Motivating Young Writers to Revise

Motivating Young Writers to Revise Teacher Denise Dusseau created the 3rd grade curriculum for the Common Core WriteSteps

Today’s blog features simple and effective teaching tips from our 3rd grade Curriculum Creator, Denise Dusseau. Denise is a gifted classroom teacher who used the Lucy Calkins writing program until we launched the Standards Based WriteSteps in September.

She reported in our December Inspired Writer eNewsletter that since she started using WriteSteps, even her struggling writers are making wonderful gains! A quarter of her students have learning disabilities and/or ADD.

After you check out Denise’s teaching tips, be sure to see her Inspired Writer interview. In it, she discusses Lucy Calkins, help for struggling writers, implementing the standards, and more!

Motivating Students for the Long Haul


If children are told to revise, it usually leads to corrected spelling and punctuation.
We need to teach that revision means “to see again.”


~ Donald Graves, in Writing: Teachers and Children at Work

In Denise’s experience — not uncommon, I might add — revising can be the the most challenging writing skill to teach. She says, “When we’ve already worked on a piece for a long time, and I ask my students to revise it, sometimes they want to throw their notebooks at me!” (She’s quick to add, “That’s normal for this age!”)

She’s right, of course. Yet revising is essential. All writers do it, students need to learn how.

Here’s Denise, on how to make revising more appetizing:

  • I tell my students this is the most exciting part of the writing process! I say, “All the hard thinking work has been done…now you get to go in and give it a makeover.” We make revisions with blue markers so we can see the improvement, and I point out, “Even if we’ve only change four things, we just improved this writing in four ways!”
    WriteSteps Common Core writing lessons include picture planning tools to help the youngest students organize and remember their ideas. WriteSteps Common Core writing lessons include picture planning tools to help the youngest students organize and remember their ideas.
  • I emphasize the positives first. There are always parts of the draft that are so good that I tell the student, “Don’t do a thing to it!” But then I’ll say, “Now look back at the beginning of your piece; are you equally pleased with that?” Starting positive opens students up to looking at their own work through a different lens.
  • I also reinforce exactly what revising is. When teachers say revise, students tend to think, “What? Go back and erase half my piece?” Once they really know what revising looks like, they don’t mind. Revising is:
    *substituting word choice
    *moving things around
  • I remind my students frequently, “Right now we’re in the planning stage,” and “Now we’re in the drafting phase,” and “Now we’re in the revising and editing phase.” It sets them up to remember that that good writing doesn’t happen automatically – it’s a process.
  • I connect it to their reading. I tell them: “We love great books like Because of Winn Dixie. Why? Because they’re not in draft form! You’ve put all this work into your writing, so do it justice by polishing it for your audience.”
Coming Soon — More teaching tips from Denise!

Check back soon for more excellent tips from Denise, including her ideas about:;

  • Collecting Your Own Student Samples
  • Opening & Closing Lessons to Drive Learning Home