Exposing the misconceptions of revising

by Katie Owen and Allison Scacco
Junior Collaborative English
Westlake High School
for The Central Texas Writing Project 2014-2015

Let's Kahoot it!

What the Critics (Students) Say...

Typical of the Believer: "a synonym for editing. In writing, revision is the process of going over something you or someone else has already written and making it better."

Typical of the Doubter: "a system of editing and changing writing to something, possibly better (or maybe worse. Who knows?)"

Typical of the Extremist Cynic: "Forcing me to change work I perfected the first time...if I care enough, I'll change a few words to satisfy your stupid desire of change."

Typical of the Psycho Response: "I remember the dirty pistol I have with me and just stare blankly at the outside of my backpack. I think to myself: "Will this be the day I do it?"

Typical of the Reluctant Optimist: "going through a work and looking for ways to improve it." (Caveat: it generally doesn't impact my final product at all. When I make my first draft, I try to make it perfect from the get-go, and I usually never feel that it needs fixing)"

Typical of the "Big Picture" Thinker: "re-evaluating your ideas and further evaluating them. It also fixes any grammatical or spelling errors. To revise or to make something gives me a chance to further my essay and make it greater."

Your Turn...To Write

In your Writer's Notebook...

PROMPT: Choose a conflict of interest to you.  This can be a world issue or something personal to you.  Explain your conflict and share a potential solution for this issue.

If you are struggling to come up with your own "issue", we have one for you.

Issue: Should all PLC members be required to give identical homework to their students each night?

Why is "Fixing Revision" Important?

No matter the subject you teach, certain lessons, skills, etc. are commonly viewed as boring or dry, by teachers and/or students. Part of our mission as teachers is to instill some enthusiasm in the learning process, or at the very least, not kill the latent enthusiasm that may already exist. :)

Revision is often regarded as the red-headed, misunderstood step-child of the writing process. Our team goal was to clarify and "beautify" the revision process for our students. We don't think our approach necessarily made revision seem easier or more "fun", but it is our hope that, for our students, revision avoids the fate of Rodney Dangerfield and earns some respect. :)

Guiding Questions- Goals

1. To transform students' concepts of revision from punishment to a natural and integral part of the writing process.

2. To transform students' concept of revision from editing skills, practiced at the end of writing, to a process that occurs throughout all the writing stages.

3. To transform students' concept of revision from an intellectual exercise (changing a word or two) to a more thoughtful process of rereading and rewriting to clarify what they believe, feel, and think.

4. To equip students with user-friendly revision strategies, through  mini lessons, that each of them can independently apply to a specific piece of writing.

-adapted from Georgia Heard, The Revision Toolbox

Revising is more than fixing...

"Revision is... making substantive changes to the meaning, content, structure, or style of a piece of writing rather than the more surface changes that editing demands. Revision means having a vision of what we want our writing to be like.  Real revision is inner work: clarifying what we really think and believe about an idea; getting at the heart of a story; distilling our sentences and words to best express how we feel and what we think. Revision is...


-Georgia Heard, The Revision Toolbox, 2nd Ed

"We need to have different revising strategies depending on the task or inspiration at hand."

"When revision is working best, it is as experimental and exhilarating as learning to walk and talk."

- Meredith Sue Willis, Deep Revision

"Although it's important to complete a piece of writing, and it's deeply satisfying to publish, we need to switch the focus away from the final product to the process of writing..."

- Georgia Heard, The Revision Toolbox, 2nd Ed

Day-to-day Process

The Assignments

1) Fall Assignment: Observation to Meaning Poem (full assignment found in your packet)

Students were asked to craft a Romantic Era poem based on the exploration of connecting observation to meaning through a series of observations in their own worlds.

2) Spring Assignment: Persuasive Conflict Essay (full assignment found in your packet)

Students were asked to write an essay sharing a conflict of interest to them and then present a reasonable solution to the issue.

the Revision Activities

A few of our favorites:

Revision #1- Perspective

PUPROSE: consider audience, investigate opposing arguments, and create a counter argument for essay


1.THINK about people or groups who would potentially have an interest or stake in your conflict

2.Briefly DESCRIBE what you believe to be the stance of each person on your list

3.CHOOSE one of the people or groups on your list with an opposing perspective to your own.

4.WRITE one well-developed paragraph from the opposing perspective. Consider the claims, reasons, evidence, and alternate solution(s) this person might offer.

