How to Empower Your Students to be Strong Writers with Essay Revising

Revising is the step of the writing process where the writing really improves.  The elements of revising take an essay from drab to fab.  Teaching students essay revising is hard, mostly because they don’t want to participate.  I have asked myself, as I am sure many teachers have, “How do I get my students to revise?” 

I Learned to Love Essay Revising

As I neared the end of high school and entered college I began to love having my papers covered in red notes from revising and editing.  I appreciated it when I could hand a paper to my sister to read and she would mark it up bright red.  I always took advantage of a college professor who would read my essays before they were due and give me feedback.  I knew by that point in my academic career that all those notes on my drafts were going to make my papers better and get me a better grade.

Revising Meaning

Our students do not understand how revision is a good and vital part of the writing process.  They don’t understand why it is important to do the extra work or what the extra work is.  If I let them, my students will skip over the step of revising (and editing) every single time. Would your students do the same?

Spectacular Revising Synonym

Revising is such a drab word. It’s the word that is hung on the poster in the classroom.  It’s a word students like to ignore and try to avoid.  Here are a few synonyms you can use to explain revising to your students.  I looked them up and loved how true they were to the writing process.

  • Amend
  • Correct
  • Alter
  • Change
  • Adapt
  • Rewrite
  • Redraft
  • Rescript
  • Recast
  • Rephrase
  • Rework
  • Update
  • Revamp
  • Reconsider
  • Review
  • Re-examine
  • Reassess
  • Re-evaluate
  • Reappraise
  • Rethink
  • Think over
  • Take another look at
  • Take a fresh look at
  • Look at in a different light
  • Have another think about
  • Modify

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What is Essay Revising?

Revising is when we add or take away from our writing.  When we revise, we add words, sentences, and even paragraphs that clarify what we are saying.  We might rearrange sentences, paragraphs, or even an entire essay.  Revising is more than adding to writing though.  It’s when we take away parts that are confusing or extra words that don’t help the reader understand the message.  One of my extra words is “really,” I use it way too much.  Taking parts out of my writing to make it better was something I was not good at in school. 

Revising is all the things we do that make our writing flow better. The key to getting our students to revise is to require it. Nobody wants to do more work. We can use the writing process, mini-lessons, application, and group work to help our students with essay revising.  Professional athletes have coaches, professional writers have publishers, teachers have principals, and every employee has a boss. There is someone who makes sure the work gets done the right way with the right steps and tools. Our students aren’t going to magically be more motivated than any other person.


Use the Writing Process for Essay Revising

Your students should expect to go through the entire writing process with each writing assignment.  Here’s a quick breakdown:

  1. Prewriting 

Prewriting is where our students will some sort of graphic organizer to come up with ideas.  Often times I will have my students brainstorm ideas and information before I give them the full assignment because they just want to skip this step.  If you’d like a detailed breakdown of strategies for prewriting read 13 Strategies for Prewriting to Help Your Students Efficiently Produce Writing

  1. Drafting

Drafting is where our students are excited about the assignment and just want to write.  Let them write without any corrections, lessons, or expectations.  They need to get their ideas out. If you’d like to learn more about drafting in the writing process take a look at this article, Clever Tips Every Teacher Needs to Know For Successfully Writing the Draft.

  1. Revising

Revising is where students will spend a lot of time learning through mini-lessons because you can create a mini-lesson or any part of writing your students are struggling with.  Some revision mini-lessons you will likely teach for a narrative are: writing a hook, sensory detail, descriptive language, dialogue, literary devices, changing boring or overused words and phrases, taking out extra or confusing words, adding sentences for clarification, moving sentences, and paragraphs around, writing a conclusion.

  1. Editing

Editing is where your students make final corrections to writing that has a good flow and clear message or story. You will help your students polish their writing with mini-lessons on punctuation, spelling, commas, subject/verb agreement, proper nouns, and capitalization.  This is where you are trying to get your students to apply their grammar lessons to their writing.

  1. Publishing

Publishing is when your students make all the final changes, give their work one last read-through, and turn it in and share it.

Applying Mini-Lessons to Essay Revising

The mini-lessons you teach your students will be unique to your class.  They will likely change every year and you will learn which core lessons to stick with and which ones you will only use sometimes.  Mini-lessons are great, but if students don’t apply them to their writing they are useless. 

Say you teach a mini-lesson on sensory details.  Your students should spend at least 10 minutes of their writing time reading through their writing and adding sensory detail or underlining sensory details they already wrote in purple colored pencil.  Mandating the color makes it easy for you to check that they are applying the lesson you just taught to their writing.

Help Your Students Realize Essay Revising is Something They Already Do.

Our students don’t realize they often already revise their work.  Sometimes we start revisions while we are writing our first draft.  We write a sentence or two, get stuck, reread, and cross it out.  Once our students realize that they do in fact revise and they might buy in a little more.  Their writing and grades could be even better if they write without the restriction of trying to make it perfect and revise intentionally.


Students also don’t realize they are revising because as we teach them different mini-lessons to help them revise, we forget to them it’s a revision mini-lesson.  We jump straight into the lesson, give them the big details, but never tell them that writing a better hook or adding sensory details is revising.  It’s either the time crunch teachers are constantly under, simply we don’t realize it’s revising ourselves, or we don’t know that we need to tell them.

Fix Right Now – Essay Revising with a Group

I read this genius idea on a blog once and can’t find it again, but it’s so perfect I want to share it. If you have or want to have your students work in groups to give feedback this is for you.  When I have my students revise each other’s work they share, go back to their seats, “think” about the feedback, and then declare they are done.  Their writing doesn’t get any better.

One teacher has a rule where the students in the group work together to revise a particular problem section of their writing right then and there.  The group doesn’t move on until they work together to find a revision that improves the piece of writing.  This method stops students from avoiding revisions.

Leaving Room For Essay Revising on Student Drafts

As we have discussed, essay revising is adding to and subtracting from writing to improve the flow and clarity.  This requires room on the page.  Lots of us have students skip lines when they write.  There are a good amount of teachers that have students write on one side of the page. The Not So Wimpy Teacher shared one of the most excellent tips I’ve ever heard.  She had her students leave a wide margin for notes and revisions.  Simply adding a wide margin creates enough space to easily make changes.  I have had students say something like, “There isn’t enough room so I will just say this.” #ProblemSolved

More Poetry and Writing Articles

13 Strategies for Prewriting to Help Your Students Efficiently Produce Writing 

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Narrative Writing How To: 9 Easy Strategies for Teacher

5 Incredible Benefits of Teaching Poetry and Writing

Here is Your FREE Prompt for Writing Poetry

I know that you needed a prompt to help kickstart your students’ writing.  Here is an entire lesson for FREE.  My Our School Poem guides students through using sensory language to describe their school. The step-by-step directions guide your class through the writing process with all the necessary worksheets make this the perfect lesson for your classroom.

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