Revising at Points of Need: Narrative Revision Stations

One of my goals this year as a teacher is to make room for revision stations and alternative ways of tackling revision.  I am proactive in providing ongoing feedback in real time through Google Documents, but toward the end of the year, I honestly felt I needed additional ways to help my students take more ownership of their revision AND editing work.  I wanted to do revision stations last year, but time always seemed to be the enemy, so I was determined to MAKE time for them in the 2019-2020 academic year.

I originally purchased a narrative writing revision station set of TPT, but after purchasing it and looking at the activities more closely, I realized it really was not a good fit for my kids, so I wound up designing my own.  Here are the stations I crafted:

  • Station 1: Dialogue Den, Part 1--finding and counting our number of beginning, ending, and middle dialogue tags.  We also formulated revisions to make sure we have a balance of each kind of required tag.
  • Station 2: Dialogue Den, Part 2–making sure we have opening and closing quotation marks around each piece of quoted speech and looking for errors with our dialogue with capitalization and punctuation.
  • Station 3: DIY Revision–Explode the Moment—taking a scene that is underdeveloped or rushed and revising for more detail and to really develop the moment in depth.
  • Station 4: STEAL Analysis–reading our draft and seeing where/how we are developing a character and showing a character trait through each part of the STEAL method.
  • Station 5: PQP (Praise, Question, Polish):  Exchanging drafts and providing feedback with PQP tickets (see photos below).
  • Station 6: Teacher Conference/Help–get 1:1 help with your draft from Ms. Hamilton

If students somehow finished early, they could work on their NoRedInk module on Formatting Dialogue and Flow Quotes + Capitalizing Quotes Mastery Practice.  


Getting Ready

The first step was to have students print hard copies of their drafts in our 8th grade computer lab since we do not have printing capabilities from our Chromebooks.  Last year, we could print from the desktops in the lab, but it wasn’t until last Tuesday I discovered student rights to printing had been removed as a money saving measure for ink and paper.  Students had to share their documents, and I had to print every single draft myself.  Obviously, this solution is not realistic for the long term, but I did it because students needed a hard copy for their revision stations.  I will say more about the importance of having a hard copy of drafts at the end of this post.

The other prep piece was setting up stations in my favorite new classroom purchase this fall, my plastic Target paper trays.   I also had to craft station instructions, make copies, and set up supplies in bins/baskets as needed for each station.  I came in early and stayed late to organize everything by table/seating area.


Day 1

I allotted two days for the activities and planned carefully.  However, I realized quickly after my first class that TIMED station rotations were not going to be a good fit.  Here is how I punted and tweaked the activity period by period on Day 1.

Period 8-1

We completed two TIMED station rotations in which students were engaged in various revision tasks.   Unfortunately, excessive talking and not following instructions were problematic today for several students, and War Eagle points were deducted for those who could not stay on task after being redirected.

Period 8-4:

Students were given starting stations and groups; they then worked at their pace and moved on to another station.  Most students completed two stations.  We will finish remaining stations tomorrow.

Period 8-5:

Students who were behind on the story writing assignment worked in a small group with Ms. Moore, my co-teacher, to get caught up today.  Those who worked with me completed Station 4 and Station 1.

Period 8-6:

Students worked on Station 1 today.  Most finished, but a few will need to finish tonight because they were having difficulty identifying their dialogue tags and/or following the instructions.  If your child did not finish Station 1 work today, that needs to be completed tonight.  Several students moved on to Station 4; a few are behind on drafting and were asked to work on the draft.

Day 2 and Cumulative Teacher Reflections/Observations/Takeaways

While these adjustments worked better than the way I tried implementing them in Period 8-1, something still felt a bit off.  I decided to put all the station materials at the center table, Table 6, and let students choose the remaining stations they felt would best help them revise their draft.  This adjustment sounds simple, but it proved to be extremely effective.  Students in every class were deeply engaged in their work and asking thoughtful questions as they worked through their station revisions.

Even my struggling students were giving 150% effort, and one even asked to stay inside at recess with me to work on her draft!  While Day 1 was not terrible, the energy and intention I saw students putting into their work on Day 2 was like night and day.  I think building in the choice element was essential, and this change gives me much to think about when I design revision and editing stations again.  I was impressed by the thought I saw students making into their station selections, and they are now acting on those revisions as we are engaged in polishing and revising today (Monday, 9/16) and tomorrow to get a solid final draft.  Most importantly, students were taking ownership of their revision and editing work and choices—the locus of control did not lie with me, the teacher, but instead, it was squarely on the shoulders of the writers.

One other observation I think is important to share, and that is the importance of having HARD paper copies for this kind of station work however you choose to approach it.   I noticed that many of my students do not spot errors or mistakes working online, but when they have a hard copy—especially one that is double spaced and printed in a slightly larger font–their eyes quickly discover careless typos and errors.

In addition, I am noticing that this year’s 8th graders seem to respond to written feedback on their hard copies of their drafts as opposed to the Google Docs comments even though I am writing the same thing.  I think there is something of value for them when I can draw areas and mark up a section of their draft in a 1:1 teacher conference that doesn’t translate to a Google Docs comment.  I purchased this feedback tool last year, but wound up never fully utilizing it; I would like to revisit it this year since my students seem to respond to the written feedback and markups a little better than digital feedback.  I’ll have to think more about this endeavor since printing student drafts is a bit problematic for now.

Last but not least, this method gave me the ability to spot patterns of student mistakes (primarily with placement of quotation marks, punctuating dialogue and dialogue tags, and capitalization errors with dialogue) very quickly so that I could provide some intensive and targeted help when students were ready to conference with me 1:1.  We will definitely continue to work on growing our skill level in this area.  I feel that these revision stations are an impactful and insightful means of formative assessment.

In my next post, I’ll share how we are wrapping up our draft, reflecting on our work, and sharing our stories.

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