What Do You Say to Your Writers to Help Them Revise Through the Eyes of Their Readers?

We all have strategies for revision. A strategy such as FARMS – Focus, Add, Remove, Move, Substitute – or abandon a piece of writing to begin a new one is often hard to do!  The students have already invested a good deal of their time in planning and drafting. Of course, it helps when students have been able to choose their own topic, genre, and form as well as have a target audience other than the teacher.  It helps when they have a purpose other than to receive a final (passing) grade.  Choice is always a strong motivator and necessary for engagement.  But even with choice, students often resist revision work after working very hard to create their first draft. Once the words come to life on a page of writing, it is hard to change or remove them.

Here is a collection of responses that teachers in grades K through 12 have used to elicit revision action.  Writers need feedback that helps them communicate a clear message to their readers.  They need to know that their readers may need more/less/different information to understand.  These prompts help writers internalize the kinds of questions and statements that readers might ask. Indeed, writers are writers first and then transitions to the role of being their own first readers.  The teacher queries below are in no particular order.


I’m trying to picture this in my mind. If I were watching this scene, what would I see?

I need to know all the information you just told me so I can see what you saw. Can you go back and write it into your piece?

I’m not sure how this fits. Can you explain?

Tell me more about ________________.

Let me read your piece back to you. Does it sound like the way you remember it?

I am start to get confused when you start telling me about…..

Oh, I think you should say that in the beginning.  That would grab everyone’s attention right away!

Let me tell this back to you as I am understanding it. Then you tell me if I have it right.

What’s giving you trouble in this story? How have you tried to problem solve already? What strategies/craft moves have you tried?

How did you feel when _____________________happened?  It would be interesting to let your readers know what you were feeling.

I feel I need more information about _______________ to understand what you are trying to say.

What do you think you could do to make this piece clearer?

I think if you put an example in here it would help the reader understand.

Did you mean to say that twice?

How does this piece sound to you when you read it aloud? Let me read it to you. How does it sound? Were there any bumpy spots?

What do you want to work on in your next draft of this piece?

What did your peer response partner think when you read it to her?

It sounds like you have two stories (two issues) in this piece. Maybe you could choose the one you want to concentrate on for now and develop it.

This happens to me sometimes when I write, too. Here is something that I’ve tried…. Maybe this could work for you, too.

This piece start out with exciting action and makes me want to read on, but it just seems to end. What could you do to really grab your readers at the end?

Tell me…. what is the one thing you really want to get across to your reader in this piece?

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