Don’t Tell: Secrets of Writing by Josephine Nobisso
The Day Eddie Met the Author by Louise Borden
The MEET THE AUTHOR SERIES published by Richard C. Owens Publishers. This series gives you a close-up look at many authors you will recognize.
What Do Authors Do? by Eileen Christelow
You Can Write a Story by Lisa Bullard
You Have to Write by Janet Wong


I hope these ideas will help your students start making some “hot messes”!

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