Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Reviving Revision and Swiping from David Lubar

I think revision is the single most important part of writing, while most kids think it it the single most unnecessary part. ~David Lubar, Author of the Weenies series, Hidden Talents & so much more!
     Go visit David Lubar's website. The man knows what he's talking about and he's mega-talented.
     So, Wednesday is TeachersWrite! Q & A with an author day, and along with lots of other extremely talented authors like Kate Messner herself, David Lubar has been kindly taking time to answer every question a writer, teacher, or teacher/writer would want to ask them.  He offers terrific, helpful, and insightful advice from a professional writer's standpoint.
     I admit, I was already a fan after the Weenie books (who couldn't love a book about Ninja Weenies?), but Hidden Talents really cemented my love of his writing.  It was recommended by another teacher friend who suggested that my book reminded her of it.  She reads Hidden Talents to her special education students every year, and uses it to start discussions about their talents and strengths.  But, I digress.
     What really put the last nail in the coffin of my respect for David Lubar is the statement above.  In fact, you can see where he wrote it first on this post I was reading.  One of the things that I really want to focus on this year is the idea of "Revision is to Writing, as Oxygen is to Breathing".
      A few of the things that I've noticed about my sixth graders as they begin writing in my class:

  • They see writing as a "one and done" exercise.  "See?! I finished writing it, so it must be done!"
  • They see revision as an evil practice that teachers make them do to be cruel. "What do you mean it's not perfect?  I have to do it all over AGAIN?" 
  • They see revision as an obstacle to be gotten through, rather than a natural progression toward the the finished product.
  • They don't understand that a second or third (or eleventh or twelfth!) version of something isn't just a neatly copied rewrite of EXACTLY THE SAME THING they wrote before, minus a few spelling errors
  • They don't know how to look for what must be improved - not in others' writing and especially not in their own
  • They expect all suggestions and changes to come from the teacher, and are reluctant to become first responders to their own work
  • Revision DOES NOT equal editing.

     I've been reading Kate Messner's "Real Revision" and trying to grasp how I want to make revision as natural and as normal as breathing to my student-writers.  Lubar, in his post today, admits he is not a teacher, but suggested something that I think is a good first step.  Have students write something the first day of school, put it away and revise it much, much later in the year so they can witness the improvements they are capable of making themselves.
      Maybe it's because I'm stuck in the Revision Cave (See! I'm guilty of it myself! Bad Jessica!) myself these last few weeks (and probably for the next two weeks).  Why "stuck"?  Because that's sometimes what it feels like.  You want to move on, you've inhabited these same characters, these same events over and over and over again. The best inspiration I have for new projects almost always comes while I'm working on revisions for a different project.  So, I need to understand that about my students and help them find the vitality that revision can create in their work.  I know I'm finding it in mine.

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