April 24, 2013

Creating Picture Books with Kids: Revision (Rubric/Self Check/Adult Check/Peer Check)

Today I return to the topic of, "Writing Fractions Stories for First Graders," a project that I initially wrote about in my March 22nd post. Last week I shared the fabulous story ideas the fifth grade students began working on for their first-grade buddy class. This week I will outline the revision process we incorporated into this project. 

I opened the class meeting with a discussion on the importance of revision in the writing process, and I shared the real-life file that holds many of the different revisions for one of my published picture books, THE NEST WHERE I LIKE TO REST (a 250-word book, that takes about three sheets of paper per draft . . .).

Here is the file: 

I am routinely asked by students how many revisions this manuscript went through, and this group was no exception. I do not have an exact count of the number of revisions this manuscript endured, but I know it was at least 15 or 20 significant rounds of revisions!

The revision process the fifth graders incorporated into the "Writing Fractions Stories for First Graders" project was as follows:

1) Self Check:  Complete your first ROUGH DRAFT, and then compare it against the grade-level writing rubrics used by the school:

a. Ideas
b. Organization
c. Sentence Fluency
d. Transitions

When students worked on their self check, they were encouraged to ask themselves: Are you satisfied with how you have 1) conveyed your idea  2) organized your story 3) your sentence fluency, and 4) handled your transitions?

We discussed that good writers REVISE, and students were challenged to make each of the following types of changes on EACH PAGE of their manuscript:

Change at least one word.

Add at least one word.

Cut/draw a line through at least one word or sentence.

Move/rearrange at least one word or sentence.

If students couldn't muster the strength to do each of these types of changes on each page, (which arguably is very difficult!), then at a minimum, they needed to make at least one of each of the above types of changes in their overall manuscript.

Once students completed their Self Check, they were ready for feedback/critique from an adult and from a student peer:

2) Feedback from an Adult:

Project volunteers were on hand to provide feedback. During the "feedback from an adult" process, students were asked:

1) To confirm that they had considered their work with respect to the rubric (i.e. ideas/organization/sentence fluency/transitions)

2) To show the changes they had made during their self check (i.e. What word(s) they changed, what word(s) they added, what word(s)/sentence(s) they cut and what word(s)/sentences they moved)

Then, the volunteer and student read through the manuscript in detail, and the volunteer made written notes of compliment and notes for suggestions to think about/consider in their next revision. (It was discussed that it is important for good writers to get comfortable having their rough drafts marked up...it's a rough draft and changes are expected . . . this is a hard experience to go through, but students did a great job). 

3) Feedback from Another Peer:

Students swapped manuscripts, and then gave each other feedback. Students were asked to use the following guidelines in sharing feedback:

1) Share what you liked

2) Share what questions you had (i.e. things that might have been unclear to you)

3) Share the suggestions you have

4) Thank the author for sharing their work with you (it's hard to have your work critiqued!)

After students completed their Self check, Adult Feedback and Peer Feedback, they worked on incorporating the feedback they were given and started putting their manuscript into the format of a  "book dummy," (For those who are not familiar with author lingo, a "book dummy" is the official publishing-world word for a manuscript that is drafted into more of a book-like form). Students figured out that it is easier to work on a dummy if you just fold the paper and don't staple it (and some students just used whole sheets of paper for their dummy). Here are examples of two real-world book dummies I used when I was working on one of my published books:

This is a folded dummy

This is a whole-sheet dummy

Once students completed their revised draft/book dummy, they met with another group students (who were not involved in the project) and received feedback from them, then they began work on their final product. I will share more about these additional steps in a future post.


  1. I like that you gave the kids specific instructions for changing their stories, like... "Change at least one word."
    I also think it's cool that you helped them make a book dummy.

  2. This was such a fun project to work on, Hannah. The students were really responsive (both the young authors and the younger classroom where they did their "author visit"). The specific instructions for edits and revisions has been a helpful tool in my young writers' workshops. It seems to give young authors a starting point. Armed with a specific task in hand (i.e. change one word), they seem to look at their manuscripts differently and wind up revising much more than they are "required" revise. Thanks for stopping by the blog. I look forward to seeing you at the SCBWI conference this weekend.