Roald Dahl once said, “By the time I am nearing the end of a story, the first part will have been reread and altered and corrected at least one hundred and fifty times. I am suspicious of both facility and speed. Good writing is essentially rewriting. I am positive of this.”
While I believe Dahl is right, if my children thought they had to revise a story one hundred and fifty times or even ten times to produce a quality writing assignment, they’d never pick up a pencil again. If not one hundred and fifty times though, what is the right amount?
How many times should we let our children retake a test, re-do an assignment, rework math problems, or revise their writing? Should they have do their best the very first time with no chance to correct a mistake or should they be given as many times as needed to get it right?
Depending on whom you talk to, the answer will vary. If you believe, as I do, the point of an assessment is to see what the student retained so they can continue to build skills and grow, then like me, you believe revision is essential. Revision though can sometimes feel like a punishment. A redo can make a child feel like they failed.. I wonder if instead of asking how many times should my child revise, we ask, how can I help my child see revision as part of the learning process.
Before however, we ask a child to retake a test or re-do a worksheet, we need to make sure the assessment truly captured what we hoped to assess. A child who struggles with test taking or writing may be able to answer all the test questions correctly when they are asked orally. Instead of assessing what a child knows about American History (the lesson), the way your testing could instead, be assessing their test-taking, reading, or writing skills. A child with learning disabilities or who struggles with sitting still or following directions might struggle with workbooks, a hands on assignment may be a better option.
Is a blank page truly an assessment of what a child knows, or how they are being asked to show what they know?
Once we figure out what our children need to learn, it’s important we, embrace revision. We have to check in with ourselves often. Do we want our child to hurry up and get something done so we can check it off a list regardless of the outcome or mastery? Which is the public school approach. Or do we want our child to really learn the material? Here are five ways we can all see the importance of revision and help our children find success.
1. Focus on a Growth Mindset
Revision is an important part of the learning process. It is not the final step, nor is it a means to perfection. There is no end point when it comes to learning. The more we practice and dig into a new or old skill, the more we deepen our knowledge.
Assessments given without the chance for revision can offer students the idea that their learning has come to an end. It ends in one of two way.
They get an A+, the skill is mastered, and it's time to move on.
They fail and therefore know nothing.
While neither is true we have to stop them from getting caught in that trap. When we encourage students to revise, rework, and relearn skills often, we empower them to become lifelong learners.
2. Allow Plenty of Time
One of the most important things I've learned on this journey is learning is not a race. Homeschooling allows us to slow down and give our children plenty of time to make sure learning actually happens. Why take the time learning something new if we are just having them memorize it to regurgitate it for a test, just to forget it immediately after. We can always slow down or speed up our curriculum as needed. We can always pause and come back when our child is ready, break down skills into smaller parts, and take our time when we need to. Just remember education is a lot like early childhood. While the "experts" tell us our kids are supposed to do X Y Z by this specific time, our kids are very unique and always do things in their own time.
3. Help Kids Practice Skills in a Variety of Ways
Drilling kids or using a method that isn't working over and over will only lead to frustration and a hatred of the subject matter. Once you identify a skill your child needs to work on, use a variety of ways to help them practice. If your child needs to work on fractions, try cooking something together. Play games where they can practice multiplication, spelling, and grammar. Approaching learning from different angles keeps learning fun, use multimedia, put together puzzles, and apply hands-on methods. The more fun and engaging learning is the more it will stick.
4. It's Okay to Practice One Skill At a Time
When revising an essay by hand it allows a child to practice both handwriting and writing at the same time, doing so over and over could lead them to not only hate revision but handwriting as well. Computers can make revision a lot less painful. Once they get their writing assignment just the way it needs to be, they can always copy it or do something else completely to practice their handwriting.
The same can be said for Math. Instead of the spiral method traditionally taught in public school you can choose to work on one concept at a time. That is why we love Math U See. It is taught in a linear fashion where one thing builds off the other to ensure mastery.
5. There Are Many Ways to Revise
Revision doesn’t have to look like red pen marks and rewriting the same paragraph over and over till perfection is reached. It should never feel like a punishment. If a child is struggling with organizing their writing, have them cut up their paragraphs and sentences and revise by rearranging them in a more cohesive manner. Make it a scavenger hunt with their writing and have them first find all the capitalization errors then look for the spelling errors or missing periods. Give them fun pens and let them grade themselves. It can be a baking lesson where you divide or multiply the recipe. It can be puzzles or games that reinforce the lesson through play which is how most children young and old learn best.
You don't even have to call it revision. Just continuing to learn.
When we help our children embrace a growth mindset, offer plenty of time to learn and practice a skill, make sure the assessment is measuring what needs to be assessed, practice one skill at a time, and use revision as tool instead something that feels tedious or like a punishment, the number of times something takes to master doesn't matter. What matters is that the learning is happening, the child finds success, and the child is motivated to continue learning.
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