In a previous post, I talked about helping my students to become more independent writers by providing them with revision checklists to use to revise their writing. I talked about how I think that we, as teachers, are often quick to tell our students to go back and make their writing better, but we sometimes forget to give them specific strategies to help them to do this. I have found that every mini-lesson that I teach to my students that teaches them a new strategy to use to improve their writing, is a way that they can go back and revise their writing. The problem is that when it comes time for revision, our students often forget all of the tools and strategies that they have at their disposal. So I began using revision checklists as a way to help students remember all the ways that we have learned to make our writing better.
For each unit of study that we do, our revision checklists change. And our checklists grow throughout the unit. At first, there are only two or three items on the checklist, because I do not add an item to our checklist until we have spent several lessons learning a new strategy or technique. I introduce the new strategy, we often look at how our mentor authors have used the strategy, I model using the strategy in my own writing, there is guided practice using the strategy and then the students try the strategy in their notebooks independently. Only then do I add the strategy to our revision checklist. So the checklists start out small and grow as our knowledge grows.
The students have a lot of freedom over when they use the checklist. For most students, they like to use the checklist at the end of their writing process, after they have finished writing what they have to say. However, there are students who prefer to revise as they go and that is just fine with me. The only thing that I ask is that they give their writing a chance to be re-seen by their own eyes at some point during their writing process. This means that I expect each child to reread and revise at some point throughout their writing process, but do not limit the students in when this needs to happen.
The number of revision checklist items that each child uses is also up to the individual child. By the time our checklists are fully grown, I recommend that each child uses at least three strategies on a piece of writing, but this is just a suggestion and I trust the children to use the number of strategies that is right for them. Often, as I confer with students, I ask them to show me where and how they have revised a piece of writing. If I notice that they are not using the strategies we have learned to make their writing better, then that becomes the focus of our conference and we find ways together to use the revision checklists more effectively.
The revision checklists have helped me to help my students to become more independent writers. It certainly does NOT mean that my students all jump up and down at the thought of revision. Nor does it mean that all of my students complete pieces of writing that are flawless. Nor does it even mean that none of my children write in ways that continue to baffle me and make me wonder if I am teaching anyone anything. But it does mean that the students know ways that they can make their writing better. It does mean that they know that revision is more than just changing lowercase letters to uppercase letters. And it does mean that they know that they can revise their writing even if I am not sitting right there with them telling them what they should do. And for me, that means a lot.
After my last post, a few people had asked to see the revision checklists that I have used. I am happy to share them and will include links to the GoogleDocs that contain last year’s revision checklists on them. However, I am not sure how helpful they will be to people since many of our strategies have strange names that might not make sense to anyone other than me and my students. The checklists I use change every year depending on the mini-lessons that I teach which depend on the needs of the students sitting in front me. However, I do think that sometimes it is just helpful to see what other teachers are using. So I am happy to share. But please feel free to ask any questions about the many things that you will see on there that probably don’t make any sense!
I hope these checklists are just a little bit helpful for anyone looking for ways to help their students to revise!