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Correcting vs. Revising

I’ve been thinking about this post for a few weeks now.  I’ve heard teachers ask students to “fix” their writing when asking them to revise.  For some reason, this word — fix — hits me like a knife in my gut.  What do they mean fix?  And if the writing is so bad that it needs fixing, why in the world would the student want to revise in the first place?

I’m thinking about my kitchen floor.  I’m soon (although not soon enough) going to have new tile throughout my kitchen, breakfast area, bathroom, back hall, and laundry room.  The majority of those areas have carpet now.  They aren’t broken.  They don’t need fixed.  They work just fine.  Yet, we’re still going to replace the flooring.  It’ll be better — especially when I drop an egg in the kitchen or the kids play with play dough at the table.   It’ll be different.  Remodeled.  Not fixed.

If I had to fix my kitchen floor it wouldn’t be nearly as fun.  I wouldn’t have five tile samples laying throughout the area right now.  I would have taken the first one that was good enough.  I wouldn’t be shopping and waiting for the best deal.  I would have taken the first one that wasn’t too expensive.  I wouldn’t be enjoying the process.  I would just be fixing the floor, because it had to be done.  Usually when I have to do something, it isn’t fun.

The same is true for students.  This attitude of needing to fix-up writing is one of the barriers to students learning to value and yes, I’m going to say it, enjoy revising.  When asked to “fix their writing,” they are doing it because they have to, because the teacher told them to do it.  This isn’t empowering.

I believe it is important to teach students the reasons behind revision.  Below are three key reasons that seem to have a strong impact on student revision.  Once they understand the why, they are much more willing to do the work.

Reasons Writers Revise

  1. To make good writing even stronger.
  2. To play with punctuation and language . . . to have FUN!
  3. To make writing more meaningful.

By starting here, students will be more willing to do the hard work of revision.  It is worthwhile and these reasons keep us going even through the messy parts (which I’m sure there will be some of as we begin remodeling the flooring in our home).  Perhaps we should ask students to remodel their writing . . .

Ruth Ayres View All

Unhurried. Finding the magic in the middle of living. Capturing a life of ridiculous grace + raw stories.

5 thoughts on “Correcting vs. Revising Leave a comment

  1. Ruth, I totally agree with your insight in using the word “fix”. Recently, I was reading a teacher resouce book, Revising and Editing, by Kathleen Hurni-Dove (a friend of Lola Schafer). She stated that her “ah-ha” moment came from watching kindergarteners rearrange blocks to create an addition to their buildings. What she noticed was they were enthusiastic during their play, and thus revision should be fun. She suggested introducing revision by giving students building blocks to create something. Although each will have the same blocks, the creations would be different. I find that the most powerful way to demonstrate revision is by playing with our own written work displayed for our students. If we risk revising and playing with our words, won’t they be more willing to do the same?


  2. Ruth, I have been working with my students on revising a lot this year. We have a revision workstation and then we have a wonderous words wall that we have been adding to. We started with different ways to say “said.” We also have been adding verbs to the wall because great writers write in verbs.
    I think revision should be about trying to say one thing in a zillion different ways and then deciding which one makes the “cut.”
    Thank you for your insight into this,


  3. After reading Katie Wood Ray on visioning and Georgia Heard and Barry Lane on revising, I can say that there is a lot more to revision than one might think. I especially like Katie Wood Ray’s idea that kids need to have a vision of the writing before they can revise it. At my school we specifically teach the difference between editing and revising. We work hard at giving the kids the tools and strategies of revision and we celebrate the process as much as the final product.

    I’m going to go out on a limb and say that any teacher who says you need to fix your writing might mean edit, not revise. Fix the spelling, the punctuation, the capitalization, the grammar errors. I’d also venture a guess that that teacher isn’t writing with the students as they write. Otherwise, they’d know just how harsh the word fix can be.

    Revising is something professional writers do. Whenever authors visit or when you watch or read interviews with authors, most of them talk about the numerous drafts they create before arriving at the final one. When students hear this, it gives them encouragement about their own writing.

    Writing is a process and the more we as teachers focus on the process, the better writers we’ll help to create.


  4. It’s interesting that you’re writing about revision. This is, in some ways, my favorite part of writing. I love the refining aspect of it, looking for the way to express my idea. I try to help my students see the fun of that, too. I’m always showing them my numerous marked up drafts of things … and they are always surprised to find that I write things more than once!


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