Encouraging Revision

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Some of the most important work in writing comes in revision.  As I work on my own novel, I know this now more than ever.  Why, then, have I historically taken students’ first drafts for a grade?

I’m rethinking how I teach writing, and I want to develop a culture of revision in my classroom.  That isn’t easy.  As a middle and high school student, I almost always turned in my first draft as my final draft.  Okay, I’ll be truthful; even in college, that’s what I did.  And my first drafts got A’s.  So I didn’t really learn to revise for a very long time.

It wasn’t until my senior honors thesis that I was really asked to rework what I’d written.  And boy, did I hate it.  I loathed the revision process.  It was so much more work than I’d ever done.  And then I went on to graduate school, and guess what?  First drafts were getting A’s all over again, so serious revision went out the window.

This novel I’m writing is what is really teaching me about the importance and the power of revision.

Most of my students aren’t the least bit interested in revising.  They want to slap their ideas (or often, my ideas) down on the screen and hit submit as soon as it’s done.  There’s no proofreading, even.  There are sentences that, if students would just read over them one time, would be obvious errors and the students could fix them.  But they don’t want to.

A lot of my students care far less about becoming good at something.  They’d rather just be done with it.

Still, I have some who at least want a better grade.  So this year, for every major writing assignment, I’ve started offering the opportunity for students to revise.  After I grade the work, they have one week to review my comments and improve the writing.  They can earn back up to half the points they missed.  (Why not all the points?  Simply because I think a lot of kids would turn in garbage the first time, just so I will tell them exactly what to do, and then do it for the next grade.  I want them to put in true effort even in the first draft.)

But I want to do more.  I’m constantly scanning Pinterest for suggestions on how I can make revision a bigger part of my classroom.  This post gave me ideas on how to get students to read feedback. (Short summary: make the kids look at the feedback before you tell them the grade, and make them respond to the feedback.)  This post gives me things to think about in order to keep my workload from overwhelming me. (Short summary: assess only one skill at a time in a writing assignment.)  This last one is really hard for me because when I look at an essay, I want to look at it ALL.  I don’t want to ignore the lack of support just because I’m assessing a strong introduction, you know?  But I’m thinking about it.

I have a strong desire to make writing a much bigger part of my classes, and to make revision a much bigger part of writing instruction.

And that’s one thing I’ll be working on over winter break!

Do you have suggestions on how to create a culture of revision?  Hit me up in the comments.

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