In yesterday's post I discussed how to use Action-Feeling-Setting to help students begin and continue drafting. Today, I'll focus on the next step of the writing process: Revising.
Making BIG Changes
In my experiences as a high school English teacher, students struggle with the difference between Revising and Editing. I clarify the difference for them by defining these two different stages in the writing process as follows:
Revising = making BIG changes
Editing = making corrections
With this first piece, we'll Revise for 2 BIG changes: Titles and Main Idea, which I'll split into two lessons in that order. After these Revising lessons, I'll show them some strategies we can use in the Editing phase. With modeling, time, and practice, students will begin to see the differences between these 2, often blurry, stages in the writing process.
BIG Change #1: Revising for a Title
First, I'll start with Revising my piece for a Title. I'll circle my Topic that I've written at the top of my draft and ask students what the difference is between a Topic and a Title. Most of the time, a student (or several of them) will say that a Topic is the subject of writing or what it's about. This is a good start. Then I'll ask them what a Title is, and I often get responses like: "it's the Title." "The Title is...the subject?" Or, "the Title is the topic?" Hmm... for young writers, this can be confusing. By the end of the day's lesson on Titles, hopefully, this will clarify the confusion.
To teach kids about Titles, I show them a PowerPoint with key information about Titles along with some examples. Here's the content I ask them to write down in their notes:
The Purpose of a Title:
- Creates a sense of ownership
- Connects your audience to your writing
- Shows your feelings about your writing
- Adds mystery to your piece (optional)
Titles Should Have:
- Capital letters except for words like: a, it, is, and, the (with the exception of the title beginning with one of these words)
- The words in the title need to connect with the content of your story
- Any punctuation (if needed)
- A play on words (optional)
Titles Shouldn't Have:
- All lowercase letters (for now)
- Words that have nothing to do with your story
- A title is NOT the first/last sentence of your story
Once we've covered these notes, I'll show students examples of different types of Titles, which may require some explanation and include:
- Titles that rhyme: Planet Janet
- Titles that use alliteration: The Karate Kid
- Titles that hint at things to come: The Pearl
- Long Titles: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
- Short Titles: Holes
- Titles that give a deeper meaning and tie in with a main idea or theme: The Call of the Wild
- Titles with subtitles: G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra
- Titles with word play: Who "Nose" About Snot, Boogers, and Mucous?*
Coming Up with a Solid Title
After this lesson on Titles, I'll go back to my piece and re-read the topic I circled at the top of my draft: Fractured T-12 while cliff jumping. Next, I'll skim through my draft looking for words that "sound" good or stand out in some way. As I find them, I circle/highlight them. Once I've done this, I'll make a list of these words in the left margin of the first page of my draft and title this Catchy Words. In the right margin, I'll begin combining some of these words together under a column called Possible Titles.
Eventually, I'll find one that works, and I'll cross out the topic of my story and place my Title there instead. Then, I'll go back to our notes and assess my Title against them. Even if I'm not 100% satisfied with this Title, I've given my students a model for how to Revise for their own Titles. Later, I can always go back and change it to my liking (or my audience's liking).
After I've found my Title, I allot 10-15 minutes of work time for students to Revise their own Titles. When time's up, we do some sharing and assessing of the Titles they've come up. I keep a list of the ones we like best. When we Revise for Titles in our next piece, I use these as examples.
To assess student understanding of Titles versus Topics, I spend the work time I've given them walking around the room reading what they've come up with. If they can tell me the purpose of their Title or the type of Title they've selected, I know they've got it. If they can't, or if they're struggling, I give a brief review of the day's lesson. Asking a student, "Does that sound like a topic or a Title? Does that sound like one of the examples we covered?" usually solves the problem. And, if it doesn't, I'm okay with that. We'll Revise for Titles all year long and there will be plenty of opportunities for kids to get it just right.
Tomorrow... Revising with BIG Change #2: Main Idea.
*Who "Nose" About Snot, Boogers, and Mucous is a title Annie Young (a former student) created for a research piece she wrote in 2007.
Portions of this article are © Copyright 1995-2012 by Teaching That Makes Sense, Inc., and are used by permission. For more information, and free teaching materials, visit www.ttms.org or contact Margot Lester at email@example.com.