Getting Students Excited to Revise? Ten Points to Ponder

OK...unless my students are unusual, fourth graders don't always love to revise.  For some students, getting ideas down on paper is hard enough the FIRST time...and then to be told to go back and CHANGE things?

I have worked hard to try to change the perceptions with my students about revisions and here are a few things I have learned over the years...

1.  If your goal is revision, then don't do final copies.  In copies are rarely needed, in my opinion!  Our time is so do we want our students spending their writing minutes?

2.  Doing lots of short writing tasks rather than a few HUGE tasks makes students more willing to revise.

3.  Helping students learn that good revision is "recursive"...done along that way, rather than something that is done when they "finish" takes away that feeling of "but I'm DONE!".

4.  Asking students to only focus on revising for one or two specific things...a better lead, word choice, and so on makes it seem much more manageable.

5.  Having students balance writing with pencil and paper and using technology gives students two ways to revise.  They are SO much more willing to revise on the computer when you teach them how to cut, paste, insert, and so on.  My students were VERY willing to mark up print outs and go back onto the computer and make "recopying" needed!

6.  As a piggyback off #5, using google docs allows the teacher to provide instant feedback via the commenting feature.  My students LOVED having discussions as they wrote...and I could give specific feedback to help them make changes.

7. Model, model, model!  I know that my students learned the most when I wrote WITH them and revised WITH them. I need to make sure to slow down and do more modeling this year.  Don't let me forget. 

8. Let students work together.  Creating a climate of collaboration...and teaching them the kind of language to use ("I really like how you started but could you explain more about..." or "Hey...when you said that he walked back to his room could you say he stormed back instead?") keeps them engaged and learning from each other.

9.  Share how revision happens in the "real world...on of my most prized possessions is a copy of Cynthia Lord's first draft of chapter 1 of "Rules" that is all marked up by her and her editor. Students need to know that even professional writers revise and revise and revise...and that whether it's an email or a memo or a letter, most adults reread the things they write to try to make them more clear for their audience.

10. Give the students a "tool" that makes revision seem a little more novel and interesting.  This year I am implementing "Purple Pen Power"!  I bought each student a purple pen that is ONLY going to be used for revision!  I'm going to have them store it right in the spiral of their notebook so it is always available as they write...when they begin, they will have their pencil handy to draft and their purple pen to make changes as they write.  

Ta Da!

Hanging this up in our writing area...
So...let's hear YOUR thoughts!  What other suggestions do YOU have to get students excited (or at least WILLING!) to revise their thoughts and ideas?  I'd love to hear them!


  1. I love the "Purple Pen Power" idea! I may borrow that one. Thanks for sharing all of these tips! I always struggle with ways to make revising seem less tedious.

  2. What a great post, Meg! For me, number 3 might be the most important--If our students understand that we can revise as we go instead of waiting until the end, they're much more willing to accept it as part of the process. Most of the time, after my mini-lesson I have students reread their work-in-progress before going off to write independently. Sometimes I even ask for a volunteer to share what they notice about how they could improve their writing. And I model doing this with my own writing, so students begin to understand that the need to revise isn't a weakness, but instead a strength of good writers.
    One Lucky Teacher

  3. This really is a wonderful post on writing. #1 makes me cringe....I can't imagine not doing a final draft, but I certainly see where you're coming from. #2 is something I definitely need to do more of. And Modeling is probably the most impt. thing you can do. I always write right along with the kids. I'm gonna do the Google docs thing this year. I'm excited to try that commenting feature.

    Teaching Powered by Caffeine

  4. Thank you, Meg, for all the fantastic reminders!! It actually never occurred to me not to have students write final copies!! LOVE the purple pen revising idea. And I've never tried Google docs commenting feature; I'll try it!! Love all your posts!!