Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Topic: Writing and Revision

Ten-Second Review: No matter what teachers say about revision, if they emphasize surface-level changes, students will make only surface-level changes.

Title: “The Role of Classroom Context in the Revision Strategies of Student Writers.” Robert F. Yagelski. Research in the Teaching of English (May 1995), pp. 216-238. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Summary: How define levels of revision? Four broad categories: surface changes, stylistic changes, structural changes and content changes. The author considers surface and stylistic changes to be “meaning-preserving” changes. “Structural” changes have to do with organization and “content” changes refer to meaning. The latter two appear to be what the author thinks to be “real” revision, and the first two to be superficial changes.

Teachers, perhaps almost unconsciously, emphasize superficial changes and do not emphasize organizational changes or changes in meaning.

Comment: I think this list of types of revision is helpful in defining “revision.” As I think about my own practices in revision, most of them do focus on the conventions—grammar, punctuation, usage and stylistic changes (eliminating unnecessarily repeated words, for example). In my own writing, do I change organization much? I might shift sentences and paragraphs occasionally and rework the topic sentences to make them clearer, but I always stay within the confines of “Tell them what you are going to tell them,” “Tell them,” and “Tell them what you told them.” I do often rewrite in order to clarify meaning. And, occasionally, my meaning will shift as I understand better what I am thinking while I am writing.

I don’t know if this list of levels of revision helps me help students revise more effectively. The problem continues to be, in my mind, defining revision. What I like about this list is that the author does not necessarily value the structural changes and meaning changes over the surface and stylistic changes. Rays.

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