Add. Change. Remove. This is a strategy we use in our 2nd grade writing workshop to explain the revision process. In the lesson, which I think originally was an idea from a Six Traits lesson, the students create with Play-Doh and then at various intervals are asked to add something to their creation. Then they are asked to add another feature or two. Eventually, the students are asked to change something, and finally, they are asked to remove something they created. The children are allowed time to talk through their creative process. Usually, this has been done through a gallery walk. This year, during our COVID structure (remote, hybrid, in-class), we used a document camera and asked students to explain their thinking.
As I reflect on this activity, I realize that Add. Change. Remove. is not only a revision or creative process, it is the cycle of life. We are born. Many people, places and events are added to make our lives rich and interesting. Then people, places, and ideas change. Over the years things are removed from our lives until ultimately we are removed. Instead of this being a morbid anxiety producing thought, it has become a comforting thought. We all are going through a natural process, and I need to be mindful of the powerful and wondrous journey we are on. Sometimes, I am so intent on adding, adding, adding that I forget to sit back and enjoy all I have. Sometimes, I am either so desperate for change or so anxious about change that I forget to think about what lessons I can learn from these changes. I forget to ask myself: How have I grown? And finally, I am aware of what has been removed from my life – both positive and negative. I am learning to be grateful for what I have and what I have lost.
Add. Change. Remove. – such a valuable skill for students to utilize in their writing; such a powerful life force to embrace. This week, I decided to apply this strategy to my art and poetry.
My collage below is in process of play. I am creating, adding, changing, and removing until I am satisfied with the composition. I am not sure how the final product will turn out, but I am enjoying the process. I think this method allows me to not get so set on the final image. It doesn’t have to be perfect. I can play until I am pleased.
If I extend this idea to my poetry, I encourage myself to think more fluidly. The words and images can be played with. They don’t have to be set in stone so quickly. I can create many versions, read them aloud, stand back to appreciate their impact and choose what expression I want to publish.
Sparrows Gather I Dusty-feathered bodies In constant motion Heads turn, wings flutter, Eyes blink, feet twitch Hopping from one Place to another The birdbath, the bench, The old stone toad All-a-flutter, all-a-chatter Recalling memories of summer Warm sun, sweet rain They sing of worms and seeds Just plain brown birds So numerous, so common Sparrows Gather II Just plain brown birds, So numerous, so common, In constant motion. Dusty-feathered bodies: Heads turn, wings flutter, Eyes blink, feet twitch. Hopping from one place to another: The birdbath, the bench, the old stone toad. All-a-flutter, all-a-chatter, Sparrows sing of worms and seeds.
As I begin a new school week, I think about using this poetry idea with our curious 2nd graders. I plan to use the William Carlos Williams’ “As the Cat” and have the children recite it, visualize it, and the write their own versions.
Some questions to help students to re-imagine the poem could be:
What color is the cat?
Where is the jam closet?
What does a jam closet look like?
What color, size, shape is it?
Is it empty or filled with jam jars?
What color, size, shape is the flowerpot?
Make it a different animal.
Make a different place the animal climbs.
Make a different place the animal steps into.
Show another way the animal walks.
Reread your poem.
Remove any words you think would make the poem stronger.
I am so curious to see what the children will create. I hope they begin to understand the awesome pleasure and power of Add. Change. Remove.