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Back and Forth

Using an Editor’s Mindset to Improve Student Writing

Back and Forth is for every teacher who dreads the next story about the winning goal or another retelling of a student’s favorite book. It shows how to push writers to do great work by giving yourself a title change during writing time—from teacher to classroom editor.

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Full Description

Back and Forth is for every teacher who dreads the next story about the winning goal or another retelling of a student’s favorite book. It shows how to push writers to do great work by giving yourself a title change during writing time—from teacher to classroom editor.

From writing teacher to editor 

Editors are the crucial, unseen collaborators of published authors. Lee Heffernan describes how by adopting that role she helps student-authors dig in and produce dramatically better writing. Relying on both student-centered pedagogy and the experiences of numerous professional writers and editors, Lee gives you a highly practical blueprint for modeling some of your classroom writing time after the operation of a small publishing house. This model helps kids see that you are more than their teacher and motivates them to create finely tuned finished products.

Three keys to success 

Lee shows how as classroom editor a commitment to three key principles can make all the difference:

  • Relationships: Establishing a partnership where your expectation for high-quality revision is explicit as is your honoring of a writer’s purpose and intentions
  • Texts: Making bold suggestions for improvement while respecting the writer’s ownership of the work
  • Readership: Always keeping audience in mind, and conveying to the writer how the reader’s expectations influence revision suggestions.

Your students’ won’t only improve their writing but also produce books that your school community will value.

Increased motivation for revision 

Do you wish that students would take your revision suggestions more seriously? Or that everyone in your classroom would internalize your high expectations for revision? Then take Lee Heffernan’s classroom-proven suggestions. Try Back and Forth, and you might never again have to hear “I like it the way it is.”

(click any section below to continue reading)

In Depth

Throughout this book, I review writing research about revising and publishing student texts. Along the way, I also explore the various ways editors work with authors and share how an editor’s frame of mind can be applied to writing workshops in our classrooms. Drawing on literature about writing as well as publishing, I introduce ways that a teacher-as-editor model can help us shift our ways of thinking about texts. As teacher–editors, we can be more involved with revision and give our students the kind of guidance that resembles what editors do for and with professional writers.

In the following chapters, I explore what I’ve learned about how writing research supports a teacher-as-editor frame of mind in the writing workshop:

  • Chapter 1, “Introducing a Small Press Publishing Model to Student Writers”: Before becoming an editor for students, we need to build student knowledge base about the ins and outs of the world of publishing.
  • Chapter 2, “Fostering Relationships: Keeping Revision Work Positive and Productive”: As classroom editors, we can use a range of strategies for building trusting relationships with student writers during the tough work of revising.
  • Chapter 3, “Improving Texts: Advocating for Student Writing”: An editor reads a text to give the writer substantive feedback. A multipurpose revision template (Four Reads) can help teacher–editors explore and bring new meanings to their texts.
  • Chapter 4, “Connecting with Readers: Being Mindful of Purpose and Audience”: Along with authors, editors bring new ideas and stories into the world of readers. This chapter delves into the importance of bringing greater awareness of the impact student texts can have on readers.
  • Chapter 5, “Frequently Asked Questions About the Classroom Press”: In this final chapter I review some questions that teachers often bring up when they consider taking up a teacher-as-editor model.

Roald Dahl benefited from the substantive feedback his editors provided. Because of editor suggestions, he deleted chapters and rewrote whole sections of his books. Our students deserve the same kind of attention and care. I want my students to know that as their editor, I’ve got their backs. As we become editors in our classroom publishing houses, we’ll pass manuscripts back and forth as we work with students to publish texts that are the best they can be. Our classroom presses may be small, but together with our students, we can publish creative texts that explore big ideas.

— From the Introduction


Companion Resources

Figure 1.1 - Publisher Scavenger Hunt

Figure 2.8 - Four Reads Revision Template


"As I read Lee’s book, page by page, like my favorite novel, I found it hard to tear myself away. I wanted to know more, see more, and soak in each student sample. It is impossible to read this book and not get chills up your spine about the possibilities for writers."

—Rozlyn Linder, author of The Big Book of Details