Click play below to hear 4 revision strategies that improve student writing:
Providing you with strategies, tips, and routines you can easily implement in your classrooms that help improve your students’ writing skills has been a priority of mine over the last month. I’ve given you specific tools to use during your literacy block and beyond, but one way to elevate a student’s writing is already embedded in the writing process: revising. In today’s episode, I’m sharing 4 revision strategies that help students improve their overall writing skills.
While working through the writing process, the revising step is either lumped into the editing step, overlooked, or quickly gone through. Even though revising isn’t something we spend a lot of time on, we should! It’s an opportunity for students to make the most significant improvements to their writing. Each of the revision strategies I share are specific ways to work on their writing skills while improving them at the same time.
Creating opportunities and being intentional about finding ways to work on writing skills will ultimately improve their overall writing. By implementing these 4 revision strategies during the revising step in the writing process, you will begin to see students elevate their writing.
In this episode on revision strategies, I share:
- General suggestions when it comes to revising
- The benefits of spending more time having students revise their own work
- Why students should self-select the words or sentences they want to improve
- How to teach and implement each revision strategy
- Sentence Writing Reference Sheets: Builds Sentence Structure Knowledge
- Sentence Writing Routine Resource: Free Sample
- Sentence Writing Routine Resource: TPT Store
- Sign up for my Private Podcast: Confident Writer Systems Series
- Check out the Stellar Literacy Collective Membership
- Free Literacy Block Workshop
- If you’re enjoying this podcast, please leave a review on Apple Podcasts!
Related episodes and blog posts:
- Episode 166, How Can I Help My Students Become Stronger Paragraph Writers?
- Episode 164, 7 Ways to Incorporate More Sentence Level Work in Your Upper Elementary Classroom
- Episode 163, Sentence Deconstruction: What It Is, How It Helps, and Steps to Take To Fit It Into Your Day
- Episode 162, Simple Strategies to Help Your Students Expand Their Sentences
- Episode 161, 5 Reasons Why You Need to Spend More Time on Sentence Writing in Upper Elementary
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Welcome to the Stellar Teacher Podcast! We believe teaching literacy is a skill. It takes a lot of time, practice, and effort to be good at it. This podcast will show you how to level up your literacy instruction and make a massive impact with your students, all while having a little fun!
Your host, Sara Marye, is a literacy specialist passionate about helping elementary teachers around the world pass on their love of reading to their students. She has over a decade of experience working as a classroom teacher and school administrator. Sara has made it her mission to create high-quality no-fluff resources and lesson ideas that are both meaningful and engaging for young readers.
Each week, Sara and her guests will share their knowledge, tips, and tricks so that you can feel confident in your ability to transform your students into life-long readers.
Hey, there and welcome back to another episode of the podcast. We have been spending a lot of time this fall, talking about writing. Last week, I talked about five different things that you can do to really support your students with Paragraph Writing. And prior to that, we spent the entire month of October talking about sentences.
So if you are like most upper elementary teachers and struggle to get your students to become stronger writers, I hope that these episodes have served you well. If you are a brand new listener, of course, welcome. I always get so excited when we have new listeners tuning into the show.
You might want to go back and give some of those previous episodes a listen after you listen to today’s episode, because today’s episode I think is going to be really helpful for you on a practical level, because I’m going to share four revision strategies that you can use to help your students improve their writing.
And, you know, I don’t know about you, but I know for me when I was in the classroom revision was something that I struggled to teach. It was something that my students really struggled with. And I felt like as a result, because I wasn’t confident with my instruction, they weren’t confident with it. And a lot of times we would rush through the process, which isn’t beneficial for our students.
And revision is actually something that we want to spend quite a bit of time on. Because when students are revising, they really get to spend time making their writing better. And they also get to utilize their sentence writing skills to improve their overall writing.
So if you have been focusing on sentence level tasks with your students this year, which after listening to the podcast, I hope you have been or if you have been using our very popular sentence writing routine, then revision shouldn’t be as scary for your students. And honestly, it shouldn’t be as scary for you to teach for that matter.
So when we think about revision, where it falls in the writing process, we want our students to start with a brainstorm. We want them to take those ideas, turn it into an outline, they’re going to take that outline, turn it into a draft. And then after they have drafted their paragraph or their essay, or whatever they’re writing, then we want to give them time to revise. After they revise, They’ll edit and they’ll publish.
And revision is really hard to teach, like I said, but it honestly is one of the most important steps. Because when students work on revising, it gives them an opportunity to make the most significant improvements to their writing, more so than editing, which sometimes I feel like we spend too much time on editing, and not enough time on revising.
When your students have tools for revision, that’s when they really can make major improvements and their overall writing. And ultimately, revising leads to just smoother, more coherent writing, which is what we want for all of our students.
