Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Help My Student Writers

My students are currently supposed to be revising their personal narratives. And some of them are. But a lot of them just rewrite the same story they wrote the first time around and, even though I've done lots of lessons on revising, I think some of them are overwhelmed and others are just forgetful.

So I typed up a handout to give them titled "Things to Revise" and I included the following. Now I'm asking for your help. Give me some other things writers do when they revise. Please remember that I teach third graders and we're not working on fiction yet. That said, feel free to share whatever. I can always not include it.

· Write new leads and choose the best one.

· Rewrite any areas that might be confusing.

· Add words that make sentences more clear.

· Name things—instead of “restaurant” say “Taco Joe’s.”

· Change tells to shows—instead of “I was mad,” write “I slammed my fist on the table.”

· Insert some dialogue.

· Make sure your dialogue is easy to follow. Who is talking?

· Make sure you don’t have parts that are nothing except dialogue. Insert small actions or facial expressions into your dialogue.

· Insert descriptions. Try some imagery. “The clouds looked like wisps of cotton, strewn across the sky.”

· Insert feelings or thoughts.

· Insert small actions.

· Word Choice—what word best describes it?

· Delete things that don’t belong in the story.

· Delete extra words that aren’t necessary.

· Rewrite your ending.

· Check paragraphing. What is most effective?

· Speed through unimportant parts.

· Slow way down during important parts—add lots of small details.

· Try a simile or metaphor to compare something—“He ate like a starving lion.”


Wendy Sparrow said...

You mentioned word choice, but I would bring up using the right verbs instead of tacking on adverbs all the time. (Ie. I whispered instead of I said quietly.) Try for a variety of sentence beginnings to make things more interesting. (Sometimes, I go through and highlight how many times I use the word "I" in a chapter to see if I've gone nuts.) Along with the "Who is talking," I'd add check your pronouns--do all the "he, she, and it"s seem connected to a person or can they be confusing?

I like your list a lot. Two thumbs up. I don't know how well any of my suggestions would work for third grade. My daughter is in third grade, and I'm shocked at how far she is compared to what I remember of third grade, but I don't know if she has been taught what an adverb is.

Heather Lane said...

Change passive voice to active voice.

Revisions can be overwhelming, even for those of us older than 8.

Kelly said...

This is along the lines of the confusing tip: My sentences make sense. I tell things in order that make sense. My ideas are clear. (something like that)
And of course spelling and punctuation check.
By word choice, you can add: find another synonym or use thesaurus.
Great list so far for your students!

Paul Michael Murphy said...

Great suggestions. I especially like the strong verbs one.

Thanks, all.

Tracy Edward Wymer said...

Use a kid-friendly thesaurus, or give them a cheat sheet of more descriptive words. The more quality words they see, the better.

Nice suggestion, Heather, though active/passive voice could be difficult for third graders to understand. There is a trick though. Have students cross out the word "by" anytime they see it in their narratives. In fact, tell them they can't use the word at all. This forces them to restructure their sentences to active voice.

I used to tell fourth graders they couldn't use "very" either. It really works, forces them to use quality words like "exhausted" instead of "very tired." Otherwise, you get like 7 very's in every paper. Okay, so I stole that trick from Dead Poet's Society. Sue me.

Nice list, Murph.

Paul Michael Murphy said...

Oh, this is off topic, but I just left what I find to be a terribly entertaining comment on the Upstart Crow blog post about NaNoWriMo.

Yes, I am probably the only one that will find it entertaining. And I'm okay with that.

Tina Lee said...

I liked the Upstart Crow too.

According to Alexander Chee, Annie Dillard had an exercised that involved circling and counting verbs. She asked if they could increase the amount of verbs on the page. Then she had them look for the right verbs.She said that adverbs are a sign of the wrong verb. It seemed like a really concrete exercise for me. You can find Chee's account of it here: http://www.themorningnews.org/archives/personal_essays/annie_dillard_and_the_writing_life.php
Also, I love the book You Can Write A Story! by Lisa Bullard. It is about writing fiction but it breaks down the writing process into "Basic Ingredients." I think it also does a good job of making what seems so inaccessable concrete. It is about fiction so I don't know how much applies. Maybe helpful?

Your list is great. I think I could use it.

Sharon Mayhew said...

PMM, I taught third and fourth graders for seventeen years. Have you taken writer's workshop training or reader's workshop training? (balanced literacy) If not google it. There is a great (HUGE) book I got at Borders in the teacher section that really helps with clarity in writing both NF and Fic. If you can't figure out what the book is, let me know at my blog and I'll try and find out. Like a total ditz, I donated all of my teaching resources to my daughter's elementary school when I "retired." I'm pretty sure the title includes the words Readers and Writers Workshop. Another great writing course is Power Writing. It breaks down writing a paragraph really well and then moves on to writing up to a five paragraph paper. Both are great programs.

How long have you been teaching?

Myra said...

Have them read it aloud. Where they stumble, they might need a fix. ;)

Myra said...

Okay, just because the word verification is "insaning" I have to comment again.

Revisions make one insaning.

Monica said...

i don't have any suggestions. I'm just here to make random statements, not give any worthwhile input.

Love that upstart crow blog. I'm with the NahNoWriMo, personally. I have a couple of friends that are participating, tho. I can't believe that people actually submit their nanowrimo stuff as is, to publishers. Maybe they're just high from all the coffee they've consumed all month.

Anita said...

Tell them to use words/phrases they actually use when talking with friends. "I know, right?"

Also, remind them that they'll get better with writing the more they practice...just like baseball, soccer, etc. If they start writing now, they will be some kick-ass writers when they're my age (21).

Betty said...

One trick I always use when I revise is to read out loud. Hearing my words aloud helps me to realize if the words make sense or just sound off.

Wendy Sparrow said...

A comment on a comment:

Don't use the word "kickass" when telling them to practice. LOL Although, it would liven up parent/teacher conferences.

I commented on Upstart Crow, but now I need to go check out yours.

Wendy Sparrow said...

It wus tewtally awsome, Paul. We dont kneed too edit with editers a round.

That was painful.

Anita said...

WENDY AND PAUL: I'm making tortillas with 100 third graders on Friday. Are you telling me I can't use the word "kickass" with them? Is there a better word to use for my tortilla recipe? Now I'll have to Google synonyms. Man.

Monica said...

i'd love to see the thesaurus entries for kickass

Anita said...

Synonyms for kickass (actually found these on my love, the Internet): epic, awesome, amazing, tight.