Revising the Devotions

6, 7, 8

In this lesson, a representative from the partner early childhood organization visits the class, and students learn about the role of nonprofit organizations in the community. They continue to follow the writing process to revise and edit their devotions. Students pair up with a younger student to get input on the age-appropriateness of the writing.

PrintFive 45-Minute Sessions, Including time with younger students

The learner will:

  • describe the basic structure of a civil society organization.
  • explain how "separation of church and state" places religious institutions in the civil society sector.
  • give examples of how civil-society-sector giving can impact communities.
  • identify and describe how regional civil society organizations help the people in the region.
  • revise the draft to improve fluency and language.
  • read the draft to a young child to get feedback on the age-appropriateness of the writing and message.
  • make final edits to the draft using checklists and peer editing.
  • student copies of the three handouts
  • sticky notes for each student
  • student drafts and access to computers for electronic drafts
Teacher Preparation 

For Session One, invite a guest from the partner early childhood organization to speak to the class about how their work impacts the whole community. Have them speak to the students about what a nonprofit organization is and how a religious institution is in the civil society sector because of the "separation of church and state." Discuss how any civil society giving has the potential to impact the community

For Session Two, set up a reading buddy session between the middle schoolers and a younger grade in the building or a nearby elementary. This gives the middle schoolers a chance to practice reading their devotions with a younger audience, and they can get feedback for making the final copy more age appropriate.

  • nonprofit organization: an organization whose income is not used for the benefit or private gain of stockholders, directors, or any other persons with an interest in the company
  • faith-based organization: religious organization affiliated or identified with one or more religious organizations
  • early childhood literacy: the development of literacy skills (speaking, listening, reading, and writing) that children need to learn between birth and five (or up to seven) years old

Have students reflect in their writers notebooks about the writing process.


  1. Session One:

    Anticipatory Set

    Introduce the guest speaker from the partner early childhood organization. The guest will share information about nonprofit organizations so students understand how nonprofits (the civil society sector) can address needs that the government, business, and family sectors cannot provide. The guest can also explain how religious institutions are part of the nonprofit sector. Discuss how nonprofits related to children impact the whole community. Encourage the students to ask questions about the organization and how it serves families and the community. Students can also ask about the needs of the organization (financial, volunteer, or advocacy needs) and the learning goals of the children.

  2. After the guest leaves, have students reflect in their writers notebooks about the nonprofit sector, the impact of this local organization, and their goals for this devotional writing project.

  3. Talk about the audience who will be the readers (or listeners) to the devotions the students are writing. Have the students share what they have learned about writing for young children.

  4. The following activities may take place over two or three class periods.

  5. Teach a mini-lesson on transitioning between paragraphs.

    1. Review with students the purpose of transitioning from one idea to another and review common transitional words (see the 8th grade grammar book).
    2. Small groups of students highlight transitions in sample writings, and read the writings without the highlighted transitional sentences/words. They discuss how it changes fluency of the piece.
    3. Demonstrate adding transitional phrases to the teacher's sample devotion.
    4. Students apply their learning in two places in their own writing, and share their drafts. Students will show their small group members the transitional methods that they used in revising their devotions.
  6. Allow some time for students to reread their devotions (aloud, if possible) and self-revise based on the mini-lesson and their rereading with the age of the children in mind. Have them refer to the rubric from Lesson Two as they reread and revise.

  7. Over the next two or three days, try to meet with each student for a writing conference. Give feedback on the content and structure and clarity of the message.

  8. Teach a mini-lesson on using strong verbs.

    1. Review linking and action verbs with students (see 8th grade grammar book).
    2. Small groups collaborate to sort a verb card set (a variety of verbs written on 3 x 5 cards preassembled by the teacher) into “weak” and “strong” verbs. Students reflect on their selections.
    3. Post a variety of sentences on chart papers around the room. Pairs of students revise sentences for more effective (stronger) verbs.
    4. Students go on a "gallery walk" with sticky notes to mark revised sentences with “I like” and “I wonder” statements. Send pairs back to the sentences they worked on to reflect and make any additional changes.
    5. Students apply their learning to find 3 weak verbs in their devotion and revise.
  9. Students exchange their drafts to get a partner's response. Use Handout One: Partner Response. Students revise and edit based on feedback.

  10. Students meet in small groups for an oral reading and feedback from peers. Use Handout Two: Peer Response. Students revise and edit based on feedback.

  11. Session Two

  12. Pair up middle schoolers with younger students in the building or nearby school to read drafts of the devotions and get input for making the draft more age appropriate.

  13. Students read their devotion to their young partner two or more times. They may ask questions to make sure the child understands. On the second reading, students put sticky notes on their draft to indicate places where the vocabulary was too difficult or more detail was needed for the young listener.

  14. Back in the classroom, teach some mini-lessons:

  15. Mini-lesson on adding "show-me detail" to create interest: Encourage the students to use language that shows rather than tells. Encourage them to use phrases/modifiers/sensory language that brings images and feelings to the readers' minds. Example: "The dark cat moved like a shadow, slinking between the rusting cans that lined the narrow alley behind the shop on the crowded street."

  16. Mini-lesson on using age-appropriate word choice: Using language to fit the audience is a challenge for the middle school students. Encourage the students to keep this in mind as they reread their devotions. Tell them to use simple sentences, lots of description, and explanations that fit the experience and age of the early childhood audience. Although the language should be simple, it should not be mundane with phrases like nice, good, and bad.

  17. Students make additional revisions based on the reading buddy feedback and mini-lesson skills.

  18. Have students use Handout Three: Editing Checklist as they meet with others, including at least one adult (may be teacher), and make final edits to their draft.

Cross Curriculum 

This lesson involves the preparation stage of the service-learning process.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.5 Identify the business, government, family, and civil society sectors.
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Describe how different needs are met in different ways by government, business, civil society, and family.
    3. Standard DP 04. Operational Characteristics of Nonprofit Organizations
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Describe the basic structure of a civil society organization.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark MS.6 Explain how "separation of church and state" places religious institutions in the civil society sector.
    2. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Give examples of how civil-society-sector giving can impact communities.
    3. Standard PCS 04. Philanthropy and Geography
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Identify and describe how regional civil society organizations help the people in the region.
  3. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Demonstrate the skills needed for the successful performance of the volunteer job.