So I have four revision strategies that I’m going to share with you. But before we jump into those very practical tips, I want to share just some general suggestions when it comes to revising.
First, I think it’s really important that we separate revising, and editing I know sometimes those are grouped together and the writing process. And as a result, we’re tempted to teach them at the same time. But they’re completely different skills. And so we don’t want and we don’t even want our students to necessarily think of them as the same step, we want to really break them up. So students know they’re revising, and then they’re editing.
But in addition to that, we want to make sure that our students understand, especially when you’re teaching revision skills, and you know, helping your students understand this process, that they don’t have to revise everything at once. You know, take your time and go slow. Once you teach a strategy, it becomes an option or a tool for your students to use. But they don’t have to use it maybe every time they’re revising.
And they don’t have to use it for every single sentence that they are revising. So revision doesn’t have to happen to every single word or every single sentence. And they don’t need to use every strategy every time they write. So just know that it can, you can take your time and go slow with it.
You also want to make sure that you’re not overwhelming your students. And so you really only want to teach them one revision strategy at a time. So I’m going to share four with you today. So think about which ones would be most helpful for your students. Pick one, introduce it, let them practice, introduce another, you know, so on and so on.
And of course when you’re teaching them a strategy it’s best if you can model show them what it looks like give them some examples, practice it as a whole group. And definitely give them feedback when they start to practice it on their own.
But you also want to make sure that you are giving your students time to practice revising. And I think it’s important to remove the expectation that they’re going to master a revision strategy after one lesson, or one attempt at applying it.
It might take them two, or three, or four, or five or six times of using a revision strategy before it becomes automatic for them. So continue to remind them of the revision strategies that are available to them, and continue to give them practice using them. But be okay with them not using them correctly, 100% of the time, or right after you teach them.
Okay, let’s jump in to the list. The first revision strategy that you can teach your students is to improve word choice. And when you improve word choice, your aim is to replace ordinary or common words with ones that are more descriptive, specific or impactful to better communicate your intended message.
And this is definitely a skill that we want our students to practice, we really want our students to be able to use words that are accurate and engaging in their writing.
You know, for example, you might have a student that writes a sentence, The dog ran fast in the park. And for a student, they might think, Oh, that’s a pretty descriptive sentence. You know, it’s, it’s I’ve got the, you know, it ran fast and the park I’m giving you some more details here.
But ultimately, we want them to revise it to be even more specific and interesting with their word choice. So they could really revise that sentence and end up with something like the Greyhound sprinted swiftly across the sunlit meadow. And that revised sentence, the reader can really create a much clearer picture of the text. Because the writer used very specific words.
We’re not talking about a dog, we’re talking about a Greyhound, we’re not talking about run fast, we’re talking about sprinted swiftly, the very specific and accurate words, makes a difference in their writing.
Now, no matter if students are writing a narrative or an expository, we want them to be choosing words that are vivid and varied. So this means that we need to be intentionally reminding them to vary their word choice, and to spend time really thinking about the specific words they want to use.
You know, it’s like when students are talking about the dog ran fast in the park, that word ran can have so many different variations. And so we really want students to find words that are communicating their very specific and intended message.
So teaching them to improve word choice during the revision stage of writing is really one way that you can just help students elevate their writing.
How you teach, improving word choice, there’s a ton of things that you can do. But one of the things that you can have students do is after they have finished writing, and I always love students to self select, and really, they’re deciding what needs to be improved.
So you could have students underline or circle three to five words in their writing that they think are boring, or normal words, then have them use a thesaurus or a dictionary to look up more interesting or more specific words.
You know, for example, your students might write a sentence The girl was sad, they might identify sad as being a boring word. And so if they look up sad in a thesaurus, they might decide to replace it with heartbroken. And even if they still use that very simple sentence, the girl was heartbroken is a much more interesting and specific sentence.
So having students identify words, use a thesaurus to look them up. Super simple way to teach this. But you could also have your students scan their reading and look for common nouns. And then think about if they can replace those common nouns with something that is more specific or descriptive.
So for example, your students might write a sentence, we ordered pizza from my favorite restaurant, they could improve the word choice for pizza and restaurant and make both of those nouns more specific. So the revised version might be, we ordered the meat lovers pizza from my favorite restaurant Domino’s.
And the revised sentence again, really helps the reader create a much clearer mental picture of what’s happening because of the improved word choice.
And I love this revision strategy. It’s honestly one of the easiest ones to teach, because it doesn’t take a ton of time to teach. And it’s actually one that students can be pretty successful with on their own after you teach it. So if you’ve struggled with revision, this is a great place to start. This is honestly something that you could teach your students today.
Just remember, even after you teach it, you want to constantly remind students that when they’re revising, word choices, something that they can pay attention to give them some options for how they can actually revise for word choice. So that’s one strategy.
