Tuesday, May 24, 2011

REAL REVISION by Kate Messner- A MUST READ Professional Book for Writing Teachers

If you are a teacher of writing, you will want to put REAL REVISION by Kate Messner on your stack of books to read this summer. As a matter of fact, I would put it as close to the top of that stack as possible. I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of this book and I read it cover to cover over the weekend. This book is due out from Stenhouse on May 30. If I were you, I would preorder it now.

Here's the thing, Kate Messner is amazing. I have never met her, but she is a middle school English teacher, an author of children's books (SUGAR AND ICE and MARTY MCGUIRE brand new this year) and now an author of this new professional book from Stenhouse. I am not sure how the woman does it but she does it all so well!

I read a lot of professional books on literacy. I love so many of them but REAL REVISION totally wowed me.  It is fresh and unique. It looks hard at the life of real authors and their process for revision and then looks at how to bring those authentic strategies into the classroom. This is more than a bunch of lessons on revision--it is a book about creating a classroom where revision is valued.  For anyone working to create a more authentic writing workshop, this book is a must read. Although the description on the Stenhouse website puts this as a grades 5-9 book, I think it stretches down to grades 2 or 3.

This is a book that only someone like Kate Messner could have written.  She has the perspective of a writer and a teacher--a teacher who is currently teaching and dealing with the pressures of testing and mandates. To be able to read thoughts from an author on her real writing process and then to read about how she makes that same thing happen in her classroom is so helpful.  Kate says this about the book in her intro, "It’s about real authors and how they revise the real books that are on your library shelves.  It’s full of secrets-revision tips and tricks that more than forty trade-book authors generously shared so that you can share them with your students.”

You can hear Kate talk about her new revision book on this video from Stenhouse.

There is so much to love about this book--here goes:

#1 Kate doesn't try to make revision work with students look easy. She knows it is hard work but well worth it.

#2 She helps us rethink the writing process a bit--moving away from the linear way kids are expected to write in some classrooms to really helping teachers understand the back-and-forth nature of the process itself.

#3 We hear from so many great authors. Kate doesn't only tell her revision stories and strategies. She has talked to 40 children and young adult authors who also share their revision tricks and strategies. These authors give freely of their writing process so that teachers can better support their students as writers. Kate includes quotes, strategies, true stories of revision in the children's book world and more.  TRY IT sheets are included throughout the book and in the Appendix.  Many of these are invitations for students to try a revision strategy shared by an author in the book. And these are children's authors that our students will know or will want to know. We learn about the real revision work in the book on our shelves.

#4  Kate gives the clear message that there is no right way to revise. Through her stories and the stories of the authors included, we learn that there are many ways to revise and many tricks specific to an author.   This is a huge thing to remember in our classrooms--our students need many possibilities for revision work.  Luckily, Kate creates a picture of her classroom for us that is woven throughout the story so that we can see how this might be done.

#5 A great little perk of this book is that you get to meet some great children's and YA authors that you might not know. I knew several of the authors who contributed to the book (Kirby Larson, Kathi Appelt, Cynthia Lord, Eric Luper, Tom Angleberger...) but also heard from some whose work I don't know. I added some new authors to my summer reading pile.  Kate not only shares the revision strategies, but we get information on new books as well as author websites.

#6 One chapter is dedicated to how to support kids whose writing is already good-how do we lift the teaching and revision work so that everyone can grow as writers? How can we move beyond saying, "Good job!" to those writers?

#7 The book is filled with practical examples.  Kate has photos of her real work as a writer and her real work as a classroom teacher. We see how she brings this authenticity to her students.  Throughout the book, she gives us specific ways to help students with a revision strategy. She even tells us the tools to use. She introduces us to a few technology tools that support revision and gives us step sheets on how to give those a try.  She also shares great ways for using tools such as colored pencils, color-coded sticky notes and more. Many of these stories include writing samples from her students.

#8  Kate includes revision strategies for fiction and nonfiction. 

#9 The last chapter pulls things together for us as readers.  The book is packed.  225+ pages of revision work.  I was trying to figure out how I would remember all that she tells us but the end chapter pulls together the big ideas--those ideas that are important to create a classroom where this is possible. I see this as a book to read once cover to cover and then go back to throughout the school year to revisit strategies, stories, and samples that might work with students.

I can't tell you how excited I am about this book.  This is one of those books I'll be telling everyone about--a must read for anyone who teaches writing.  I see it as a book for teachers of grades 2-12 for sure. Authenticity in Writing Workshop is so important and this book can help us create one that is so much more real for our students.  Revision is such a hard idea for all of us.  It is so complex. Trying to fit it in to an already packed day is hard and it is easy to give up. But revision is key to the writing process. At one point in the book, Kate says, “If we’re not making time for the part of the process, are we really teaching writing?”  So true. 

More from Kate Messner on revision here:

For more information on Kate's books, visit her website and her blog. MrSchuReads also has a great post on Kate that gives info on this book as well as some of her others.

An online preview of the book should be available on the Stenhouse site now! I would get right over there and start reading. You'll want to order a copy to tab and go back to, but you can get a great preview of the book now!


  1. Sounds like a great book, one that would be helpful to adults as well as kids. Thanks for reviewing this.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing about this book. I've had my eye on it since Kate posted it on her blog. I was leary about purchasing it since I teach younger children, but your post has changed my mind. I'm preordering my copy today. SO EXCITED!!!

  3. This sounds like an incredible book. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  4. Wow! I have this book on my list, but now it just moved waaaaay up. What a review. My son loves Kate's writing, and she was so kind to him when they met at the Rochester Children's Book Festival. Thank you for your review; as a teacher and writer who just spent the evening changing one line back and forth thirty times, I need this book!

  5. Putting it on top of the pile! Thank you for the review! Sounds like a must have!


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