Monday, March 31, 2014

Separating “Science Snippets”: An Exercise in Revision

Guest Post by Janet Wong

One of the hardest things for any writer is revision. You write something and fall in love with it: how could it you possibly make it any better?

I tell students: don’t try to make it better, just try to make it different.

If a poem rhymes, write a second draft that has zero rhyme. If a poem is long, cut it in half. If it’s short, double it. Use revision to give yourself some choices.

Here’s an easy exercise that will help you teach revision:

1.  Read a science poem from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science.
2.  Underline the science concepts.
3.  Extract a “Science Snippet” poem, using as few words as possible to communicate the main science ideas.
4.  If students want to keep some non-science words in the Science Snippet version, that’s OK.
5.  Read both poems aloud. Take a vote. Which poem do your students like better? (Ideally the vote will be split, to show how subjective the creative writing process is.)

Here is my poem “The Brink,” one of 218 science poems from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science (K-5 Teacher’s Edition), with a Take 5! mini-lesson for each poem by Sylvia Vardell:

 And here is one possible Science Snippet version:

The Brink (Science Snippet version)
by Janet Wong

I fill a cup to the top
with ice,
pour to the brim.
When the ice melts,
will my drink spill?
The ice seems to shrink.

It’s not clear to me that one version is better than the other—just different. I like the longer version (used in the book), but I’m sure that some people will prefer the Science Snippet. This revision exercise is effective because separating “the science parts” is easier than identifying “the best parts.” Students will be able to produce a significantly different version in just five minutes without anguishing over subjective choices.

Science + Poetry = A Powerful Revision Exercise!

Janet Wong is the co-creator (with Sylvia Vardell) of The Poetry Friday Anthology series. For more info, please visit!


  1. This is an awesome lesson idea to try! The state Reading Week theme is "Experiment with a Good Book" with an emphasis on science so I am definitely going to share this with my teacher. Thank you! Simple, practical strategies are always welcome!

  2. Thank you, Melanie! Good luck--and please let us know how your students do with this lesson!