A second revision strategy you can use is to teach your students to use transition words. Now when you use transition words, that means that you are connecting ideas and you are guiding your reader through your writing. Transition words like before or after, or, for instance, can really help clarify the relationships between your thoughts and really makes your writing flow so much more smoothly.
And we want our students to use transition words in their writing so that their reader has an easier time reading and keeping track of the ideas that they are sharing.
So again, for example, if a student writes, I went for a swim with my friend, we had ice cream. We don’t quite know the relationship between those two events, you know, did they eat ice cream before swimming during swimming two weeks later? So students can improve their writing by adding in a transition word.
So the revised example is going to be much clearer for the reader to understand. In the morning, I went for a swim with my friend. Afterwards, we got ice cream. So the transition words in the morning and afterwards really helps the reader conceptualize the time and sequence of events.
So when students are using transition words, they’re going to be able to clearly communicate any connection or relationship between the ideas in their writing. And using transition words makes writing more readable and easier to understand and really follow.
So teaching transition words is another great revision strategy that is going to improve your student’s writing. And it is not that difficult to teach. The one thing that you want to keep in mind, though, is that you need to teach your students about the different categories of transition words.
So often, we focus so much on time order transition words, like first, next, then, last. So oftentimes, when we say to our students incorporate transition words, those are the first words that they think of, and not every paragraph can use or benefit from time order transition words.
So it’s important that our students understand that there are different types and categories of transition words, because when they’re aware of this, they know how they can use them in their writing.
So you can teach your students really four main categories of transition words. And these are not necessarily the only ones. But these ones can be very helpful for an upper elementary student.
So of course, we have time and sequence transition words. And that includes words like first next, then before later, after a while, during meanwhile, lots of options in there to help communicate time and sequence.
But there are also transition words that help create an illustration or paint a picture. And some examples of those include, for example, for instance, specifically, like, including those transition words can help you paint a picture and describe something while also moving the writing along.
You can use transition words for a change of direction. Those would include words or phrases like However, even though, but, instead on the other hand, and then you can teach your students transition words to help with a conclusion. Things like In conclusion, as a result, finally, in the end, thus, those are just some examples. There are many, many more transition words that fit into each of those categories. But that just helps you get an idea for what each category is.
Now once students know the different types of transition words, we want to make sure that they know how to include them. This part is a little bit trickier because ultimately, for our students to know how to use transition words, they really need to understand what type of transition words does my paragraph need? Or would it benefit from? Because like I mentioned, not every paragraph needs time and sequence words.
But for the most part, every paragraph could benefit from some transition words. Now, a really easy way to help students get started with transition words is to start with their conclusion. Since pretty much every paragraph is going to have a conclusion, you can give your students a list of conclusion transition words and have them start incorporating those into their writing, as they’re wrapping up their paragraph.
Now, in addition, you can also teach students some general rules, like if they’re writing a narrative, more than likely they can incorporate time and sequence transition words. If they’re writing an expository descriptive or opinion, they probably could incorporate some of those illustration transition words. And the change of direction transition words can work really well in an argumentative paragraph.
So you can kind of give your students some clues based off of the genre of writing, they’re more likely going to use a certain type of transition words. That’s not always the case. So we don’t want to say every time you write narrative, you will always use time and sequence and every time you write expository, you’ll always use illustration.
But that just helps students understand sort of how to think about transition words and where to get started with them. So that’s the second revision strategy you can teach your students.
And then the third one is to have your students add more details. Now by adding more details, you’re going to be providing readers with a clearer, more vivid picture of what you’re describing or explaining. And this is going to help your writing be more engaging. And it’s going to ensure that readers fully understand the intended message.
And this is something that we want our students to focus on, you know, what I just described there, that’s something that we want for our students, especially as they become more proficient writers. You know, as students add more details to their sentences, they’re going to be more likely to write longer sentences with a variety of sentence structures, which is naturally going to make their writing more enjoyable and easier to read.
Details are also going to make it easier for them to be able to communicate their intended message. You know, so if students write the very basic sentence, I read a book, that is a pretty simple sentence, it’s also pretty boring, it’s not going to really captivate the reader. And if all their sentences in a paragraph are written with minimal details, then they’re really not going to mature or develop as writers.
So we want our students to understand how they can include details in their writing, so their sentences are more like this. Last Sunday, I spent the entire afternoon on our back porch engrossed in an exciting Magic Treehouse book, which is my favorite series.
That sentence gives the reader so much more details and information. They understand when they’re reading, where they’re reading, how they feel about it. So much information. So much details are so many details can be included in a single sentence.
