On day 15 of our poem-a-day challenge I invited my students to revise. In this remote learning environment my usual revision strategies–class brainstorming, working with peer partners, individual conferring–were not in play.
I spent some time thinking about ways to help my students understand HOW to revise, what concrete steps they might take to improve a poem written earlier this month. So I started by thinking about some characteristics of effective poetry. The use of simile and metaphor, sensory images, the use of vivid verbs and carefully selected details, personification, sound words…you get the idea. I create a chart of these poetry elements for my students to select from as they considered a revision. And I videotaped myself giving some directions…and thinking aloud about my own revision.
I reminded students to pick a poem they cared about–but not the one they love the best. I wanted them to want to make changes! Then I asked them to pick one or two elements from the chart to use for their revision. I demonstrated with my own poem–stopping the video to do my own revisions–and then reading the new version at the end. And because we revise when we have a reason, the point of this revision was to use the revised poem in our project…to make a narrated version of the revised poem using Adobe Spark Video. I also asked for students to submit the “before” and “after” versions of the poem in our Google Classroom.
I selected my poem Waterworks to revise:
In this place where skies
are desert dry and sapphire blue
rushing down streets pooling on lawns
down sidewalks worms
birds duck and cover
and I walk soaking up
sky tears breathing in water-saturated air
fully submerged in today’s
I thought about how I might incorporate sound into my poem and a simile. As I revised, I found that my ending wanted to change, making myself a part of the waterworks I was describing. (I did have a student tell me he liked my original better than the revision!)
In this place
where skies are often
and as blue as the jeans I wear walking in my neighborhood
sploosh-shushing down sloping streets
pooling like soup bowls on once dry lawns
down slippery sidewalks
bird—sensing danger—duck and cover
and I keep walking
soaking up sky tears
that mix with my own
and I become a part of today’s
In our remote learning environment, my students worked at their own pace. They decided when to work on revision, when to work on math… After a while I started to notice the revisions coming in.
I love it when my students get it! And even more so, when this complex task works out in this remote learning environment. I picked a few to share with you. Here is K’s revision:
R’s revision resulted in a slightly new…and musical focus:
And P’s revision brings an interesting new simile into play:
Now the challenge will be to keep both the poetry writing and the revision going as we continue through the month. I’ll be thinking up some more reasons to revise…at least one poem each week to keep practicing revision, and hopefully internalize more poetry elements as well.
I’d love to hear your revision stories. How does revision work in your classroom? With your writing? In this remote learning environment? And the snail is to remind myself that writing can be a slow process…that you have to stick with it, stay on the path…and that you carry all you need on your back and in your heart!