Week 5- Revising for Clarity

Standard

Thursday’s question was, “When we revise a paper for a second draft, in what ways are we trying to make it a better paper? Make a list of necessary improvements.”

Students gave me a list of ideas which were all reasonable.  Things they had heard or done before.  Things like: improving the flow of the paper, using better transitions, creating better connections between ideas, checking for complete sentences, checking spelling and mechanics, having good topic sentences, having details that make sense.  They were 100% correct.

However, just as we chunk the brainstorming and outlining into smaller more manageable pieces, we must do the same for revision.  In order to do this we break the revision and editing piece into three drafts.  And for the first one, it is all about clarity.  Writers ask themselves, “Does this paper make sense?” To do this we must ask does this sentence make sense? Does this paragraph make sense? Does the whole paper make sense?  Most importantly, “Am I saying what I thought I was saying?”

Students are alternately elated and frustrated by not focusing on grammar and mechanics at this time.  Finding grammar and mechanics mistakes are easy.  But more than once I’ve seen a student wrestle a sentence into submission, only to have to dump it because it didn’t contribute to the overall paragraph.  That’s a deal breaker.  Students stop writing.  My solution? Save grammar and mechanics for the very last.  That doesn’t mean it’s a mosh pit in there; the paper still has to be legible and understandable. But it does mean that students with chronic spelling issues, or who haven’t yet learned how to handle a complex sentence are still in the game.

So this week we started the first revision.  We call it a Clang Session.  We have only made it through  3/4s  of the first paragraph so far, and so for next week, I hope to be able to show you the changes that the writer made and how he made them.

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