Revision By Samuel Lasco www.slasco.org
Revision in the Writing Process Although Donald Murray (1982) argues that writing is rewriting, students often see revision not as an opportunity to develop and improve a piece of writing but as an indication that they have failed to do it right the first time. To them, revision means correction. Revision, however, is the heart of the writing process – the means by which ideas emerge and evolve and meanings are clarified. Here's some information that can help in changing students from "correctors" to "revisers."
What is revision? Revision is often defined as the last stage in the writing process (prewriting, writing, and revision). Sommers (1982), on the other hand, sees revision as "a process of making changes throughout the writing of a draft, changes that work to make the draft congruent with a writer's changing intentions."
How much do students revise? For the novice writer, however, revision appears to be synonymous with editing or proofreading. An NAEP (1977) study found that students' efforts at revision in grades 4, 8, and 11 were devoted to changing spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Students seldom made more global changes, such as starting over, rewriting most of a paper, adding or deleting parts of the paper, or adding or deleting ideas (Applebee, et al., 1986).
How can teachers help students to revise? Merely requiring students to revise or just to spend more time revising will not necessarily produce improved writing • Direct teacher intervention, however, seems to produce positive results. • Students revised in response to teacher questions directed at specific content. Sommers (1982) found that teacher comments often took students' attention away from their own purposes and focused it on those of the teacher. Sommers suggests that teachers provide more specific comments and design writing activities that allow students to establish purpose in their writing.
Can computers improve revision skills? The ease with which students can manipulate text with word processing programs has prompted increased computer use in the writing classroom as a means of promoting student revision. However, the research on whether computers lead students to revise more frequently or more effectively is somewhat inconclusive. Perhaps, as Tone and Winchester (1988) have argued, the computer offers real facilitation of revision "to writers who know how to compose on one."
THE BIG PICTURE • Look at the first draft in terms of larger, abstract qualities: • Is the original purpose of the writing fulfilled? • Does the writing cover the required material? - Has the writing addressed the specific audience? - Does the overall structure seem sensible in terms of your intentions? - Is your sense of authority over the topic clear?
FOCUS ON DEVELOPMENT • Does the main idea of the paper have enough supporting material? • Does the supporting materials relate logically to the main idea?
FOCUS ON STRUCTURE • Is there a controlling idea that can be traced through the writing? • Does your lead into the paper create interest and focus? • Do individual paragraphs link to the controlling idea? • Do individual paragraphs have clear topic sentences? • Does the ending provide a sense of wrapping up ideas?
FOCUS ON SENTENCE STRUCTURE • Are sentences clear? • Does the word order in sentences seem logical? • Are verbs usually in the active voice? • Does word choice seem sensible for the purpose and audience?
EDITING STRATEGIES • Screen for spelling, agreement, pronoun, fragment, and modification errors. • Check for mechanics (capitalization and punctuation) and documentation format. • Edit for language-level issues in style, usage, and syntax/word order.
Other editing suggestions • Read the entire paper aloud, or have someone else read it aloud. • Read the assignment backward. • Have a friend read the assignment in this way: read the first paragraph and explain its point and how the point was made; read the rest of the assignment and make a list of places that seemed confusing and why; what counterarguments or criticism could be made of the assignment’s ideas?
EDITING CHECKLIST 1. Check that all run-on and sentence fragments have been corrected. 2. Spell check! Check at least twice. Once with your computer’s spell check and once with a pair of eyes. Spell check won’t find mistakes if you’ve used the word there/their/they’re incorrectly. It is the same with one/won, your/you’re, first/fist… you get the point? CHECK THE SPELLING OF EVERYTHING! 3. Put proper punctuation in its place. If you remember the four types of sentences, it should help you with this. a. DECLARATIVE (.) b. IMPERATIVE (.) c. INTERROGATIVE (?) d. EXCLAMATORY (!) 4. Always look for missing words. These are not always easy to find. We often read so fast, we skip over words that may be missing, especially if the words are not important to the topic like “the” or “and”. 5. Capitalize all proper nouns and words that begin sentences. If you aren’t sure if it should be capitalized or not, look it up! 6. Be aware of your tenses. Are you writing in the past, present or future tense? It is safe to say that if you are writing a biography on Abe Lincoln, you won’t be using the future tense and you’d only use the present tense if you are connecting his life to what is going on today. 7. Be neat and organized. If you keep your thoughts and notes organized as you work, your essay will almost always come out organized, too. If you don’t have the neatest handwriting, type your essay or at least skip lines when writing. It makes it easier to read what you’ve written. Also, keep your finished work in a folder so it doesn’t crumple or tear. Neatness proves you care about your work and your grades will reflect that.
