Revision is the second most important part of writing (after the idea). Alexa Sandmann, professor at Kent State University defines revision as refining meaning. "Trimming, tightening, hacking away," Laura Backes, a newsletter publisher, calls it. Revision takes whittling and gluing, a process through which the treasure, the image within a plain piece of writing, is revealed. Revising denotes stepping back and looking at content. It means removing a perfectly good sentence because it doesn't belong, adding details or clarification, tightening our language. Those all are powerful, accurate images of what revision looks like.
How do we help students understand the importance of revision?
First, by modeling. Writing should have depth, clear and sharp meaning, a strong personal message or voice. Show students plenty of examples. Revising might include moving paragraphs or sentences to make the writing more organized and clearer to the reader. Don't accept shallow work, but don't grade every paper on every process; restrict that red pen. Let your initial comments to young writers be positive, touching on the best part of their composition. Then let them build on that. "This is excellent -- I can see the image of what's happening. Can you give more attention to that? I think it would make a fabulous story."
Secondly, teach them to distinguish revision from editing. Editing is simply correcting the punctuation, grammar, and capitalization (more about that next month). When we revise, we pose such questions as:
There are thousands more. Create an evolving classroom list of revising questions with student input and post it for quick reference.
The wisdom of William Strunk, Jr, co-author of the famous book The Elements of Style, rings true: "Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines." Revision is the time writers devote to polishing their precious stone.
Article by Cathy Puett Miller
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