Tyler Morgan Professor Kirchmeier English 401 December 5, 2011 Revision There are many steps in writing that

will help create a successful final product, but none more important than revision. Revision is the step that happens after the first draft has been written and takes place constantly until the final draft has been completed. Almost everyone at some time or another has quickly written something down, met the length requirement and submitted it without looking at it a second time. When this happens a polished piece of writing is extremely rare, even for experienced writers. When I would write essays in high school I assumed revision and editing were the same thing, which they are easy to confuse if not properly taught. “During revision, we move paragraphs about, insert new pages, and discard whole chunks of prose, reorganize, and come up with new ideas”(White, p.41). It would be hard to honestly tell someone that I did any of these things myself or witnessed any of my classmates do them in high school. Teachers are handcuffed with such a constraint on time that they are almost forced to accept a rough draft as a final draft. My confusion between revision and editing was mostly because teachers used the two terms in the same ways expecting the same outcome and my revision/editing work was always good enough to squeak by. When students or writers in general finally need or are expected to revise something they are going to struggle if they do not know how to properly revise. Editing is something that

students are always taught and is what many will do instead of revision, but editing is geared more towards grammar as opposed to the content of the writing. There are many steps that go in to revision as well as multiple areas that should be focused on; and when laid out for someone they can seem almost unnecessary to focus on but can make a final product much better. I believe there are four important steps in order for the revision process to be completed well, and if I were to be responsible for creating a lesson plan for a class for a whole year I would make sure to spend sufficient time discussing each of these topics with the students to help ease any fears they may have about revision. First is the “steps in revision,” the students should work on revision in different steps and during these steps they should be able to successfully eliminate unnecessary content. The student should be able to identify both the audience and the purpose of their writing and should be able to answer the question of does the work fit? During this step it is also important they discover the main point of their writing, in doing this they are identifying their thesis statement and they can also create a “catchy” title for their audience, which can help draw in a reader. This is also a time to make sure that the work flows well and reads easily. Flow will come from cleaning up the language of the writing and making the necessary corrections to grammar is the main focus in this step. More times than not students need an extra push in the right direction and need to be specifically told what is it they should be looking for when revising their own work; I believe that the second thing to focus on is simply a list of “things to focus on” which includes a specific list for students to give them an idea of simpler ways to revise. The things to focus on contain, but are not limited to voice, ideas, word choice, sentence

fluency, conventions and organization. While some may find it difficult to find the voice of their paper it may be easier to allow the students to read each others work and focus on the voice of their peers writing and what they thought of it. This will allow the students to give each other feedback on their work at the same time allow for fresh eyes to see their writing in a new way that the author has yet to find. From my experiences as a student trying to write in a high school class I found there were only two ways I had ideas when it came to writing; I either had so many ideas I couldn’t narrow anything down to make sense in a logical way and feel like I didn’t leave anything out or I simply couldn’t think of anything and was completely trapped by having no ideas at all. By the time a student reaches the revision stage they should already have something written, and they are the only person that needs to understand their writing at that point because they are still in the process of writing. By reading over their writing closely they will almost always find things that they think should add to their work or something that may just be better left out. Word choice is something I never thought about as a writer until I was in a creative writing class in college and my teacher suggested that I use more descriptive words to help my readers see or feel my writing. Most students in a high school classroom are likely to write what they are thinking as fast as they can and make sure that it is just good enough, without thinking if they could improve the language they are using. Steve Peha describes of this with a student who may use the sentence “I was running” somewhere in their paper and they could change that to a more descriptive sentence such as “I was jogging” or “I was sprinting”. Peha says that by using the verb running “you learn that the student was running, but in the second sentence you also learn

