Overcoming Obstacles to REVISION

Reading writing aloud before sharing.

A frequent lament among teachers of writing is the resistance encountered among some students when it comes to revision. However, such resistance tends to evaporate when certain elements become essential to the writing workshop.

Topic Choice/Genre Choice

When young writers are writing what they really want to write about, the words tend to flow more easily and as a consequence, the writer displays a greater commitment to the challenge of ‘getting it right.’ From this position, the writer often approaches revision with increased endeavour. Choice is central to success in writing. It increases ownership and assists the writer to develop a sense of voice. If a student feels a greater sense of self in the writing, they take greater care with the words and the message. They are therefore more likely to embrace revision.

Authentic Purpose

There needs to be a real purpose for the writing that is undertaken.

If writing is viewed as ‘something we do at school.’ The likelihood of revision being embraced is reduced. Pushing down the classroom walls and extending writing into the community will expand the young writer’s sense of purpose. Encouraging students to take their notebooks ‘on journeys’ will broaden writing horizons. It will help to increase writing’s authenticity. Watch the investment grow when the purpose for writing becomes clearer.

As teachers we must continually model our own revision strategies. Students need to see how a more experienced writer, adds, removes, moves and substitutes, words, phrases, sentences to improve the content of the writing. We must show them the power of revision. Teach them through our actions the understanding that, ‘Revision is the magic behind great writing.’


A sense of audience must be established in the mind of the writer. 
For whom is this written?                                  
What do they need from you as the writer?

Without audience, writing has a diminished purpose. If the young writer is writing purely to please a teacher, this also diminishes the likelihood meaningful revision will be undertaken. It increases a sense of dependency. This students thinks, my teacher will ‘fix’ this up for me.

Classroom structures and routines must encourage daily contact with a range of writers. Writers who can provide meaningful feedback on the health of the written word. This needs to take place on a regular basis and occur at every stage of the writing process. Opportunities to talk and review writing dramatically increases the likelihood of meaningful revision taking place.

Author, John Cheever reminds us of the critical importance of audience
‘I can’t write without a reader. It’s precisely like a kiss—you can’t do it alone.’

Peer review therefore becomes an important consideration. We must skill the inexperienced writer up so they are able to give and receive effective feedback for their writing efforts. We must provide scaffolding for writing conversations. Anchor charts can be used to document essential conversation starters and what to look for in specific writing forms. We must teach them to provide written feedback on occasions. Such talk is necessary if we want to drive the conversation around writing deeper, if we want to impact on revision.


While we need to build a sense of community and trust, we also need to establish in the mind of the developing writer the idea of obligation. Obligation to the reader, obligation to self. Students need to see how a fellow writer shows respect for readers. Using think aloud the most proficient writer in the room can model how they meet their obligation to their readers. It’s a further example of show, don’t tell.


If we want to make an impact on attitudes to revision, publishing must be a valued part of the classroom writing program. The opportunity to make writing available to others must be evident to all writers. Publishing questions must be asked.

How do you wish to publish your writing?         
Where do you wish to publish your writing?

Once a conscious decision is made to make a writing piece public, the need to revise is elevated to a prominent position in the mind of the writer.

It is often said, attitude is everything. If we want the developing writer to adopt a healthy attitude to revision, we must change the pictures in their head about its purpose and value. I find myself frequently reminding young writers, ‘You have a good piece of writing here. Revision could make it a great piece of writing. What do you want from your writing? What do you think your writing needs from you?'

Peer Editing- Poetry Pieces

Identifying poetic elements to look for in each others writing pieces. Scaffolding the conversations around writing


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