Revision Toolkit- “The Sledgehammer”

It cannot be said enough how much Sonja and I admire the work of Georgia Heard. Everything she writes has practical strategies that work! Her book, The Revision Toolbox, just came out with a second edition, and it’s fabulous! If you’re like me, then revision is the part of the writing process that you cringe at. It’s easy to come up with the teaching topics: too much dialogue, not enough elaboration, lack of focus, no setting, endings that feel unresolved or end too quickly. Am I right? But then you have to decide how to teach into these issues and it just feels overwhelming.

I think it is hard to teach revision because it is not concrete. Students have to make choices about what to add, what to change, and what to remove. Revision can be frustrating for them because it’s not always easy to RE-vision their writing.

Teaching revision is teaching a critical-thinking process. It’s comprised of noticings, choices, and reflection.

One of the many ways, I try to make teaching revision concrete is with tools. Just like Georgia Heard writes, writers have tools that they use when approaching revising their pieces. One tool that my students and I came up with is the sledgehammer. Not only do students think the name and image are humorous, but they like the idea of a powerful, fearless tool that can bravely knock away unnecessary and unfocused writing. This is also a helpful way to guide my minilessons about revision in every unit.

I say, “Today we’re going to be breaking out the sledgehammer again. Let’s think about what we might notice in our writing and why we might choose to remove it. Then we’ll reflect by rereading our piece to see if the sledgehammer helped. Let’s practice on a sample piece.”

I often need to remind students to “Be Brave!” and “Make tough choices!” My hope is that they grow comfortable removing some of their writing. Always save those drafts though! Never throw writing away!

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