how the student was running”(Peha). Sentence fluency is something that a lot of students also struggle with because they have so many ideas going at once that they just jump from idea to idea and write them all down as fast as they can without really thinking how it will be read for someone who isn’t thinking the same way as they are. Peer editing is something that can also help in this area because it allows for those fresh eyes again to look at their writing, or simply allowing the students to read over their writing again maybe a few days after they have written the draft they are going to revise. Organization of their writing will also come with good sentence fluency, because it is the same concept just on a larger scale as it is the focus of the paper as a whole and not just single sentences or cohesion of a paragraph. Conventions are something that is often left out when writing but is one of the more basic aspects in writing. “Conventions include spelling, punctuation, capitalization, grammar, and paragraphing. The writer should use conventions to enhance the readability of the paper. Spelling should be correct on all words. Punctuation should be smooth and guide the reader through the paper. Capitalization should be used correctly. Paragraphing should reinforce organization. The writer may manipulate conventions for effect”(Steele). This is most likely to be the last thing to focus on before submitting a final draft of a piece of writing, to focus on the mundane aspects in writing. The third idea to help students create successful writing is to focus on the proper use of their thoughtshots and snapshots. Snapshots are used when the writer looks closely at details within their writing and thoughtshots can be defined as a snapshot that simply happens within a characters head. Barry Lane believes that students “can improve the writing by adding snapshots”(44) and that if students are “stuck in snapshots…(students)

can improve the writing by adding thoughtshots”(45). These are two important things for writers, especially students, to focus on because a lot of them believe that if they think something is implied, everyone will think it in the same manner. It takes time for writers to realize that writing does not work like that; readers come from all sorts of different backgrounds and will interpret everything in a variety of ways. Less experienced writers have a story in their heads and they will do their best to write that story down on paper and get the main point across to readers, but there are so many small details that they leave out that if added would make their writing that much better. To break it down for students I find it easy to remember when a snapshot is saved for when I want to use my senses while writing, so if I want to relate a smell, sound or taste to my reader I will use a snapshot to successfully do so. A thoughtshot is simply what a character is thinking in a story; this can be done easiest by including dialogue throughout and include emotions or feelings that would be obvious for any reader to pick up on. If a student is not noticing a good place for a thoughtshot it will be helpful if the teacher notices a spot that could benefit from the use of a thoughtshot and the teacher could simply ask the student what is your character thinking here? How can you show me that is how the feel? Which should get the student thinking deeper about the meaning of their writing. The last thing important thing I believe students should focus on during as part of the revision of their writing is the way in which they interpret the comments left by their teachers. Many students believe that if they simply correct the things that the teacher highlights and mentions on a rough draft and they turn in their final draft it will be A+ quality. Most of the time this can be attributed to the laziness of a student or the lack of time they have to work on something. Also teachers sometimes do not realize it but they

can affect their students’ final draft greatly by what they write on their rough drafts. Teachers need to make sure that their expectations for the students are clear and to use clarity while grading student writing, and also the students need to remember to find more things than what the teacher has already pointed out to revise. Teachers can help the students a lot by just asking questions on a rough draft of a piece of writing. A question will cause the student to stop and think deeper about what they wrote and try to explain their reasons behind it as best they can by revising it for the next draft. For example if a student were to write “The dog jumped over the fence.” The teacher could ask “What kind of dog? How big was the fence? Did anyone see the dog jump the fence?” These questions may not necessarily cause the student to create a perfect snapshot for their readers but it will cause them to think deeper about their writing and try and improve their prose for the next draft. Teachers also need to remember that it is simply a rough draft, and if it is not necessarily a good draft, it is not the end of the world and to not come down too hard on the student. Many students are very sensitive to the way people interpret their work, especially writing because it is such a personal thing that students really have to work on by themselves and if they are doing the best that they can and the teacher comes down on them unfairly and crushes their spirits, the odds of them ever wanting to write again are pretty slim. In an article titled “Readin’, Ritin’ and Revision” G.E. Cavin argues, “...successful learning is a process of constant revision”(120) Cavin also states that a problem in secondary classrooms is that there is little composition being done, and “obviously little activity in writing revision”(120). Cavin believes this to be an unfortunate disadvantage for students “for writing prose and then revising it is a very

