At the end of the year, many schools publish literary magazines. It’s a wonderful way to help young writers see that they write for a purpose and an audience. Publication is also a powerful motivator for revision.
Before you send your literary magazine to the printer or post it online, give your students the opportunity to see “proof pages” of their entry. This simulates the real world model many magazines and publishing houses follow of giving authors one last final approval before publication. Explain to the students that this is their chance to look over their work and make any necessary changes before it is presented to the public. You might be surprised how seriously even elementary school students take this responsibility.
Presented with a typed and formatted version of their own writing, students will suddenly see repetitious or weak word choices. They will add snappier endings or beginnings and they will find typos you missed. Some will even come up with stronger titles.
I recently visited five third grade classes with proof pages of work most of them had completed at least two months prior. All of these students had previously seen their stories typed on an individual page. They had chosen the font type and formatting. However, when told that their work would be part of a grade level book, they re-read their work with a critical eye. Working in pairs, they read their own work and their partners', checking for mistakes and making suggestions. They were told to write on the papers directly and put a 0,+1, +2, +3, etc, indicating how many changes they wanted.
One boy who had been lackadaisical about his writing in earlier conferences suddenly had all sorts of details he urgently wanted added to his story. His proof page came back with +8! Another girl changed the sentence, “It was sooo beautiful,” to “She was enchanted by its beauty.” Student after student crossed out bland words for more descriptive ones.
And while I am not a proponent of changing ,“said,” simply for variety since there is no point in calling unnecessary attention to a speech tag, I was delighted when a child looked over his story and changed a “said” to “murmured.” The story was about a misunderstanding in a conversation. Indicating that one speaker mumbled, strengthened the whole story. Other third graders found inconsistencies in their stories such as “My mom drove the car. I don’t drive!” Or, “The story shouldn’t take place in 55 A.D.” I even saw students catch pronouns with no antecedents. Wow!
Publishing student work in a literary magazine is time-consuming and can be expensive, but it is a powerful tool for motivating students to do their best work. There is something about knowing your work will be in an anthology beside other pieces that makes young writers realize that a little extra effort might just be worth it.