When I was a kindergarten teacher the first words, letters, and sounds written by my students were an entryway for celebration. What had once been oral stories, pictures, and scribbles would begin to take shape and carry symbolic meaning. The students’ desire to create books radiated with motivation and as their understandings unraveled so did the readability of their work.
As I watch my third-grade students transition into the year, honoring the first words remains relevant. Students often equate hard work with time and quantity.
“Look, I filled a page!”
“I worked for ten minutes straight!”
Validating the time, effort, and quantity of their writing is important however it is also important to show them that flexibility within the writing process is what makes our first words meaningful in the end.
Starting the year with the mindset that our first words hold with them open ended possibilities allows a new entryway of celebration, revision. Moving from kindergarten to third-grade a few years ago was exciting and eye-opening. Revision with five and six-year old writers was somewhat effortless. Stories were short. Making changes was fun because we used highlighters, tape, and add-on (spider legs) which were new and exciting tools. I’ve found, some third-grade students equate revision with a simple cross out or changing said to a fancier word. Anything beyond a few changes can initially appear overwhelming. I mean my goodness, they spent all this time drafting, and now changes are needed? I learned quickly to encourage revision as an opportunity. My writers had to understand that revision was not just something you do near the end but anytime. Even when you least expect it!
Here are three tips I’ve used to help students move past seeing revision as a check mark on a list and instead, a cyclical process that is always available to any writer.
Ideas are like journeys! Get your first words on the paper but remember, they are your first words, and need not be your last.
Writing is messy! Show students examples of how messy it can be, acknowledging that it is their masterpiece. Artists paint over paintings all the time! The result is almost always a better depiction of their vision.
Write, Stop, Read, Ask
Be a flexible thinker and revise as you go. Teaching writers to write, stop, read, and ask can be a helpful routine to establish creating students who meet revision with thoughts, words, and ideas.
As I end the second week of a new school year, I am reminded that these first words are still important. The importance of the words I choose to say in response to their work is equally important. I want to ignite the spark of motivation for my students to carry on, start over, or begin a new piece. I hope to light up my writers this year.