17 Approaches for Encouraging Students to Revise Their Writing (Opinion)

(This is the final post in a five-part series. You can see Part One here; Part Two here; Part Three here, and Part Four here.)

The new question-of-the-week is:

How do you get students to want to revise their writing?

In Part One, Melissa Butler, Jeremy Hyler, Jenny D. Vo, and Mary Beth Nicklaus shared their recommendations. All four were guests on my 10-minute BAM! Radio Show. You can also find a list of, and links to, previous shows here.

In Part Two, Matthew Johnson, Emily Phillips Galloway, Robert Jiménez, Holland White, Joy Hamm, and Alexandra Frelinghuysen offered their commentaries.

In Part Three, Alexis Wiggins, Keisha Rembert, Alicia Kempin, Sara Holbrook, and Michael Salinger contributed their ideas.

In Part Four, Tara Bogozan, Michelle Shory, Irina McGrath, Mary K. Tedrow, and Donna L. Shrum provided their suggestions.

Today, Sarah Falbo, Jonathan Eckert, Dr. Tracy Edwards, Dr. Rebecca Alber, and Tamera Musiowsky-Borneman “wrap up” this series.

“Authentic audience”

Sarah Falbo began her career with Teach For America in Compton, Calif., and has since taught writing in public, charter, and private elementary and middle schools in the Pittsburgh area. She has also taught at WPWP-sponsored Young Writers Institutes for many summers and coaches students through the college-application essay-writing process:

Six ways to answer the magic question: How do we get students to want to revise their writing?

  1. Offer them authentic assignments, not arbitrary prompts. I find that when my students are invested in the assignment, they are much more likely to care about their writing and want to make it better. Let them take a stance on a controversial issue that matters to them for a debate, propose a solution to a real-world problem as a TED-talk script, or have them choose two high-interest topics to compare/contrast.
  2. Have them appeal to an authentic audience. Find opportunities to have someone other than you their teacher read and respond to your students’ writing. Some options for an additional audience include blogs, writing contests, letters to the editor/principal/CEO, or even the class down the hall.
  3. Show them the underlying structure to their piece to help them see what they can add or don’t need. This can be a revelation—especially to our students to whom the writing process can seem mysterious or too touchy feely. One good way to do this is to add color, literally. Have students color-code reasons, elaboration, and examples in a persuasive essay or details in a memoir. Is there a balance?
  4. As motivation, help them see that their favorite authors often spend more time planning and revising than drafting. The following blog has lots of practical advice from famous authors and even a handwritten plot chart that J.K. Rowling used while planning out The Order of the Phoenix (See 12 Contemporary Writers on How They Revise.)
  5. Explicitly teach students how to use the tools already at their fingertips. Students having trouble typing…

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