The Writing Teacher – Revision Strategies

Revision is hard to teach.  I asked Laura to share some tips on how to teach great revision strategies.

“I don’t know what to revise or how to revise.”  Too many students feel this way when teachers ask them to revise their writing for content and word choice.  It is important for students to revise their own work and then have a peer writing partner offer revision suggestions. The big question is, How can teachers help students revise their work?

What follows are seven tips that move revision out of your hands and into your students’ hands.

Tip 1. Have students use the rubric or content criteria you negotiated and their writing plans to check their first drafts.

Tip 2. Model this checking process using the first draft of a student no longer at your school. Think out loud to show students how you compare the rubric and writing plan to the first draft. Then, make a list of areas that require revision. For example:

Shorten the title

Need to add dialogue and punctuate

Make nouns like things and stuff specific

Sentence openings in 2 paragraphs all the same–need to vary them.

Tip 3. Have students make a list of what they need to revise.

Tip 4.  Model revision strategies.

To revise one or a few sentences or add sentences place a number next to the sentence that needs elaborating. On separate paper, have the student write the same number and complete the revision.

To generate specific nouns have students write in the margin a list of 2 to 3 possibilities, reread the sentence inserting each new and select the choice that works.

To vary sentence openings, students can combine two related sentences, open some sentences with a prepositional phrase or open with one of these words (called subordinating conjunctions): when, since, until, because, if, as soon as, although, unless, whenever.

Tip 5. Have the student invite his/her writing partner to make revision suggestions. Partners use a plan, rubric or criteria, and the first draft to create a feedback list.

Tip 6. Invite students to review all feedback, decide what they’ll include in their revisions, then write their revisions following suggestions in Tip 4.

Tip: 7: Ask students to compose a second draft that includes their revisions.


Now, teachers read improved second drafts and students learn how to use their plans and the rubric or criteria to figure out what to revise.  Of course, there will be errors not addressed in the rubric or criteria. Make a list of errors as you read second drafts. These become topics for future mini-lessons and student conferences.

Feedback on Second Drafts

Use students’ revision lists and rewrites to offer feedback. Look at the process from finding topics, brainstorming, negotiating a rubric or criteria, writing plan, first draft, revisions, and second draft. On a sticky-note, list a few things the student improved and/or did well using the rubric/criteria as your guide for responding. Then, take a few minutes to reflect on priorities–what you’d like the student to ponder and improve. Choose one or two needs and put these in the form of questions. Questions should be kind and encourage students to reflect. If necessary, let students have another shot at revising using your questions.

The point is to offer students a strategy, opportunity, and choice for improving their writing. When students feel confident doing the work of revision, you are teaching for independence!

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