Skip to content

Archive for

What does it take to Engage Student Writers in the Process of Revision? Ask the 2017 Writing Institute Fellows

by Mary Buckelew

“Revision is the Party.” poet Billy Collins


In Fearless Writing  by Tom Romano, Romano quotes poet Billy Collins on the act of revision: “Students think revision is cleaning up after the party. They have it wrong. Revision is the party” (p.87).

“Revision is the party.” How timely for the beginning of the school year and in light of the societal events of this year. Revision.

This past summer, I had the privilege of learning and working with more than one hundred teachers from grades K-16 in the Pennsylvania Writing and Literature Project’s (PAWLP) Young Writers program, in our graduate courses, and in our Writing Institutes.

The 2017 Writing Institute brought eleven awesome teachers together who explored and revisited themselves as writers and teachers of writing; who delved deeply into what it takes for students to see revision as more than drudgery, to see revision as an act that can truly change a piece of writing and in turn the writer. What does it take to engage student writers in the process of revision?

The thoughtful and dedicated teachers in the 2017 Writing Institute dove into theory and pedagogy books and articles to explore this question. They read, wrote and discussed reasons writers revise – Writers have authentic purposes and audiences for their writing; they often have choice in what, why, and how they write; writers have myriad ways of sharing their writing in all phases –  Community, Collaboration, Active Listening and Transformative Talk are just some of the elements that empower writers and in turn create an environment conducive for revision.

We grew professionally and personally in the 2017 Writing Institute – and in order to grow, we not only explored topics like revision, we revised our own writing, and we examined elements of our teaching practices that might need revision in order to help student writers appreciate the results of revision.

Writing guru Vicki Spandel notes that writers are inspired to revise when — “The writer has some reason to make it better. Whether it be pride, a grade, or publication, revision is hard work, and everyone needs a reason to do it. Providing authentic audiences – creates a classroom atmosphere so that everyone is interested in each other’s writing inside and outside the classroom.”

This coming year, students will enter the classrooms of Writing Project teachers across the country who are writers and who know and understand the complexity of teaching writing. These teachers will create community and authentic opportunities for students’ words to matter in the classroom and in the communities outside their classroom doors.

I am certain that the eleven teachers who left the 2017 Writing Institute this summer will empower student writers and thinkers to both revise their words and the world for the better.

We know when Choice and Authentic Writing walk into the party–then Revision too can join in the revelry – and even become the life of the party.


2017 Institute at Barnes and Noble FullSizeRender (5)

Molly, Michelle, Chrissy, Kristin, Lauren, Kristine, Amy, Molly K., & Peter
(Warren and Catherine in spirit)

Please share your thoughts on revision and how you encourage students to revise.

Dr. Mary Bellucci Buckelew is the Director of the Pennsylvania Writing & Literature Project and Professor of English at West Chester University. She is co-author of Reaching and Teaching Diverse Populations: Strategies for Moving Beyond Stereotypes. When she’s not facilitating workshops, leadership gatherings, and institute meetings; visiting youth sites for Young Readers & Writers; or teaching undergraduate and graduate courses – you may find Mary composing a poem about life in New Mexico, taking long walks with her husband Paul, visiting with family and friends, or reading a good book!

Mary Buckelew 3.29.17

A Writerly Life: Words of Wisdom from JoAnn Portalupi and Ralph Fletcher

Words are powerful, and conventions allow us access to this power.-Michelle Polito (2017 Grammar Matters Participant)

Comprehension Strategies Across Space and Time

by Mark Weakland

The other day, while playing through the Lennon and McCartney song Across the Universe, two lines captured my attention: “Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box. They tumble blindly as they make their way across the universe.”

It’s definitely a great sixties lyric, evocative of the mind-expanding ethos of the times, and for some reason it set off a small avalanche of thoughts about literacy in my brain. First, a text-to-self connection: the lyric reminded me of a few students I’ve taught over the years. Next, a thought about how difficult it can be to lead students, whose thoughts “meander like a restless wind,” to a deeper comprehension of the texts they read. Finally, feeling grateful that effective comprehension strategies have been identified, and we can bring them to students.

Over the past three years, as I’ve read studies and articles and as I’ve listened to literacy gurus speak at conferences, I’ve learned that three categories of strategies are especially effective at leading students to greater comprehension: activating prior knowledge, summarizing, and asking and answering questions. In addition, as I’ve worked with teachers in elementary schools, I have learned that when a handful of already effective strategies are applied across space and time, literacy strength is built within a system. In other words, when multiple teachers in multiple content areas across multiple grade levels employ a few well-chosen comprehension strategies, the literacy program of an entire school is made stronger.

Read more

A Writerly Life: Words of Wisdom from Harry R. Noden

Writers are artists who craft artistic pieces with words the same way a painter would with paint.

-Sharon Williams (2107 Grammar Matters Participant)

A Writerly Life: Words of Wisdom from Donald Graves

This post is a reminder that conventions and content work together to give words power.
– Melissa Weathers (2017 Grammar Matters Participant)

Tools of the Trade: C3WP

by Kelly Virgin

Late this past March I spent two beautiful spring days holed up in a conference room in D.C. feeling both overwhelmed and excited by four letters: CRWP (now known as C3WP). The College, Career, and Community Writers Program is a National Writing Project initiative aimed at providing teachers across the nation with resources needed to help their students critically read and analyze multiple points of view in an attempt to responsibly enter the civic dialogue. As their website explains, the program “answers the contemporary call for respectful argumentative discourse.” In an attempt to reach this lofty, yet vital goal, NWP has gathered and created an impressive stockpile of mini-units complete with suggested text-sets, graphic organizers, audio and visual materials, formative and summative assessments, and suggested extension activities.

In the months following my brief introduction to this program, I spent numerous hours mining the provided resources in an attempt to meaningfully pass the information along to fourteen teacher-leaders through PAWLP’s Advanced Institute. While I still feel slightly overwhelmed by all the possibilities of the program, the three intensive days I spent locked away this summer with a group of thoughtful and inquisitive teachers helped me boil it down to three essential elements: time, access to multiple perspectives, and the freedom to choose. With these three key elements in mind, any teacher can start to meaningfully engage his or her students in thoughtful, thought-provoking, and responsible argument writing. Read more