After students have written writer's notebook entries for about a month, I ask them to go back, reread their entries, and choose around five they like or would want to revise. Then I hand them a glue stick and a copy of the rewrite square to the right (here's the file if you want a copy).
This gives students a place to start and helps them identify what's good, rather than misspellings, grammar issues, or poor organization. None of these things matter when creating the bedrock for mining. Identifying what works is the vein of gold we're looking for.
When they've finished marking up this first one, I introduce Graves and Kittle's (2005) concept of the heartbeat (p. 10-1). The heartbeat is the writer's wish for the piece or what they want the reader to take from it. Often there's a line that embodies this. I may ask students to look for the heartbeat in that first piece, or to go on and re-read their second selected entry, using the second rewrite square in the file above.
Here's an example straight from my writer's notebook:
[I met Noel at summer camp.] She was the manager at the ranch office across the highway and pretty forward about where she saw our relationship going. "I want you to play your guitar for me," where the first words she ever said to me. Never having a girlfriend before, at 18 years old, I was more than happy to oblige, and follow it up with a 30-minute make-out session afterwards.The heartbeat is underlined. What the piece is mostly about is in brackets. The bolded words are words that I liked. As we'll see in the next post, my heartbeat changed, as they sometimes do as one writes more.
Weeks later, I left notes in the various pockets of her duffel bag, "I love you" written on each one.
Once students have done this with the five pieces, they choose one to rewrite. They keep what they like, move the heartbeat around, and try to bring in more of what they liked in the original entry. All this is still done in the writer's notebook.
In the next post, I'll showcase the narrative essay outline I used with students this past year. There's nothing five-paragraphy about it.
Graves, D. H., & Kittle, P. (2005). Inside writing: How to teach the details of craft. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.