The last quarter of the school year signals a time of mixed feelings – the year is almost over, and even though we look forward to restful summer days, there is the sadness of knowing that this particular group, this classroom family, will never be together in the same way again. There is a lot of “remember when” talk at this time of year, as we try to hang on to bits and pieces of our best-loved moments of sixth grade.
Which is why this is also the perfect time to reach back into our writer’s notebooks and revisit some of our “we are just beginning middle school”, and “I am discovering how to survive middle school” entries at Revision Centers. This is the time of year for my students to pick a few of their favorite entries and spend a bit of time rotating through these revision centers working to polish them up for our end of the year publishing extravaganza.
I got the idea for Revision Centers from Georgia Heard’s fabulous book The Revision Toolbox:
My old and loved copy Brand NEW edition!
Here are some of the techniques from Georgia’s “toolbox”:
- Cracking open words: taking a generic sentence, using visualization to imagine the scene and re-writing the “stretched out” scene.
- Verb revision: improving verbs in sentences.
- Sentence combining
- Time revision: slowing down the moment in a passage.
- Revising dialogue
- Writing with a changed perspective.
- Re-webbing a writing topic – are there new ideas and directions to go in?
To these, I added three from my Nancie Atwell arsenal of wonderful writing ideas, culled from Lessons That Change Writers:
- The Rule of So What?
- Thoughts and Feelings
- The Rule of Write about a Pebble
I made many copies of laminated “Revision ideas—check ‘em out!!!” for each of these revision techniques, which I take directly from Georgia and Nancie’s mini lessons with examples for clarification, and put them in our “Revision Center” crate. When this time of year rolls around, I bring this crate out of storage, “unwrap” it (literally, for I find that the drama of the unwrapping adds to experience) and explain the process to my kids:
1. dig into your writer’s notebook for special entries, incomplete entries, sketches, idea maps
2. re-read them and make some writer’s notes
3. use our Revision Center to jump start ideas to improve your piece – choose no more than two at a time.
4. work slowly, take your time; make these entries sing!
I love watching my kids re-read their writer’s notebooks and re-live their sixth grade year. This is also a wonderful opportunity for students to experience the power of revision, to return to ideas and find better ways to express them. To heed the wisdom of Georgia’s words (from the introduction to The Revision Toolbox):
“Students need to be reminded that revision isn’t merely making a few cosmetic changes. Revision is seeing and then reseeing our words and practicing strategies that make a difference in our writing….Ultimately, the point of learning about revision is to learn how to help our writing match more accurately what’s in our hearts.”
Finally, this is also a wonderful opportunity for students to continue to value their writer’s notebooks as a repository of important moments from their lives, moments they can write about…and then return to revise and match what was in their hearts in the first place.