Thursday, October 1, 2009

Teaching Revisions

During the past few weeks, I have been helping to launch the writer’s workshop in several classrooms. We are up to choosing seeds. For years, I have been fielding questions like “what do you mean I have to write more about an idea?” and “I know which idea I like best, but once I choose it, what do I do with it?” I enter into this knowing this is a difficult move for young writers; so this year, I resolved to approach it differently.

My first change will be to develop this concept over several days. I began today by having children reread their notebooks. As they reread, they wrote one to two words that summed up the content of each entry on post-its. When they completed that, I asked the children to think about whether each idea felt “worth mentioning” or “worth discussing.” This was a new step for me and I was amazed at the result.

By adding this new layer, children began to talk about which ideas felt “done” and which ones they knew they could talk more about. Some kids didn’t have any ideas worth discussing. They knew without me telling them that they would need to write more entries. Others narrowed down their many ideas to two or three worth discussing. Those writers are getting closer to choosing an idea that will become something bigger and different.

I have been teaching seed choice for sixteen years and today, I feel like I discovered a new path to what is at the heart of this concept. Sixteen years feels like a long time to get it right, but what I am realizing is that teaching is a lot like writing. Getting it “right” isn’t the ultimate goal. It’s about seeing bigger possibilities and making it better.

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