What’s next? Feedback and revision!

I love reading student writing! Check out these story beginnings… (Written here as the students have written them.)

“Every story should start with once apoun a time but this story does not start with once apoun a time. It begins with two best friends but one moves away.”

“There once was a boy who had no friends, not even the birds would sing to him. Each day would go by and rumers would spred around like a cold.”

“I remember light but all I see right now is darkness. I fell, I think I try to open my eyes but I can’t, I try again and a huge flash of light hits my eyes. I start blinking. I see people surrounding me. “She awake,” somewon yells.”

So much to talk about with these student writers: all three story beginnings have much potential. What’s next? How do we help our students reach their potential? Feedback and revision!

Feedback can be given during individual conferences especially when students would benefit from feedback on different aspects of their writing. Sometimes though, I ask a few of my student writers if we could discuss a portion of their writing with the class during a mini-lesson. (Be sure to choose students who you know would be comfortable with a conversation about their work.)

Let’s take the first example, for instance. (I am always sure to share some positives about the work before the revision process begins.) First, I would read the story beginning out loud as the student wrote it. Then, I provide a revised version such as this:

“Every story should start with once upon a time but this story does not. This story begins with two friends. One of those friends is about to move away.”

What I’ve done is taken the core of the students’ writing and made some small changes. I’ve cut the end of the first sentence. I’ve also slightly changed the beginning of the second sentence and split the second sentence into two.

The students and I would discuss which they like the sound of and then compare the two versions to examine the changes made. Is there one right way? Certainly not. My goal is for students to experience the process of revision. I want them to see how additions, deletions, and changes can improve writing.

After modeling with this first piece of work, we could discuss another example with the students providing feedback for revision.

We want students to feel empowered to make changes to their work. (Not something they do naturally.) We can’t simply ask them to revise their work. (They don’t know how!) We have to demonstrate what revision means and give them something specific to revise.

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