practical device for secondary students to acquire new knowledge and reinforce old”(120). Cavin also believes that there are two broad common approaches when it comes to focuses on the revision of student writing. “One is the careful identification and correction of spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors with a secondary concern for the ideas in the composition. The second is a primary concern for the development of ideas and thought and a secondary concern for editing” (122). It may seem that these two ideas are polar opposites, and in ways they are, but Cavin believes that it is possible to merge them together if planned correctly. “The key to this is that fewer papers need be written and that different aspects of the revision process should be given a different emphasis at different times”(122). In the past I have always thought that teachers would never allow much time for revision because they expect the students to already have done the proper revisions prior to submitting their assignments. But after researching more about revision it seems that the reason that time is not set aside for revision is simply that there is not enough time. Teachers have to meet so many specific requirements and are expected to cover so many different topics throughout the year that they run out of time. For pre-service teachers it is most important that we make sure not to leave revision out of the writing process, because we are the next generation of teachers and the way we teach will affect how students write for many years to come. Also it is important to remember the times we have felt lost in college when expected to revise our writing, if we were not allowed the appropriate time for revising or instructed on the proper steps to make revision easier. It is the responsibility of the teacher to set aside time somewhere in the writing process for revision. It may not be

easy to do and it will take a lot of careful planning in order to implement sufficient time for revision in a classroom. Many students suffer from not being taught how to revise properly and time needs to be given for discussing the proper steps in revision. Jill Fitzgerald and Lynda Markham completed a study on students and their ability to revise their work. The goal of the research was to discover whether or not the instruction of revision actually effected how the “children’s knowledge of the revision process… and their ability to make revisions on paper”(3). During the research two groups were created, the “revision group” was given proper instruction on revision and how to successfully revise, and a “control group” that was let loose and told to revise their writing. Not to my surprise they found that the group that received the instruction gained “knowledge of how to make desired changes”(17). While both groups were expected to help their peers revise, the revision group also was able to make “more specific suggestions”(17). After instruction the revision group improved their “efforts to make revisions on paper” and when compared with the control group “the revision group made more revisions (17). “Finally the revision instruction affected rated quality of the children’s stories across drafts. Judgments of quality for the revision group tended to increase (throughout the study) whereas the same judgments for the control group remained relatively stable”(17). This study helped show me that it is not alright to simply set aside time for revision in the process. Before students can ever be expected to revise their work they need to be instructed on how to do so. I have yet to teach an entire class myself nor have I sat down to draw up a lesson plan for a whole year for a single class, but in speaking with teachers in the past it seems to be the consensus that revision is low on the totem pole. It

may be that if students can turn in satisfactory work without fully revising their work then it is unnecessary to spend time revising while you could be meeting another standard for the class in the same amount of time.

Works Cited

Cavin, G.E. "Readin', Ritin' and Revision." Taylor & Francis, Ltd. 57.3 (1983): 119-123. The Clearing House. Web. 23 Nov 2011.<http://www.jstor.org/stable/30185572>. Fitzgerald, Jill, and Lynda Markham. "Teaching Children about Revision in Writing." Taylor & Francis, Ltd.. 4.1 (1987): 3-24. Web. 29 Nov. 2011. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/3233548>. Lane, Barry. "Twenty-First Century Revision." Teaching the Neglected . Ed. Thomas Newkirk and Ed. Richard Kent. Portsmouth: Heinemann, 2007. 39-46. Print. Peha, Steve. "Teaching That Makes Sense." www.ttms.org. Teaching That Makes Sense, n.d. Web. 30 Nov 2011.<http://www.ttms.org/writing_quality/word_choice.htm>. Steele, Kimberly. "Kim's Korner for Teacher Talk." www.kimskorner4teachertalk.com. Kimberly Steele, 14 nov 2007. Web. 30 Nov 2011. <http://www.kimskorner4teachertalk.com/writing/sixtrait/conventions/definition. html>. White, E. M. (2006). Assigning, responding, evaluating, a writing teacher's guide. (4th ed., pp. 25-47). Boston, MA: Bedford/st Martins.

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