Brave Writer Writing

Snip & Pin Revision with High School Essays

If you use Brave Writer in your homeschool, you’ve likely heard or read about “snip and pin” where you cut apart you child’s writing during revision. The details of this exercise are in The Writer’s Jungle, pages xxi-xxii and again on page 86.

When I first read about it, I thought I’d missed the boat because I didn’t come to Brave Writer until I had a high schooler. Clearly this exercise was for little kids.

Nope. No boat missed. You can effectively use snip and pin with your high schooler’s essays too.

Snip and Pin In Action

“Pinning” an expository essay

See how my son is sorting things out into multiple paragraphs? That’s the point. Getting your teen to think what belongs where, how ideas sort into paragraph topics, how details fit together in support of topics, and where there are holes to flesh out.

And that’s not even mentioning the benefit for kinesthetic learners, especially for boy brains. Instead of the floor, spread it out on a table, walk and move around the table as you sort out their ideas. Moving the body helps energize the brain.

How Mom Steps In As Support

This is what essay writing looks like when you combine snip and pin and Jot It Down in the post-freewrite stage. (All of those are Brave Writer techniques to support writing. If you don’t know Brave Writer, here’s where you can learn more.) We take a sentence I snipped out of the freewrite – the “narrow” part of narrow & expand in TWJ chapter 7 – and then I ask questions to help expand his original thought. I jot down his answer while he talks. I grab the next snipped sentence that needs expansion, tape it to the page, ask questions, jot down answers. Repeat as needed.

My take-dictation-as-fast-as-possible sloppy handwriting fits right in with the messy process of writing. More people should talk about the messy process that is essay writing. You guys, IT’S MESSY. It was such a relief once I heard “authorities” say it should look like a mess, that it’s normal for teenage writing to be so messy.

So, we need to allow space for this ‘messy’ writing that honors student’s development as thinkers and writers. Messy writing, though, requires a great deal from us as teachers.

Campbell & Latimer, Beyond the Five Paragraph Essay

Why do you think Brave Writer’s manual is titled The Writer’s Jungle? Jungles aren’t neatly organized cities designed on a grid system. You know, based on a FORMAT. Oh no. Jungles are wild places. And so is teenage writing.

Independent Learning is a Myth

Throw out the myth of independent learners. Your teenager needs your direct help and support to learn this skill. Get into the mess with them. And don’t freak out about the messiness. I think sometimes we homeschool parents want to default back to format-focused writing curriculums because, well, that’s what we know from our own education. But we also underestimate how messy teenage writing is. Yet if we revert to focusing on format too early in the writing process, we potentially lose original insights from our teens that make a essay interesting to read.

There’s a way to work through it all to clarify their thinking. But it does require you to get down in the weeds too. Along with snip & pin, here are other tips I use for working through the revision stage with my teens.


P.S. Even I use snip and pin in my own writing. #walkthetalk



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Because time is short but memories are long.
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This homeschooling gig, man. It doesn’t come with much outside recognition for your hard work or a job well done. Mostly I’m fine with it. But some days...

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