Hello, I am Rebecca from over at Ladybug's Lounge. I teach 4th grade and am so excited to be a guest poster here today! I teach at a school with a low-income population and a lot of ESL students. It can be a challenge to help my students write stories and essays that are free of errors and full of their best ideas, especially if they still struggle with even speaking in English. Over my past 6 years of teaching, though, I see better and better results every year. I wanted to share a few of my top tips for getting impressive results from your little authors.
Tip #1: Create a "Writer's Toolbox" anchor chart for students to refer to.
As I teach my students more and more strategies for writing quality personal narratives, such as Show, Don't Tell; Use Your Magic Camera; Interesting Leads; Use Transition Words; etc, it becomes harder and harder for my students to remember everything they know how to do! So I create an anchor chart called "Writer's Toolbox" with all of the strategies we have learned good authors use. When it is time for students to revise, I encourage them to go to the chart and look for one or two things they want to focus on improving in their rough draft. This really helps them understand what "revision" means.
Tip #2: Add symbols to the Writer's Toolbox chart.
I add little symbols for each skill, such as a thought bubble for "Add a thoughtshot" and a camera for "Add a Snapshot." These symbols help my students remember the skills, especially my ESL students. I encourage students to actually use the symbols in their rough draft to show what strategies they worked on improving. Then, when they have their final copy conferences with me, I can see exactly what they were trying to work on.
Tip #3: Let your students guide their own revisions.
When I first started teaching writing, I used to read over my students' papers and TELL them what I thought would improve their writing. After attending a weeklong Lucy Calkins Writing Workshop training in NYC, I realized that my strategy only helped students improve that current paper. It didn't help improve the actual writer. So now, when I have conferences with my students, I always begin by asking them, "What have you done in this story that you are proud of as a writer?" Then I ask, "What is something you still want to work on improving on as a writer?" If they are struggling to think of ideas, we walk together over to the Writer's Toolbox anchor chart. That always helps them think of one or two goals. Of course, I do still need to guide their writing a little bit, especially because in TX my students are tested in Writing. So I will always write one or two positives I notice in their stories with a + sign, and one goal I have for them with a little triangle symbol. I find that this structure for conferences really helps students grow the most as authors by the end of the year.
Tip #4: Let students get revision ideas from their classmates.
At least 3 times a week, my students either meet with their writing partners or get a chance to share something they're proud of in our Author's Chair. If meeting in partners, I teach students how to discuss their writing, ask for help, and offer suggestions for revision. If students are sharing in the Author's Chair, I ask students to notice what the writer did well. I also give them a chance to offer suggestions. For example, one student had written that his fish tasted "good." Several students offered suggestions for improvement, such as the fish was "juicy," "salty," or "bursting with buttery goodness." The author went right back to his seat to revise his story. What's better than a live revision taking place right there in front of everyone!
I hope these tips will help give you some ideas for teaching your students how to revise. I find that it is the hardest skill to teach in writing, but with these tips, I have students doing 2, 3, even 4 drafts of a paper before they move on to their final copy! They are really understanding the writing process this year. For more upper grades ideas, please come visit me at my blog Ladybug's Lounge.