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A Revision Lesson inspired by a Real Author's Craft
a popular on-line lesson shared during the NNWP's teacher workshops

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The Mentor Text:

Angela Johnson's The Leaving Morning (at the time of posting this lesson) is unfortunately out of print; if you can obtain a used copy from one of Amazon's independent sellers, you should. The story mixes a wonderful, genuine voice with poetic style of writing. Its imagery focuses on excellent sound effects.

If you enjoy comparing and contrasting texts on the same topic, you might want to bring out Moving Day by Anthony G. Brandon. Students will easily be able to talk about the quality of Johnson's story when compared to Brandon's repetitive tale that only shares limited details.

Another great mentor text that starts and stops with a focus on beautiful imagery is Ralph Fletcher's Twilight Comes Twice.


Welcome to this Lesson:

Starting & Stopping with Strong Imagery
as a revision strategy

This lesson is shared during the Northern Nevada Writing Project's Revision Workshops for teachers.

In Northern Nevada, we offer inservice workshops designed to help teachers strengthen their use of authentic revision strategies.

Barry Lane's Reviser's Toolbox is always a popular resource we share from during our classes, but so too is the lesson write-up you can find here on this page.

An important note for our WritingFix teacher users: This website is not a "writing program." We simply feature thoughtful lessons and classroom resources designed by outstanding writing teachers. Our model lessons are posted so that you may borrow ideas from them, but our intention in providing this resource is not to give teachers a word-for-word script to follow. Please, use this lesson's big ideas but adapt everything else. And adapt it recklessly; that's how one becomes a genuine writing teacher.

Brainstorming Topics to Write About:

At least a day before writing, tell students they will need to think about a special place that they love to visit. This can be a vacation spot, a secret hiding place, a relative's house, a place they meet with friends. Any place that is not a part of where they are currently living; it needs to be a place away from their home. They need to think about what specifically they love about this place, and to figure that out they may want to think about the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, or feelings they associate with the place.

Challenge students to talk about the topic over recess or to even talk about it with their families as homework.

Drafting the "Seed" Idea:

Write the topic--"A Special Place Away from my Home"--where students can see it. Tell students they will have ten or fifteen minutes to write between five and ten sentences on this topic. They need to let their reader know what the place is like and why it is special through their writing.

Allow for ten minutes of sacred writing time, which means quiet writing time. A few of your students will write a whole page of words, but you most likely will have more students who write five or six sentences.

Here is a typical writing sample from this prompt (minus conventional errors) that we use when modeling this craft lesson.

A place that is special to me is the garden at my grandparents' house. My grandma plants beautiful flowers. No matter what time of year it is, you can always find a flower that's blooming. Grandpa grows vegetables behind a rock wall he built. I like all of them except the turnips. If I could live in that garden I would.

Consider putting the writing away for a day so that those who struggled to write have some time to recover from their struggle.

Inspiring Revision through the Mentor Text:

Tell students they will be revising their "Special Places away from Home" prompt writing, but first they will listen to how a really famous author describes a special place that two siblings will always remember. In this story, the siblings and their parents are moving away from a home they obviously love. The author paints a wonderful picture of their final memories of this place and she shares what the family does as they prepare to leave it on the leaving morning.

Enjoy the text aloud without stopping. Ask students to remember favorite details from the text. Hopefully they will remember the lips on the glass panes, since it comes back three times in the story.

Tell students that Angela Johnson uses a powerful technique that you want them to try in their revised versions of their stories: she focuses on a powerful image, which she uses to begin and end her story. This gives the story an organized structure. The fact that the image is used again right in the middle of the story makes the structure even more solid.

Read the whole book again, having students listen for imagery that is sound-related. Ask students to think about the most interesting sounds they associate with the special place they wrote about. Tell them, "Angela Johnson doesn't tell you EVERY sound. She chooses really interesting ones to include. Too much sound might make a piece of writing worse instead of better."

You might also Xerox the pages from the book that mention on "leaving morning." If you clip them, you can fit all these pieces of text on one page. Ask your students to think about what time of day they associate most with their special place: morning, afternoon, evening, night time, noon, recess, weekends, dawn, dusk? Challenge them to help their reader focus on a time of day they love to be in their place the most.

Model the revision process, using your own writing or the model below:

The garden is always there but I love it most in the morning. I sit on the rock wall my Grandpa built and listen to the birds sing. No matter what time of year it is, you can always find a flower that's blooming. Grandma loves her flowers. Grandpa prefers growing vegetables and the sound of his shovel turning over dirt is one I love to hear. I sit on the rock wall when I visit them and wish I could be here always.

Authentic Revision:

Rewrite the writing prompt on the board: A Special Place Away from my Home.

Tell students you are proud that they wrote like students their age are supposed to write when they created their first drafts. Now, they must try to write about special place in a way that even Angela Johnson would be proud of. They have learned two craft tricks: starting and stopping with an important image and focusing on sound for imagery.

If you can show them both your first model and your revised model at the same time, this may help students. For those who need help getting started with their revised draft, read aloud the first sentence of The Leaving Morning. Read it again and again. Challenge students to craft a sentence that sounds similar but is about the special place they remember. For example...

The garden is peaceful in the morning, when all you can hear are birds and Grandpa's digging...shooom, shooom.

This is revision, not editing (which comes next), so they should not worry about spelling and punctuation. This is their chance to get their ideas down a second time, but this time in a way that flows more like poetry.

Extend the Learning:

Assign a few more quick prompts to your students over the next week or two. This time, before students start writing, remind them of Angela Johnson's two craft tricks. Challenge them to use those tricks in their first drafts so they can try some new craft tricks during revision time.

Share your Students' Improved Writing:
(and earn a free resource for your classroom)

WritingFix Safely Publishes Students from Around the World! In 2008, we first began accepting students samples from teachers anywhere who use this lesson. Hundreds of new published students now go up at our site annually!

We're currently looking for student samples for all grade levels for this lesson!  If you obtain both a thoughtful rough draft and an even better revised draft from a student for this lesson (in typed, scanned, or photographed form), they can be posted at this blog page. If we select your student's sample to be moved from the blog to this page at WritingFix, we will send you a free NNWP Print Resource for your classroom.

At WritingFix, we aim to safely publish students' writing from all over the world. We're looking for student samples to post for this page's write-up! If your students write a rough draft that is improved upon by this craft lesson, we want to see both drafts! If we feature one of your student's writing on this page, we will send you a complimentary copy of one of the NNWP Publications for your classroom.

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