Revision #2- Considering Tone

PURPOSE: clarify appeal, argument, audience and purpose in hopes of discovering useful and persuasive language or strategies that could be used in your essay.

TASK: you are trying to get the word out on your conflict. You want to raise awareness for your issue and possibly submit your ideas for a solution.

Create a flyer or advertisement for your community about your conflict.

Revision #3-Graphic Elements

PURPOSE: try new things and challenge yourself to move out of your comfort zone by consciously incorporating stylistic choices in an effort to enhance the overall meaning of your piece.


1. sketch an image

2. play with cApitaLization

3. Line breaks

4. Play with italics or -dashes- for emphasis

5. Shape of the writing itself (in a pattern, shape, or image)

Revision #4- extended metaphor

PURPOSE:To help strengthen or deepen the meaning of a word, sentence, stanza, or poem. Help convey thoughts or emotions that might be difficult to express.


  1. Look through your current draft for something (object, feeling, person, etc.) that you can use to make a comparison.
  2. Brainstorm a list of all the "things" your "something" might be like.
  3. Explain how each item on your list could be compared to the original "something".
  4. Choose one of your potential metaphors and consider how you might further develop or extend the metaphor. Think about how and where these newly developed words/phrases/comparisons might be incorporated into your poem.


The schedule was different for each assignment, but generally, revision comes after the 1st draft of a writing assignment.  This way, students have something to work with but they are not quite "married" to their words just yet. Most of the time we can still convince students to manipulate their words and ideas at this point.  (However, this is still a struggle for some, as they get very attached to that first draft!)

We will complete 2-4 different revision activities over the course of the week in order to give the writer a broad spectrum of options to potentially incorporate into their final draft.

Additional Examples (Student Work)

Choose one of the revision activities we shared (or from your packet) and complete the task, either on your own or with a partner.

Example Revision #2- create a visual to support or explain your argument.

Your Turn...To Revise!

Choose one of the revision activities above (or another from your packet) and apply it to your previous conflict writing.  If you choose a poem revision, feel free to use your poem from December.

Our Results...

We found that, overall, our students were pretty receptive to trying new things in their writing.

“I found that revision #4 was the most beneficial (graphic elements). This revision allowed me to write my poem in three different ways (which I never would have done before) and observe how they each looked on the page. I also revealed to myself that if I write what I really feel and not what I think I should feel, my poem comes out with much more detail and description. “ - Matt Deyoe

“I was very pleased with the poem I created and was surprised that I ended up not wanting to put fancy colors and fonts; only one word in italics to stress its importance.” - Aidan Lee-Wen

“Revision #1 was the most helpful to me because it made me think about my poem in a different way and I ended up liking my new viewpoint better than my original writing.” -Brittney Hampton

“The most beneficial revision activity I did was the extended metaphor activity (revision #3). This activity allowed me to explore how I could compare my ideas to a bigger picture idea. Also, the graphic element activity allowed me to come up with the idea of a poem inside a poem.” -Will Borland

Conflict essay results

After reading through the essays so far, I am noticing that revision #1 (what was your spark) and Revision #3 (create a flyer) were very beneficial to many students. Quite a few incorporated their specific personal reasons for addressing the conflict and it made their argument much more powerful.

Creating the flyer forced students to think about only the important aspects of their argument, as well as their solution. This helped the writers better organize their essays to enhance the important parts and play up the solution aspect (which had often been forgotten in previous drafts).


  • The Revision Toolbox by Georgia Heard
  • After the End: Teaching and Learning Creative Revision by Barry Lane
  • Reviser's Toolbox by Barry Lane
  • Deep Revision Meredith Sue Willis


  • Implementation was relatively smooth.
  • Revision activities have helped students improve draft quality in terms of coherence, creativity and clarity.
  • Rome wasn't built in a day; changing attitudes about revision will be a long-term process.

Conjectures (What's Next?)

  • If we implement our “improved” revision process with each process paper our students write during the year, we expect to see continued improvements in draft quality.
  • Providing examples of the revision process (and how different revisions can be incorporated into a draft) may help to further demystify the purpose and expectations for these activities.


Eternal Gratitude to...

  • Chuck Nowland, fellow English III team member and spiritual guru,
  • Valerie Taylor, our project mentor and revision activity benefactor, and
  • our students, without whom our project would have no purpose or humor!

Comment Stream