Ask any elementary writing teacher and he/she will probably tell you that getting students to successfully self-assess their writing is one of the toughest tasks out there! Give little Susie a rubric to check her work and likely she’ll return it with high marks because writing is hard, yo! Of course Susie & Johnny think their work is good because they tried… they put in the effort and they are proud of what’s been put to paper. Asking the untrained student to self-assess his/her work can feel like a pointless step. So… we as teachers often skip the difficult task of creating critical self-assessors and grab the red pen. The dreaded red pen. Marking up student work to correct spelling, punctuation, and give all manor of feedback & suggestions. Passing back bleeding, marked up papers, demoralizing and forever dashing the hopes and dreams of Susie and Johnny.
Okay, okay, that’s a bit dramatic, but seriously… don’t do it! Step away from the red pen. There’s another way to arrive at those polished, finished drafts. We can teach our kiddos to look critically at their work and find their own mistakes and opportunities for improvement. Just not all at once.
Revision is an overwhelming task, one that is best tackled in small doses. Teach students to focus their efforts by looking at their writing for one trait at a time, an approach called “focused revision.” By teaching students how to look critically at their work one trait at a time, we make the task of revision more manageable and more objective. It’s much easier for a beginning writer to check her work for correct capitalization only, versus any and all elements and traits of writing. It’s too much! Letting students consider their work for specific elements in a structured and manageable way allows you to put down the red pen and require some accountability for correctness in your students.
Sounds great, right? But how do you approach it logistically? I’ve got you covered. My edit and revise workshop was born out of this very need. Designed for students as young as first grade and as old as fourth or fifth grade, the workshop is flexible and can be tailored to your students’ level and needs. The basic premise of the workshop is that you set up stations for students to take a copy of their rough draft through, one station at a time, focusing on a specific writing element/trait at each. The stations are equipped with a station sign that gives students simple directions on what to look for in their piece, highlighters for marking specific examples of the writing element/trait, pencils & erasers for making revisions, and station tickets (basically a mini-rubric of the station) for students to fill out and attach to their drafts.
The workshop includes sixteen different stations from which to choose from to set up the workshop. I would recommend starting small, rotating between only 2-3 stations at first and then adding stations as students become familiar and comfortable with the process. I would NOT recommend doing all stations in a workshop! Some stations lend themselves to all types of writing (e.g. capitalization, indentation, spelling, topic sentence, etc.) while some are more suited for different types of writing (e.g. temporal words for narratives, linking words for opinion pieces, etc.). The stations you choose will also depend on your students. If your kiddos have nailed indenting paragraphs, then no need to include that station in the rotations!
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Once you’ve chosen the stations for your workshop and students have made their rounds, working on their pieces and completing the tickets, you’ll have more information to use in a writing conference. Students will be bringing their self-corrected work to a conference instead of a freshly-written rough draft for you to correct old-school style with your red pen. Remember that thing? Throw it away! Once your students have had experience with this workshop, you’ll be able to have more critical and thoughtful writing conferences with your young writers. Trust me, it works. It’s one of my best sellers for a reason.
Check it out! I’ve included a FREE sample with one station & ticket. Click the picture below to download!!!
Good luck with editing and revising! This workshop takes time and effort, but it is an effort that will pay dividends in your students for years to come!