Let’s face it. Writing is fun. It’s the revising we avoid. When we first write, our pen goes wherever our ideas lead; we create characters and situations, mold them and direct them at will. Then we sit back, marinating in the satisfaction of our finished work. Enter the dreaded voice of revision, whose sole purpose is to highlight all that stinks about our wonderful composition. Of course we don’t want to deal with it, and children are no different in this respect. But as Katherine Patterson says, revising is the process when spilled milk gets turned into ice cream. It’s necessary if our children are to become better writers. Even though the revision process isn’t always a child’s favorite part of writing, it doesn’t need to be a chore. With the following tips, it may even become an interesting, dare I say enjoyable, activity.
1.) Step back: After your child finishes a first draft, let her bask in her greatness. Don’t mention revising right away. Let her read the draft to you and talk about it. Then just have her put the draft aside for a few days before she takes it out again to revise. The extra time will allow her to wind down from all that energy she just spent writing it and will put the draft out of her mind. In turn, she will come back to her work with fresh eyes and a clear, less biased, perspective. She will not only be better able to identify weaknesses but she will also be more open to fixing them.
2.) Collaborate: A completely different set of eyes is always helpful in the revising process. If you don’t have other children in your home with which to workshop, get your child together with another homeschooler who is also working on a writing project. Teach them how to read and constructively comment on each other’s papers. Working with other children will help your child get feedback from a real audience and evaluate her own work through her readers’ eyes.
3.) Read aloud: Though often overlooked, it’s one of the most effective revising strategies. Reading a paper aloud helps the writer hear rhythm and voice. She will get a sense of where the piece flows and where it is stunted, where ideas are unclear or wordy, and where it goes off topic. When your child returns to her draft, have her read it aloud (alone if she is uncomfortable reading in front of others) and take notes when she finds something that needs to be changed, added to, or removed.
4.) Type it: If your child does not know how to type, it’s worth teaching her. It’s a skill that can be learned at a young age and will make revising and editing easier. Unless your child is a fluent typist, she should write the first draft, and then type it in a Microsoft Word document. The act of typing will itself highlight areas in need of change, but more than this, it will make revising and editing less tedious. If a sentence needs to be moved, she needs only to cut and paste to change it. If she needs to add a sentence or even a paragraph, she won’t need to rewrite the whole paper; she can just insert the new information.
5.) Work from paper: After your child types her draft, print a hard copy to work from when revising and editing. Often what gets overlooked on a computer screen will stand out on a hard copy; however, it will still be easier to change since the original is easy to access and manipulate on the computer.