REVISION CHECKLIST 1. Look for overuse of words. If you have used a word so often that it sounds repetitive, use a thesaurus. The shift+F7 key on your computer is as helpful as the book version. 2. Check your paper for misuse of words. Basically, if you don’t know the definition of a word and cannot use it in a sentence, DON’T use it. By all means, use writing as a chance to build your vocabulary but don’t use words unless you feel comfortable using them. If you need to use an unfamiliar word while writing, be sure to define or explain it in the essay. 3. Make sure you have enhanced your writing with strong nouns, verbs, adverbs and adjectives. Strive to write at or above your grade level. 4. Another way to make your writing stand out is by the use of figurative language. Similes, metaphors and analogies are great ways to express yourself and make your essay more interesting to the reader. 5. Check your sentence structure. Do you have a subject and a predicate? A noun and a verb? 6. Use a variety of ways to begin your sentences. Nothing detracts from an essay like repetitiveness. Change it up. Be creative. 7. Don’t be afraid to reorganize. Move paragraphs around. Change the order of your sentences. Do whatever it takes to make your writing better. Add and delete. Make it stand out. 8. Make sure your details and examples are relevant. Make sure they fit with what you’ve written. If your bio on Abe Lincoln covers the Civil War, don’t talk about the Revolutionary War unless you can connect it to your topic.
First Draft/Final Draft Handout First Draft John walked through the woods. He saw a little deer lying beside a log. It didn’t run when John got closer. John looked down at the deer. He realized that its leg was broken. It was bent at an angle. John felt bad. He went home and called his neighbor who is a veterinarian. He asked his neighbor to come and get the deer to help him. John was worried about the deer. Final Draft
Modeling John age 13 walked through the densely covered wooded area. He saw a little tree deer lying beside a big brown log. It didn’t run when John crept closer. John looked directly down at the deer. He realized that its leg was cut and broken. It was bent at an acute angle. John felt very bad. He went immediately home and called his neighbor who is a veterinarian. He asked his neighbor to come and get the deer to help him. John was worried about the deer
WRITING ASSIGNMENT PROMPT You have begun to read a story about a young Jewish girl who is struggling with her family's traditions and history. Through the course of the novel, Hannah develops into an altogether different character than she appears in the first four chapters. The author's technique of using time travel to grant Hannah the first-hand experience of what her family has endured is quite worthy of your comment. Your assignment is to keep a diary during the time we are reading this novel. Each entry must be at least ten to fifteen sentences long. You may make your entries longer if you wish. You must have at least one entry for each reading assignment. (A total of six entries is the minimum requirement.) PREWRITING What will you write about? After your reading assignment has been completed, go back and review the events in it. Respond to Hannah's thoughts, experiences, and actions. React to the vivid descriptions of this totally foreign environment. What would you have done if you would have been Hannah? Would you have done things differently ? In what ways? How would you have felt in her situation? What have you learned about her religion or family? Her instincts? Her personality? Her intelligence? Her values? Include anything else you find worthy of comment. I think there will be quite a bit that you'll find merits your review. DRAFTING What is important is that you sit down and write after each reading assignment or even more frequently. Diaries are not formal, written papers; they are a form of personal expression. There is no right or wrong thing to include in your diary. There is no formal structure- just take the time to get comfortable and let the ideas flow. PROOFREADING It can be quite a self-revealing exercise to go back and reread your earlier entries- not so much for proofreading purposes but to re-evaluate yourself and your feelings. One of the best ways to get to know yourself is to keep a diary or journal. We are all too frequently rushing here and there, with fleeting thoughts coming and going like wisps of smoke. It can be very helpful to slow down at some point, and record your thoughts and feelings for the day. Hopefully, this will not be the last diary you will ever write.
NONFICTION ASSIGNMENT SHEET (To be completed after reading the required nonfiction article) Name Date Title of Nonfiction Read Written By Publication Date I. Factual Summary: Write a short summary of the piece you read. II. Vocabulary 1. With which vocabulary words in the piece did you encounter some degree of difficulty? 2. How did you resolve your lack of understanding with these words? III. Interpretation: What was the main point the author wanted you to get from reading his work? IV. Criticism 1. With which points of the piece did you agree or find easy to accept? Why? 2. With which points of the piece did you disagree or find difficult to believe? Why? V. Personal Response: What do you think about this piece? OR How does this piece influence your ideas?
Standards • Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works. • Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience. • Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes. • Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes. • Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
Bibliography • Applebee, A. N., Corp Author: National Assessment of Educational Progress, P. N. J., & et al. (1986). Writing: Trends Across the Decade, 1974-84. U.S.; New Jersey. • Lehr, F. C. A. E. C. o. R. E., & Communication, B. I. N. (1995). Revision in the Writing Process. ERIC Digest. Access ERIC: FullText. U.S.; Indiana. • Murray, D. M., & Hashimoto, I. (1982). Writing with Power: Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process. College Composition and Communication, 33(2), 208-212. • Sommers, N. (1982). Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers. U.S.; New Jersey. • Tone, B., Winchester, D. C. A. E. C. o. R., & Communication Skills, B. I. N. (1988). Computer-Assisted Writing Instruction. ERIC Digest Number 2. U.S.; Indiana. • Write/Rewrite: An Assessment of Revision Skills; Selected Results from the Second National Assessment of Writing. Corp Author(s): Education Commission of the States, Denver, CO. National Assessment of Educational Progress. 1977-07-00.