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Unifying Paragraphs

Student holding a colorful puzzle piece

Sometimes writers must cut their favorite sentences because they don’t support the focus. Stephen King calls this process, “Killing your darlings.” It is one of the most effective revising strategies—and one of the most painful.

Asking students to cut their writing can lead to quizzical stares. They often believe more writing is better writing. And for students who put a great deal of effort into expressing an idea, having to delete or reimagine that idea can feel demoralizing.

Students need to know that cutting is a normal part of the writing process. All good writers do it.

Featured Activity: Revising for Unity

To introduce cutting as a revising strategy, have your students check their paragraphs for unity.

Download the PDF or copy the Google Doc.

Revising to Elaborate Ideas Activity

Teacher Support

Consider this support as you implement the lesson.


Grades 4-9

Learning Objectives

By completing this activity, students will . . .

  • Apply an effective revising strategy.
  • Create unified paragraphs.
  • Cut unnecessary details.
  • Read critically for a clear topic sentence and relevant supporting details.
  • Respond to a peer's writing.

Teaching Tips

  1. Make sure students know that making necessary cuts is actually a sign of a strong writer, not a weak one. Sometimes less is more.
  2. Offer some examples of well-known writers cutting material. For instance, Lin-Manuel Miranda cut and reimagined a number of songs and scenes in his hit musical Hamilton.
  3. Model (or reflect on) cutting something from your own writing. Explain your reasoning behind your decision. Be honest about the way the cut made you feel.
  4. Help students revise from a reader’s perspective. As they revise, recommend they ask, "What does this sentence reveal to my reader? Will it help my reader understand my idea? Will it create confusion?"
  5. Assign "Enrichment: Get Peer Support." The best way for students to understand their readers’ perspectives is through peer revision.
  6. Help students write strong topic sentences with the minilesson “Forming a Focus.”