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A Classroom Revision Tool Inspired by a 6-Trait Language
a popular on-line activity shared during the NNWP's workshops for teachers

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Revision Homepage


Teaching Revision Vocabulary:

Revision/Trait Metaphor Cards

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

In Creating Writers Through 6-Trait Writing Assessment and Instruction, Vicki Spandel wrote: "How different writing instruction— and assessment—can be when the teachers of writing AND their students share a common vocabulary that allows them to think, speak, assess, and plan like writers.  Suddenly, there’s no more mystery.”

The activity write-up on this page is designed to help teachers build the common vocabulary around the writing traits that Vicki Spandel writes about.

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.

Traits as your Classroom Language:

The NNWP's Going Deep with 6 Trait Language is a valued tool in the classrooms of Northern Nevada. It is given out to teachers who take our trait-inspired workshops. If you live outside of Northern Nevada, you can find out how to order your own copy of this guide by visiting the NNWP's Publication Page.

One goal we have for the student writers of Northern Nevada is for them to be able to tell us two things about the act of writing: 1) which of the six writing traits do they shine the most with as a writer; 2) and which trait do they struggle with most and--more importantly--what strategies do they use to help them when they struggle.

In order to be able to tell us these two things, obviously students need to own the language of the traits, which requires very deliberate teaching. The NNWP strives to create new activities that make "owning trait language" a fun process. As part of our revision workshops, participants are challenged to create trait-inspired activites like the one found on this page.

Giving Credit...

Grab Bag Revision was first introduced to the NNWP by Dr. Kathleen Boardman of the University of Nevada-Reno. While serving as co-Director of the Northern Nevada Writing Project, Dr. Boardman often shared demonstration lessons on revision, and this metaphor card activity is an adaption of the grab bag revision activity she used with her college writers. In the original version of this activity, Kathy had participants grab a random Ziploc bag out of her Revision Grab Bag, and there were actual items inside these plastic bags. For the adapation on this page, the baggie idea was changed into cards that students could draw from a deck.


Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. Students need a rough draft of some type of writing before beginning this activity. A couple of paragraphs minimum would work better than anything shorter.
  2. Ask students to take out their completed rough drafts and inform them that they will be planning some trait-inspired revision tasks for their writing.
  3. To remind students what the 6 writing traits are, hand out the 30 subskills of the writing traits checklist. Ask them simply to read over the checklist, thinking about the subskills but not marking any. Remind them that revision usually focuses on all the writing traits except for conventions; conventions do not need to be focused on until students arrive at the editing phase.
  4. Poll the students after they've read over the checklist. Ask, "How many of you think focusing on the idea development trait will help your writing the most when you revise?" Ask the same for organization, voice, word choice, and sentence fluency.
  5. Bring out the deck of revision cards. If you have more than 15 students, you will need to either have two or three copies of each card to make a class deck, or you can have students work with partners. Have students randomly draw a card to work with.
  6. Tell them that each picture is actually a metaphor for something that writers often do (during revision) to make their writing stronger or better. Each picture is basically telling them to do something that would make their writing better. Have students talk together to create guesses for what the cards are telling them to do as a revision action.
  7. Display the answer key on the overhead or Elmo...but make sure to cover up the third column, which has the original deck's answers. Keep it hidden because often students create better answers than the ones on the key.
  8. Ask students to share their metaphor ideas with the whole class. Have them identify the picture on the card before sharing. More importantly, once they explain their idea behind the picture, have them identify what trait their idea would be a part of. For example, if a student shares that he/she had the clove of garlic, he/she might say, "I think this picture is telling me that my setting description stinks like garlic and I need to fix that. I believe that is part of the idea development trait." Abbreviate and write down their answers in the middle column of the answer key.
  9. Now uncover the third column on the answer key to display the original answers. More often than not, students will have provided different answers which is actually good for this activity.
  10. Students now need to plan their draft's revision based on one of two things: 1) they can plan the revision around the actual answer (in the third column of the key) of the card they have; or 2) they can plan the revision based on a different answer someone had for the metaphor card...provided they can name the writing trait the different answer is hinting at. In addition to the suggestion from their metaphor cards, you might also require them to commit to one (or more) revision ideas using the checklist that has the thirty sub skills; sometimes just focusing on one revision suggestion is not enough.
  11. Students may use the card they were dealt, or they may trade with another student. If they trade and want to come up with a different 6-trait revision suggestion for their new card's image, they may do this.

Expanding the Deck:

  1. After the students have used the provided deck once or twice, you should consider having them create an original class deck of cards.
  2. Referring to the 30 subskills checklist, students can create original metaphors for as many of the subskills as possible. Students might choose a scale, for example, for the "I used a balance of showing and telling" item. Students can find magazine pictures or clip art that represents their original metaphors and create the cards for you. Be sure you keep a "master key" for the metaphors they create, and be sure they identify the trait when they explain what their metaphor means.
  3. Another way to create the cards is to have students cut out small, random pictures from magazines. With all the pictures in a pile, students can select ones that they can make a good revision metaphor for. Students are responsible for making the card and explaining it on the class's key when they add it to the deck.

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 page's writing tool (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 page's teaching tools, 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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