The Science of Teaching Writing

A blog on teaching, with an emphasis in teaching writing.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Sentence Revision

Revision is one of my favorite things to teach. I love to revise my own writing until I think the flow and rhythm is just so, so no shock there. This actvitity I read in Triggering Town by Richard Hugo, a great book for those of you who like poetry.

We start with the same simple sentence: The old man walked down the road.
From there, we talk about the different ways you can "load" sentences with detail: in the front, in the middle, at the end, giving characterization, describing setting/landscape.
I do this activity on the overhead, and have written two or three examples of each way to load a sentence. Using a blank sheet of paper to reveal on what I want shown, I read each sentence to my students, then allow them time to practice one way of doing it. We share, I give feedback to them as to what I liked, and then we try another way of loading it (if we just did landscape, we do characterization, next).
When we're done, I have them pull a sentence from their writer's notebook, draft book (a spiral bound notebook for just drafting) and try to revise it.
We start small, practice and share. Later, we discuss as a class, me talking as little as possible about why it's important to revise and what it means for our writing and us as writers. It is one of the more fun lessons I teach. I teach before we really get into any big piece because to re-vision our work ("re" meaning: again, a new. "vision" meaning: the power of sight. Something I cover with my kids) is to bring it from a blank sheet with a few words on it, to something that provokes emotion. That, and I'm one of those sick-os who write poetry and fiction in what spare time I have.

The Science of Teaching Writing

I really believe that teaching writing is both an Art and a Science, and not wanting to rip off Lucy Calkins, I went for the science title (no, it wasn't for you Jason). Teaching writing is creative, not a systematic program because each writer is different. I takes investigation, data to measure, like science, because without inquiry, we're not going to get very far.
I'll try to post as often as I can, at least once per week, of the different writing lessons/activities that I've taught that I feel worked well with my 6th grade students.
I teach 6th grade in Northern Colorado, in an elementary school. We rotate kids, similar to a Junior High, so our kids get used to it before they do it next year. I'm teaching poetry right now, and next quarter I'll be teaching writing integrated with science. After that, who knows.
I'm providing inservice to two schools with another teaching friend of mine, and I help coordinate inservice with other school and teachers through the Colorado State University Writing Project.