Revision Fun—Varying Narrative Leads


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Most of the students I work with don’t inherently love to revise their writing. A willingness to play with words is something they need to develop.

I tell students that for me, writing is a bit like playing with play dough. I pinch, pull, moosh, remove, and add until I end up with a finished product that brings satisfaction.

One of the best ways to be revision ready is to have an understanding of things we might try. This is developed authentically when we read like a writer. Paying attention to what authors do will give us a strong jumping-off point for trying it in our own work.

A great place to start is to revise the lead of a story. Playing with how a story begins is less overwhelming than asking a student to revise their whole piece.

This activity helps students become aware of the different ways authors begin a narrative and inspires them to try a few different leads in their own work before deciding on the one they like best.

The lesson:

1. Introduce the six types of leads on slide two of the PowerPoint below. 

2. Have students fill out a bingo, one category per box (they will have to use them more than once).

3. Work through the PowerPoint as a whole group, identifying the kind of lead each author used. Students may cross off one square per lead on their BINGO card. (You do not need the books for these; everything you need is in the PowerPoint. Add some leads from your personal favorites or from books you’ve read aloud this year.)

4. Play until a few students get a BINGO or a blackout.

5. Tell students that next time they work on writing, they should choose three of the lead types and write all three for a current piece of writing. Then have them choose the one they think is the strongest beginning. Students generally enjoy this type of revision. The enthusiasm continues, and students will try various leads in their new work. 

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