Changing Course

by Lisa Bullard

6_4DashboardMy fam­i­ly didn’t camp when I was a kid. So a few years ago, when a friend asked if I want­ed to go on a camp­ing trip to Arkansas, I said, “Sure. I’ve always want­ed to try camp­ing. It will be fun.” I assumed there would be lots of yum­my toast­ed-marsh­mal­low moments.

You know what they say about mak­ing assump­tions, right?

I’m not sure exact­ly when I real­ized that “fun” was the wrong word. Maybe it was when that park ranger warned us about cop­per­heads. Maybe it was the restrooms. Maybe it was the tor­ren­tial down­pours. Maybe it was the wood ticks. Maybe it was the mur­der­ous screams of war­ring raccoons.

Or maybe it was that near­by baby shriek­ing all night. I’m with you, baby: I want­ed to shriek, too. With­in 48 hours I was beg­ging my camp­ing com­rades to com­plete­ly change all our trav­el plans.

But chang­ing course on a writ­ing road trip isn’t that sim­ple. When it’s time to revise our writ­ing, it’s hard to give up our orig­i­nal assump­tions about the piece. Those orig­i­nal ideas fueled us through the first draft, so they must be good enough to stick with, right?

Wrong. Re-vision­ing our work is cru­cial to the writ­ing process. A true writer is a re-writer.

Revis­ing is also, in my expe­ri­ence, the part of the writ­ing process kids most resist.

There’s no one easy way to teach stu­dents the val­ue of revis­ing. But the same “What if?” ques­tion I described as a great idea-gen­er­a­tor in my last post (“Pulled Over”) is also an invalu­able revi­sion tool. You can down­load some exam­ples here of how stu­dents can use it to revise.

What if?” may show your stu­dents that chang­ing course allows them to jour­ney through their piece again in a dif­fer­ent — but maybe even more sat­is­fy­ing — way.


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