Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Rehumanizing through Revision

If you were to envision an entire semester spent in various stages of revision, you’d probably curl up in a little ball and hide under your desk or someplace far, far away from your computer and high-speed internet connection.

Play the PodCast.

Surprisingly, though, in the online environment, revision activities can be turned (quite productively, in fact) into a form of “listening.”

Wow! How does this magic occur? you might ask.

There are two or three aspects of this that are critical:

a) give your students a chance to write about something they are intrinsically interested in;

b) give them a flow chart or a model to follow for a first draft. This will help them overcome “block,” even if they are not too invested in the ideas that come out of that first pass;

c) at the same time, ask them to conduct a literature search (5 to 10 sources), on the topic, and to write a one-paragraph description. They can learn how to do proper citation, as they are able to discover useful things about a topic that interests them. This is a painless way to learn how to do annotated bibliographies;

d) ask them to revise their paper, and add the findings from the literature search. Then, respond with guidance and affirmation;

e) go through two or three more revisions, which will include peer reviews and structural overhauls.

Culminate in an “extreme revision” which asks the writer to bulk up the paper in significant ways. The key is that after every revision, respond with substantive, meaningful comments. What has gone on is, in essence, an accretionary process.

I like to think of it as a pearl – building itself, slowly, layer by beautiful layer. Each step of the way requires creative problem-solving, analytical thinking, synthesis, and invention. More importantly, you’ve been a supportive mentor who has listened, and has responded in constructive ways.

Your students will appreciate it.

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