As a reader, I find I often have to stop myself and go back to reread something. It might be I’m caught off guard and think, “Wait, what just happened?” It might be I got lost somewhere in a daydream. Sometimes it is that something is so good I just want to read it again. I don’t believe these are unique to me. Sometimes I need to stop and go back to re-think, re-group, or re-enjoy a moment in the pages.
As a writer…
Go ahead and put those three words I just left hanging there in front of that opening paragraph. Really, just take a moment and try that. Reread for me, for a moment, with a new lens.
Rereading is part of a means toward processing. And processing? Well, it is what we do when we read and when we write. We process words into meaning. Rereading is something I learned to do. It is a fluid part of my process. I don’t need to be told to reread, I just constantly rewind myself to hear and resee my words.
As a teacher, I teach writers the value of rereading. I help them see this value so they too will naturally become rereaders. Sharing this with students comes in stages. In conversations with other teachers, I’ve often heard:
Oh yeah, I tell them to reread and then suddenly they see all the parts they missed.
They take two seconds and say they reread it, but I know they didn’t.
I wish they would just reread. It would make such a big difference.
Well, I wish they would too.
Here are five tips to help your writers value rereading and hopefully start taking it on as an independent part of their own personal writing process.
1-Do it First
In your first two units of the year, before students begin the independent portion of the writing workshop or before your minilesson, have all students reread their writing from the day before. For emergent writers, you might wait a little longer to begin this practice. For first graders, this might be a rereading of a whole story to a partner. For older writers, it could be rereading a section or paragraph to a partner or themselves. The idea is to set aside time at the beginning to take a look at previous work. When your students are generating some words, stories, and ideas on paper that can be reseen, using the first few minutes can be a valuable time to reread.
Every time you have a small group or whole class rereading at the same time, let them pull out their color pen from their personal writing toolkit. Sometimes changing the tool helps shift the mind a bit from drafting to rereading. This group initiated switch can help build a habit for rereading practices.
At different stages within a unit or different times within the year, I will post parts of the writing process and have students jot their name so I can see what stage everyone is working on for that particular day. Rereading is always an option and a way for me to remind writers to exercise their rereading muscle.
When I model my own writing in front of students, in the early days of the year especially, I explicitly name what I am doing as a writer. When I go back and reread, I may stop and name it. When I’m done modeling the work for my students I may go back and label my process. I make notes throughout the writing to show what I did as a writer.
Schedule rereading as the last three minutes of your independent writing time every day. Make it a habit that sticks by setting aside real time for students to engage in the act of rereading. It can’t be during a transition, it can’t be a quick–”Did everyone reread?” It’s got to be intentional if it is to become an intentional practice for your writers.
Rereading can be a valuable part of your writing workshop time. It is one of those small steps that can have a big impact on your writers. Take a tip or two from above to help maximize your intentions when encouraging rereading as a strategy because that’s what it is. Rereading is a strategy we can all use all the time as both readers and writers.