It’s really important for our students to understand how to write sentences that have details, because oftentimes when we give students a framework for writing a paragraph, and if you listen to last week’s episode number 166, during that episode, I shared a super simple paragraph outline with you. And that outline is a topic sentence, three to five details, and then a concluding sentence.
So if students are following that framework, they’re really writing five to seven sentences. And if all of those sentences are short and lacking information, then the students writing is ultimately going to be underdeveloped. And it’s going to be hard for them to really communicate their ideas. So we want our students to understand how they can add details and make sure that their sentences are not so short and so simple.
So a really easy way that you can teach this is to use the five W’s questions. Now keep in mind, not every sentence in the paragraph needs to be revised. Not every sentence needs to have detail added to it. And not every sentence needs to include answers to all five w questions. But it is a great tool to help students get started.
So what you can have students do is have them self identify a sentence in their paragraph that they’re writing that they recognize is lacking details, and they want to revise it. And then you see how the sentence is written, like currently written, how many five w questions they can answer from that sentence.
So back to the example I shared, if students are just using the sentence, I read a book, that sentence only answers the question who that’s me i And what, what they’re doing what the action is, and it’s read a book. So that sentence only answers two five w questions.
So then you can prompt your students. Okay, can you include a detail that is going to share when? Okay, last Sunday. Can you have a detail that shares where? On my back porch? Can you include a detail that tells how you were reading? Okay, well, I was engrossed in a book. Can you explain why? It’s my favorite series.
So when students answer more of the five w questions individually, they can start to combine those to get a complete sentence, which gives us our revised version. Last Sunday, I spent the entire afternoon on our back porch, engrossed in an exciting Magic Treehouse book, which is my favorite series.
Now, like I mentioned, not every sentence needs to have an answer for all of the five w ones. But it is a great tool to really help students brainstorm all the different details that they could add to their writing.
Okay, the last revision strategy that you can teach your students is to have them use a variety of sentences. And incorporating a mix of short and longer, more complex sentences can really make your writing more dynamic and engaging. And this variety is going to keep readers interest and help them really emphasize important points and creates rhythm in their writing.
So basically, we don’t want students to only use short sentences, but we also don’t want them to only use long sentences. We really want students to use a variety of sentence types. So we want them to consider using things like questions and statements and commands and exclamations.
But we also want them to use a variety of sentence structures like simple complex compound Compound complex. And when students use a variety of sentences, it significantly improves the quality of their writing, and makes it easier for the reader to actually read and understand the text.
You know, if they’re only using short sentences, then their writing is going to sound choppy, and it’s not going to have enough information to communicate their ideas. But if they use too many complex sentences, it can become muddy and hard for the reader to connect to everything they’re trying to share. So we definitely want our students to have a balance.
So one thing you can do is have students use a variety of sentences is to have them start by coding the sentences they already have written. So after they’ve written a paragraph, have them read it and label each sentence. Is it a question? Is it a statement? Is it a command? Is it an exclamation? You can start with that.
And then you can also have students go back again. And they’re going to code every sentence with its sentence structure. So is it a simple sentence, a complex sentence, a compound or a compound complex sentence. And you could also do these on two separate instances, you wouldn’t have to do them both at the same time, if you think it would overwhelm your students.
But the goal is, is if students notice that all of their sentences are statements, then maybe that’s a sign that they want to incorporate a question or an exclamation. If they notice that all of their sentences are simple sentences, then they might want to choose one and turn it into a complex sentence or find two sentences that they could combine and turn it into a compound sentence.
So we want our students to recognize that having a variety of sentences, both sentence types, and sentence structures can really enhance their writing. Now, the good news is, is if that you have been using our sentence writing routine regularly, I’ve shared it on the podcast several times.
But this process of writing with a variety of sentence lengths and sentence structures and sentence types, should it be too difficult for your students, because all of that is really a regular part of the routine. You know, during the routine students are writing for different sentence types. And they also get practice combining sentences into simple compound and complex sentences.
So if you have not grabbed that routine yet, then you can go to stellarteacher.com/sentences and download it and start using it today. But I also hope that you consider incorporating these four revision strategies into your literacy block. So again, let me just review four things that you can teach your students to improve their writing.
One, improve word choice. Two using transition words. Three, adding more details, and then four, using a variety of sentences. And remember, you don’t have to teach them all today. You don’t have to teach them all at once. You can take your time working through these but if you teach your students these four revision strategies, I know it is going to have a big impact on their writing.
So I hope you found this episode helpful. If you are enjoying the podcast, I would love it it seriously would mean the world to me. If you would share this episode with a teacher friend of yours. Send them a text message. Tell your team about it at lunch today. share it on social media, the more we can spread the word about the podcast the more teachers that we can help.
So I hope that you will share it with a friend and I hope you have a really stellar week and I will see you back here next Monday.