As a writer, I can say that most of writing is actually revising. As a teacher, I can say that this idea isn’t how most children think about writing. As both a writer and a teacher, I want to argue that we should teach revision as an integral part of writing. I do this in my classroom. Here’s why:
- Revision Separates Expression and Mechanics: Children’s writing shouldn’t be confined by what they can spell, or which thoughts they can easily organize on the page. At the same time, they need to learn spelling, organization and all that critical stuff. Revision allows there to be space for a creative draft where they can focus on ideas and a solid finished product.
- Revision Separates Creation from Perfection: Having a second chance takes the pressure off without asking kids to lower their standards. This can really help kids, especially perfectionistic ones, move past writer’s block.
- Revision Makes Space for More Learning: Revising is a chance to focus on a second set of skills, which makes each writing project serve double educational duty. For instance, students can write a poem playing with alliteration, then revise it to practice spelling, capitalization, and punctuation. Or students can write an essay in which they practice having a thesis and supporting arguments, then revise it to practice using transitional phrases. If this makes writing sound dull, think about it this way — kids can write really fun, creative things, and through revision they can still learn all the mechanics they need to be articulate writers.
- Revision Reflects How Writing Really Works: In most real world writing situations, revision is an important part of the writing process. Real world revising might mean giving incorporating coworkers’ input on a grant, polishing a poem for publication, or giving an online dating profile a good proofread. We can prepare students for this process by using it throughout their whole writing education.
- Revision Destroys the Myth that Writing Happens Through Thunderbolts of Genius: Yes, sometimes pieces spring forth as whole as Athena from our foreheads. But more often, writing is more like forging, quilting, chiseling, or extracting teeth. Even Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, famously written in three weeks on one continuous scroll of paper, went through several years of subsequent revisions. So revise: even the Beats did it.