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A Revision Lesson inspired by a Real Author's Craft
a teacher-created lesson inspired by the NNWP's revision inservice class

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The Mentor Text:

Blue Balliett's Chasing Vermeer is a fact-filled novel about three students solving a mystery about a painting. Balliett's style of writing is remarkable, and her craft skills can easily be pointed out to students as they draft and revise writing.


Welcome to this Lesson:

Focusing in on

to inspire revision

This lesson was created by Nevada teacher
Lyn Hawkins
during a teacher workshop
on revision offered by the
Northern Nevada Writing Project

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, and it helped inspire the lesson 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:

Ask students to describe and even perform for a small group some of the facial expressions they have seen family members or friends display when they were feeling certain emotions such as anger, sadness, annoyance, joy, disbelief, surprise, or amusement. Have students list these facial expressions and the corresponding emotions. Ask them to think about which emotion would be the most fun/interesting to write about in a story.

After students have created their own lists of emotions, you might have them look over the following facial expression handout, which will probably introduce new emotions they haven't thought about. This handout wasn't originally designed as a tool for the classroom, so you may need to white-out any faces that show emotions you don't wish to explain to your students (i.e. "hungover").

(Click here to open/print this handout.)

Drafting the "Seed" Idea:

Prompt students with this: "Think about a situation you experienced or witnessed (on TV, for example) in which people’s facial expressions immediately and effectively revealed strong emotions. Perhaps it was during an argument or when something unexpectedly wonderful happened. Use observations you have made to create a short description (true or fictional) in which characters are showing strong feelings or emotions."

Here is a teacher example of a rough draft that can be used to model revision skills later in this lesson. Before having students write, you might remind them that in a piece of writing where two characters are talking, a new paragraph needs to be made when a new character speaks; no two characters are allowed to speak in the same paragraph.

Ashley’s older sister was being a brat and talking back to their mom. Their mom got mad and sent her to her room. Ashley’s sister said, “That’s not fair.”

Then the mom said, “Don’t talk back.”

Then the sister said, “I can if I want.” The mom got really angry.

Consider putting students' 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:

Blue Balliett is a master at painting pictures with words, as showcased in her book, Chasing Vermeer. Open to any page and you will see evidence of this. I proved this recently while looking for passages for this very lesson.

Students struggling when revising for word choice and voice will benefit from following Balliett’s example of including characters’ facial expressions to showcase feelings in their writing. This is a skill that can be used in narrative, creative, and even expository writing.

Ask students to listen for descriptions of characters’ facial expressions and feelings as you read aloud the first page of Chapter Seven (page 61 in the paperback edition). Model the facial expressions described on that page as you read.

Ask students to discuss with their group what they noticed about the characters’ emotions from listening to descriptions of their facial expressions. Have the groups share what they noticed with the class. You might have students create a list of the character names and the words used to describe the facial expressions and feelings of each character. You might even have them draw pictures of the characters' faces.

"Perform" the following facial expressions as you model the following revisions to the original piece of writing:

Their mother pursed her lips, showing how mad she was, and sent her to her room.

Their mom raised her eyebrows and said, “Don’t talk back to me.”

Have students help you write more facial expression descriptions for the model that you can choose to use for the final draft. It's good to model the act of having enough ideas to make choices rather than simply adding the first idea for a facial expression description that comes to mind.

Authentic Revision:

In their own stories/descriptions, challenge students to:

  • Each time a character/person reacts to an event or to what another character has said, consider inserting information about how he or she looked at that time.
  • Instead of using “said,” insert a verb that describes how the character/person sounded as he or she was speaking.
  • Include details about how the character/person felt about the situation or event.

The Argument

Ashley’s teenaged sister was being a brat and talking back to their mom. She even rolled her eyes! She felt angry about her mom not understanding her.

Their mom pursed her lips, showing how mad she was, and sent her to her room.

Ashley’s sister snarled, “That’s not fair!

Their mom raised her eyebrows and said, “Don’t talk back to me!”

Ashley’s sister tilted her head from side to side and yelled, “I can if I want!”

Their mom felt so angry that her eyes were bulging incredibly – so much that Ashley thought her head might explode.

Remind students that 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 with details that add voice and word choice.

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 Blue Balliett's 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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