Revising Your Work

Lesson #5: Revising Your Work



Students will use peer feedback to enhance their poems to prepare for their final performances.



What is the process of revision like?
Does revision mean my work is bad?

What are tools that I can use to make my poetry even better?



It is important to not lose sight of the fact that revision and rehearsal are always part of the process of creating good art.

Poetry tools can be applied to even good parts of a poem to make them more lifelike.

We learn best from when we share what we have.


Materials Needed: 

Poetry Packet



Hook: Journal — In this class, each day the students will see a quote written upon the board. At the start of class, students are to find a group of their classmates to improvise a small performance based on the ideas found within the quote. The groups are given 5-7 minutes to prepare based on the length of the quote and the flow of ideas. Students are then given the opportunity to perform their group scene in front of the class. After each group has performed, the students will take a few minutes to discuss the quote as a lead into our activities for that class period. This is done each class, but this particular class will echo the previous lesson.


This time, they’re going to do 3 tableaux in like a museum exercise. When each one happens, ask for volunteers to reshape something within the tableau and discuss how the change has an effect upon the meaning in the tableau. This means the tableaux will be done twice. Once with no changes and once again through with classmates making changes.


“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

Ernest Hemingway


Step 1: Revision — Have the students discuss what it was like having their tableaux changed. Did anyone prefer the changes that were made? Was it uncomfortable changing someone else’s work? What’s the difference between revising their journal tableau and revising something more personal to you? What qualifications do you need to have to give feedback on something like this? Explain that while feedback is valuable, it is not law. Discuss “The Brain Trust” from Ed Catmull’s book “Creativity Inc.” and how directors are instructed to listen, but not to do what is told to them.


Step 2: Positive Candor — Ask the students to form a circle. Ask them to look around the circle and think of positive things about themselves. Explain that being honest is not the same as bragging. Ask each student in the circle to say something positive about themselves. When each person has gone, ask the students how they felt about this. Was it tough? Why or why not?


Go around again and ask them to be candid, or vulnerable about something they think about themselves. It can be positive or negative, but something they think is pretty straight forward. When each person steps forward and says the thing, ask if anyone in the circle feels the same about that person or might have a different perspective. This should be largely affirming as students may say things like “I think I’m awkward” or “I have a weird face” and other students would seek to “revise” their train of thought in honest ways. If needed, intervene in positive ways. At the end of the circle, explain that even though we are the most aware of ourselves or our work, sometimes other people have perspectives that can help us reinforce what we think about ourselves.


Step 3: Becoming the expert — Hand out the poetry packets to each student. Ask them to take a few minutes and silently look through the topics that they feel most familiar with.  After a few minutes when the students have found things that they are comfortable with, ask them to find or create a few short examples of this as their “body of evidence” that they are indeed experts. Experts should be able to ideally both recognize and reproduce certain things. Have them share their “body of evidence” with peers and ask each student to both share and verify that another person is a relative “expert” on that subject. When this has happened, hand out the nametags and have them write the thing(s) that they are experts in on the name tags so we can seek to ask questions of them as we enter the revising process.


Step 4:  Poetry Sharing and Revising — ***Initially, this was going to be done in small groups, but with the nature of my class being small and not having handed in many drafts, we did it together as a class. I feel this worked better and will do it this way in the future unless I have a very large class, the biggest adaptation would be that students become experts of multiple things in small groups and students share selections of their own work for revision rather than me sharing pieces as you’ll see***


Take copies of all of the texts that you have been given by students. Find snippets of the poems that are interesting but not deeply revealing. Read these snippets aloud to the class (or if planning ahead, perhaps project them). DO NOT reveal who the student is that you’re drawing from. Ask students first to share what they feel positively about in terms of the piece. Then ask them what they feel would be interesting to try revising, or things that they noticed as things to amend.


Write these things on the board in a visual way. Then ask the experts to share ideas for how they can reinforce or revise portions of what is read. Have 3-6 experts share on each poem and ensure that all students are participating by both accepting volunteers with feedback and asking for specific skill sets to try with the poems. Doing this should take 4-8 minutes per poem depending on how much the students have to say about these things. Doing this for 5-8 poems should be more than sufficient, but be sure to seek out a myriad of tactics and feedback about poems.


Step 5 : Bringing in the Closer –  When students have finished engaging in this process, or there are 10 minutes left in class, enable the students to go back and ask “experts” in the class for feedback about specific excerpts of their poems. Side coach and help students to stay on-task thinking about improving their performances.