Re-visioning Revision by Cathy Hutter
When your student-writers hear the word 'revision,' what do they think of?
Students, and even many adult writers, think that revising means finding and correcting grammar errors and publishing the writing on new paper.
Others view revision as seeing their writing through a deficit lens, as something that needs to be 'fixed.'
These definitions often make us view the process of revision in a negative light. Writers become protective of their words and resist making changes or they don't see the value of revision at all.
Honestly, even as an adult, it is hard to accept that my words or thoughts need to be changed or improved. If I struggle with this, then I completely understand why my young writers would too.
One day I was reading Writing Toward Home: Tales and Lessons to Find Your Way by Georgia Heard when I read this impactful sentence:
“The true meaning of the word revision is this: to see again.”
Reading this definition of revision was an epiphany and it was at that moment that my writing world shifted!
This one sentence made me reflect on my personal writing as well as how I work with students who are revising and called for me to change my approach to both.
Revising My Revision Practice
In the past, I never truly revised my writing. I let the words flow out of my pen and then I moved on to the next idea. But this new idea of revision, to see my writing again, made me give it a try.
I pulled out poems that had been written over the last few months. I “saw” them again, carefully reading to notice if the words conveyed what I wanted to say.
I rephrased, replaced, and reordered words. These choices made the writing stronger.
If I hadn't allowed this mind shift about the definition of 'revision', I would not have been open to these possibilities.
By walking through the revision process a few times myself, I now knew how to help my students approach revision.
I taught my students to:
Let the piece rest for a day or two then come back to it with fresh eyes.
Do a close read - slowly and purposefully. Ask yourself, ”Is this the tone and message I want to send out to the world?”
Add any new thoughts, delete pieces, change words, or sentences to make it match your intent as the author.
Decide if this is the version to take on to the publishing stage.
Revision's role in the writing process serves an important purpose far beyond creating a clean copy. When we re-vision our writing, we sharpen our message and improve our reader's experience.
Cathleen Hutter currently teaches 4th grade in Brighton, New York. She loved teaching writing to primary students for over 20 years and now brings her passion to the intermediate grades. Cathy is a fellow of the National Writing Project and was one of the initial members in the Genesee Valley Writing Project. Cathy looks for ways to integrate technology into writing and for creative ways to publish student work. Cathy can be found on Twitter @HutterCathleen.