An interesting point of view

My old college friend (and reader) Julie sent me this link on revision, Well worth reading, and considering. And then well worth wondering if student revising and serious seasoned authorial revising should be equated or contrasted.



About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

7 responses to “An interesting point of view

  • kokkieh

    Very interesting indeed. I’m only starting out on my writing journey but I immediately see myself in the third group, revising as I write on a “living” document. Can’t say yet whether that works or whether I should rather try to emulate the modernists. Time will tell, I suppose.

    As for your question, if by “student revising” you mean peer revising I think it has value. When students review each other they learn critical thinking skills in addition to improving their writing. However, they first have to know what they’re talking about for this to have any success, so should first have been subjected to “serious seasoned authorial revising” several times (and some more than others) before they are let loose on one another.

    Doing peer revising with my high school students, for example, was a complete waste of time as most of them were still struggling with the difference between “its” and “it’s”. In that scenario there’s no point in having them review each other’s work.

  • Mary Jane Schaefer

    Ah, a great topic. When a young woman of my acquaintance took a creative writing course at a university of some repute, the students were
    not guided by any rules of peer review, or human civility. They were not
    being taught by their professor how to approach a piece of prose, nor how
    to behave within a community of writers. Sort of a “Lord of the Flies” school of criticism.

    As to self-revision, I have found myself forced to learn how to compose on
    a computer, yet I still revert to pencil and yellow pads from time to time. Either mood or circumstance takes over. I like combining the different ways of composing. And I like to keep copies of all drafts. A computer, according to the article in question, leaves you with the
    one finished draft and all your other early thoughts have disappeared into
    the Ether of Delete. But surely it’s easy enough to save alternate drafts,
    even alternate sentences, on a computer. You carefully retitle a text, save that version, date it, and you know where it stands in the line of development. Some of it even comes in handy to reintroduce much later in the process. Or even in a different piece. Or in a synopsis.

    Waste not, want not.

  • philosophermouseofthehedge

    Fascinating article. Thanks for sharing.
    Working with young writers I found peer review sessions worth the time (one you had them tamed and guidelines established – about January). Most of the benefit came from the authors hearing works read out loud by a reader – it pointed out quite a bit. Sometimes they needed some distance between themselves and the work in order to recognize sentence structure, logic sequences, and stuff that didn’t work as well as they thought it did. You learn the flow of language by hearing it. (Important to read orally related essays/literature selections for sound as much as for ideas, vocabulary, and sentence structure.
    One commenter did bring up a point: writers need some knowledge of structure and mechanics.
    But you can use peer review with poor writers/students or ESL students and see remarkable progress. Hard hard work for those instructors – but it pays off.

    • RAB

      You’re right that working with student writers in peer review sessions takes a kind of “seeding the ground.” They seem to arrive with 1) the desire to be pleasant; 2) very little “feel” for writing, the kind of feel that develops from being a responsive reader of good writing; and 3) an assumption that “revision” means “finding the mistakes.” As with reading, what one brings to the experience determines the richness of the experience. I feel as if there’s a lot to build into the college comp course that used to come with the student from K-12. A colleague of mine suggests that we are now beginning to reap the harvest of No Child Left Behind, teaching to the (largely objective) test, less and less time especially during middle and high school to explore, wander, and make the kinds of mistakes that kids actually grow from…. Do you think that’s true?

      • philosophermouseofthehedge

        Teaching students who are totally uninterested is brutal on teachers. It can be done but wears you out.
        NCLB was hijacked by SRA/McGrawHill and edu publishers – it was always about the money (I was in the industry) Data also became a cash cow for research institutions (was there recently). NCLB did work where used properly AND audited to make sure the money went exactly where it was supposed to and the training/work was actually done – (audited schools and found new tracks and districts made photo copies of instructional materials from one purchased book and used the money elsewhere – horrible misuse. Once auditors move in, reading progress actually made great progress…but by then the testing mania/progress monitoring shoved in despite the fact it consumed too much time and students are not ABC widgets.) Multiple choice/grading machines/test prep robbed these kids of writing and thinking experiences. Many teachers have not been trained in writing. (and they for sure don’t know how to analyze, comment on, grade writing – you have to train them in that since as students they never had teachers model that in their work) “Cute” showy projects became popular. And then there was the odd idea that advanced material could be taught at lower and lower levels despite the fact that emotional and intellectual maturity isn’t there to be accessed – and worse if that set of information/literary selections appeared again in an upper level class – the kids tuned out: “already seen that before”. Lots of targets for blame. (Banning multiple choice would be a start) Kids should be writing at least once a week and be given their work back with what was done well and clear suggestions of how to improve. I cannot imagine how these kids manage writing assignments in college – certainly not prepared for it. Sorry for going on so long, but writing is critical – if kids can’t organize thoughts into clear precise writing, they probably can’t verbalize clear ideas either. Greed and education “researchers” have had a big hand in this. (and I know/knew some of that Dept of Ed. crowd and the funded edu think tanks that got us to this point. Disgusting. Not about the kids at all. Lots of egos.)

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