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Take Two: Teaching Revision Through the Arts

Four tips on how the arts complement revision in the writing curriculum

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Learning to revise is like building a muscle. The more variety in how you use it makes it stronger and more effective. In fact, the revision “muscle” can be even stronger with support from the arts.

The arts and writing engage in parallel processes of revision. In writing, it is called revision and in the performing arts it is called rehearsal. Both lead to a better end product. The writer revises to create a better essay and the performer revises to create a better artwork. In addition, both revision and rehearsal teach process. In revising, students build skills in writing and in rehearsal students build skills in their art form.

Here are four useful tips for educators to try in the classroom:

Take 1 - #1 Revise through the arts. The arts can be a dynamic way to rethink a writing piece for many learning styles. Using drawing or storyboarding to rework an idea may open a door for more visual learners. More kinesthetic students may find that acting out their writing challenge through improvisation can help them realize a solution. Expressing their writing through dance can help students see how their piece flows—or doesn’t. Revision need not be limited to the sheet of paper or the computer screen. The arts can provide multiple modes of accessing new ideas.
Take 5 - #2 Connect dots. Help your students see the similarities between revision and rehearsal. Using similar language and strategies in teaching the arts and writing will help cement this connection and develop more sophisticated work on the part of students. For example, if you expect student editors to provide evidence for their feedback to peers, use the same strategy when teaching the arts. When watching others perform, students must use the same critical thinking skills required in revision. They must know what the criteria are and watch the performance for alignment with those criteria. Set expectations that the audience feedback will not rely on those old favorites, “It was good!” or “I liked it!” but draw on details as evidence to support their thinking.
Take 3 - #3 Teach persistence with master artists. Performing artists are not alone; visual artists also engage in constant revision. Artists throughout history have left behind sketches and notebooks, giving us glimpses into their artistic processes. These artifacts can provide a valuable lesson in persistence. It can be a struggle to engage student writers in meaningful revision. Examining early drafts of master works can illuminate the revision process for students. It is not uncommon to think a work of art springs from the artist’s paintbrush or pen. Examining the sketches along with a completed artwork can vividly illustrate the revision process and provide insight into perseverance and diligence.
Take 5 - #4 Practice. Learning in writing and the arts involves practice. Students are not expected to produce perfect essays or stories in the first draft. The same is true in the visual and performing arts. We don’t expect students to master a concept or create a work of art on the first try. They need to practice, rehearse, and revise, just like in writing. Practicing revision in multiple art forms allows students to build their revision “muscles,” making them more powerful.

Using the arts to support revising skills can be powerful differentiation in instruction for students. Their writing processes can be enriched by exploring ideas through dance or drawing. By complementing writing with the arts, opportunities abound for more thoughtful and meaningful learning.

Credits

Writers

Patti Saraniero
Original Writer

Editors & Producers

Lisa Resnick
Content Editor

Kenny Neal
Producer

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SUPPORTING INDIVIDUAL NEEDS

Use this collection of resources and articles to devise an approach for supporting individual needs in the classroom: from English Language Learners or students with disabilities, to conflict resolution and giving feedback.

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