Each day, I begin my ELA class with Reading Time. This is a time for students to access a range of texts. I use this time to conference with students, collect data on class patterns and trends with independent reading and to provide individualized support.
Today's revision strategies focus on sentence structure and wordiness. These are two strategies that are incredibly beneficial as they tie in grammar but also address the needs of my students as writers. Anytime I can tie in grammar, I'm happy. It can be challenging to teach grammar directly. Students learn grammar best in context. In this lesson, students are able to work on revising their narratives while also looking at the grammar concepts of wordiness and sentence structures. They tend to be wordy and include the same type of sentence over and over again. This revision strategy helps deal with both of those issues.
I am not one that is big into giving notes. I would much rather give my students time to write and revise in class rather than taking notes. While talking notes can be important, I find that in class writing time is even more beneficial.
I begin the lesson by handing out the Revision Strategies Part Two Revised handout. We review the handout as a class. We discuss what each section means and why they are important to use. By the time they get to eighth grade, they have been exposed to using a variety of sentences so it is nothing new. This also serves as a review as we have been highlighting these strategies when we read narratives earlier in the unit. This serves as a plan for them when they practice on their own.
Once students understand these revision strategies, they can begin practicing on their own. It is important to give them time to do this so they can really work on these skills.
Students are given colored pencils, or highlighters if they prefer, to revise their narratives and make any needed marks. Students start by looking at sentences. They see the types of sentences they have and if they need to vary them. They use their colored pencils to keep track of the types they have. This is a great chance to differentiate instruction. Some students may not know what specific types of sentences are, such as compound or complex sentences. We can review them by looking in their textbook. For those higher-level students, they can spend time thinking about more than just variety. They can start thinking about purpose. I ask them what goal they may have in using certain sentences. Does it get across a certain feeling? A certain emotion?
The next step is to cut down on wordiness. Students love to over-explain. I jokingly tell them that they will get a dollar for every word they cut as long as it fits with the narrative. They have fun with this but the begin to see the importance of getting to the point and avoiding wordiness. For some students it's a matter of cutting whole descriptions and for others it is a matter of cutting a few words.
This is also a great way to use technology. This student draft shows changes made in Microsoft Word using a tool on Word called Track Changes. As students revise and edit, they are able to keep track of the changes they make. This helps me to visually see they changes but also helps the students to see exactly what changes they made as well. They can decide to keep the changes or reject. This option is found in Word under Tools. This video explains Tracking Changes: Track Changes Example.