Working on revision with students’ writing has been a challenging and time consuming process this year. But with the second of our writing projects now almost complete, my students and I have learned a great deal about the choices of formats and audiences available to us as writers.
To illustrate, this year I have empowered myself to explore teaching using multiple genres. I developed WebQuests (see blog links) that work within the context of a theme. Both my high school and middle school students are currently exploring the myriad of formats they can use to synthesize their learning. Applying the ideas found in Tom Romano’s books Writing With Passion and Crafting With Authentic Voice the goal is to have students use rhetoric to support how each genre they craft aligns with the others to express a cohesive theme.
Students have created greeting cards, some with haikus and limericks, tabloid articles with gossip-laden truths, comic strips, and even short ghost stories. Five-paragraph essays, which support our school’s writing initiative, have been crafted as well. It has been energizing to hear students say, “You mean that is all you want?” when they realize that a simple bookmark with an original image and a few deliberately crafted words can convey their understanding of a concept.
The challenging part has been to require students to create drafts of texts and models, depending on the format, of how they envision the final product. They want to jump in with materials and supplies to create their artifacts almost as quickly as a draft is created. I have repressed the feelings of being a miser when I disallow them to have materials other than paper and pencil for their wonderful creations. As a mature writer, I know that time away from a piece allows for fresh ideas to emerge, a key part of the revision process.
Knowing that students are all too content to be satisfied with the first draft as the final, I decided to give students new folders for their project. Giving them crayons or colored pencils and the time to create another artifact encouraged them to slide their rough drafts inside the folders and place them away to carry on with the remaining required rough drafts. A trusting environment with an established routine allowed this to happen.
My students have settled in with the process of drafting, where in some instances very intricate designs and well-crafted drawings have emerged. They truly border a final copy. Thus far I have suggested to a few that they might consider conducting an operation, much like Dr. Frankenstein did with his monster, and cut, paste, and add color and finishing touches to their comic strips, drawings, and sketches. This suggestion has seemed to placate and smooth over some of their insecurities about the hard work having to be ‘redone’ for the final product.
Closing in on the end of the project, most folders are loaded with 4 of the 5 rough drafts that await the final Writer’s Workshop before our second Author’s Conference. Of the 6 traits, we have explored voice, word choice, ideas and organization. I have endeavored to lead them away from editing in order to delineate the revision process.
Purposeful instruction throughout the project, including the timelines for completion, will have demonstrated to my students the power of the writing process for revision. I am excited about the upcoming Writer’s Workshop and the revelation that will unfold when a comparative analysis is conducted with the students’ original rough drafts.