Swag Matters

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My mom often teases me, saying that when I walk through the aisles of stores that feature school supplies, I pet things like post-its and markers, kind of like how some people stroke blankets or sweaters to feel how soft they might be when shopping. One Valentines Day, I opened a small gift bag from my sister and was delighted to find that it contained an assortment of colored post-it notes. She knows me well.

A few years back, when Mary Ehrenworth was working as a staff developer at our school, she modeled using her writing notebook as an interactive tool. She had glued in colorful pieces of paper to create pockets for holding checklists and mentor texts. She even had envelopes to hold topics she wasn’t quite ready to write about… yet. She told us “swag matters” and it was as if she was speaking to my soul. Tools are automatically more enticing when printed on colorful paper or even shrunk down to micro versions. Post its, colorful pens, and washi tape can add an element of fun to the writing process and as well as a layer of engagement.

For the past few years, we’ve explored the use of “swag,” creating a school of flair pen loving kids and copying tools onto neon colored paper in an effort to make them things kids remember and refer to when writing.

This year, our school based literacy team has decided to focus on improving our understanding of the writing process and how this can help us differentiate instruction for our writers. We specifically decided to concentrate on revision during our last session with our 3-5 TC staff developer, Jessica Mazzone.

Jessica shared new tools outlining how revision looks different across the writing process as well as different kinds of revision. Together we brainstormed ways to use these tools, including modeling revision through shared writing.

Jessica had put together ziplock bags filled with revision tools including colored pens, tape, various sized papers to use for adding text, as well as different sized post-its.

Many teachers had reported that most kids don’t like revising and are often reluctant to change their pieces after drafting. In our lab classes kids said that revision was “annoying” and that they didn’t like having to make changes to their writing. We have noticed that most kids may change a word here or there, but revisions tend to be small and not always purposeful.

Well, all of that seemed to change as we began introducing new tools and materials to support revision. It seemed that we had begun to change the vision for revision. “I thought revision just meant taking things out,” some kids reported. By changing this perception, we were able to get kids thinking about the meaningful changes they might make and the tools they needed to make it happen.

Adding to their writing using fun materials added an excitement that was palpable. It’s been so exciting to see kids across grade levels embracing revision in new and exciting ways. Mindsets are shifting. Where we once saw glimpses of revision, we now see evidence of revision across most students’ pieces.

I’ve always known that supplies matter to me. They also matter to kids. I’m excited to see where we can go with this newfound openness to such an important part of writing.

8 thoughts on “Swag Matters

  1. Two words from Mary “swag matters” really did influence many! This slice takes us back time and shows us the progression of swag to revision to independent revision. It’s so exciting to see kids playing with their ideas, their writing, their process all in the name of growing themselves, their writing, and their process! Great tribute to all the work!

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  2. I can see this relatively simple act influencing not just students but their teachers. When we freely give the tools to students we send the message that they are the writers and in that can take charge of the changes. This seems like a perfect low stakes way for teachers to let go of control of the tools and the revision. Thanks, Jess.

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  3. It’s incredible what having some cool tools can do to transform revision and make it about the joyful re-seeing of one’s writing.

    BTW: I think I heard Mary Ehrenworth talk about that at TC too! I’ll have to check my notes.

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  4. I am so glad to know that someone else pets the school supplies… Seriously, though, I went to a Kittle & Gallagher workshop this summer, and we used all sorts of colored pens and highlighters as we worked. And you know what? I did that at the beginning of this semester & then I kind of forgot about it. I think it’s time to dig into my school supplies again & see if I can get the kids to have a new vision of revision. Love this post! (and all the post-its)

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