Jen Bladen

Rationale

One of the most difficult steps in teaching writing is convincing students to revise. Not just to “make corrections” but to truly re-create their initial attempt at words on paper. This mini-lesson is an attempt to force writers’ best revisions.

Procedure

Step One

Pass back a first draft that has received significant comments and corrections from the teacher.

Step Two

Give students a few minutes to read the corrections silently. Ask students what grammar mistakes they see now, that they didn’t realize they’d made when writing their first draft. Write on a board.
For example, many students may notice now that they included Mr. or Mrs. when they wrote about a teacher. Or they now see that they forgot to write in the “Quote,” name said style that we use. Perhaps students will see that they forgot to keep the story in past tense .Perhaps students realized that they didn’t include any sensory images.

Step Three

Choose two grammar mistakes that you saw regularly, or that students need more information about. Reteach those by writing correct examples on the board, together as a class. I’m a huge fan of Harry Noden’s Image Grammar, so I can imagine a lesson about appositives or predicates as “artist’s palette” tools.
The steps above are just prep for the mini-lesson. Step Four is the actual mini-lesson.

Step Four

Have students rewrite their drafts. Here’s the catch. They MAY NOT open the original Word file in which they wrote the first draft. They MUST start with a “new document”. They will put up a fight. It’s worth it.
Instructions: Read your story and my corrections one more time.
Turn your paper over. On the back, describe one image from your story. Write every detail you remember from the basketball game: the sound of the players’ shoes on the court, the feel of the crowd, the colors worn by the teams and the fans, the temperature in the gym, the smell of nachos and sweat, the excitement after a basket, the disappointment after a miss… Just focus on one image. Just jot down notes – don’t write sentences, just thoughts.
Now, using those ideas, rewrite your lead in Word. Do not look at your first draft!
(Have several students share their new leads.)
You may now flip your paper back over. Rewrite your whole story with your new lead and your new image to work with. You are re-imaging your story.

Assessment

This exercise may result in a new first draft that is not ready for print. That’s perfectly acceptable. Assessment of this exercise will be of effort at revision, not completion of the draft. Students will self-assess and then be assessed by the teacher on these points:

  • How does the new draft of your story differ from the original?

  • How vivid is the image in the lead?

  • Were you able to add other imagery anywhere else in the story?

  • Did you correct grammar mistakes? Especially the ones we discussed in class?

  • Is the story ready to be published, or still need more work? What further interviews do you need if it’s not ready? What further research do you maybe need to do? How could your editors or teacher be of help in this?