Revision is an integral part of any writing class, but, in the early stages of writing, it’s important to have students understand the how’s and why’s of this process. I’ve found it useful to stress that writing is about choices, that every word on the page and every change in a draft (or lack thereof) is the result of a writer’s decision making process.
Below are five revision activities you can use either inside or outside the classroom to show the importance and effects of revision.
• Instruct students to keep a log of their revision steps either weekly, bi-weekly, or after each relevant lesson or activity. This helps emphasize that writing is a continual process and it also connects individual ideas, tools, and concepts to larger projects and assignments.
• Have students analyze their revised draft or final version of an assignment and ask them to highlight the changes they’ve made. This will draw attention to the type and extent of their revision choices. This works either as a stand along activity or an accompaniment to the revision narrative or journal.
• If you accept electronic submissions, use the comparison feature in Microsoft Word to show students the changes made between their draft(s) and the final assignment. Use these comparisons to initiate discussions or reflections. You’ll find details on Word’s comparison feature on the Microsoft Office support page.
Make it Worse
• While the point of revision is to improve a piece of writing, having students rewrite a sample paragraph to make it worse can be just as effective. Encourage them to avoid lower level concerns like spelling and to focus instead on issues of clarity, organization, concision, voice, etc.
• Ask students to write a sentence from their drafts on the board and have the class as a whole make suggestions on how to improve the sentence.
While these activities are all beneficial to students, they also help you gain a clearer understanding of how individual students understand, interpret, and respond to the feedback, advice, and strategies you give them.