Weekly Response: Murray’s "Teach the Motivating Force of Revision"

Donald Murray is at it again. He is asking professors to teach students the joy and adventure of revising. He wants students to find new ideas and interests through their writing. They should move through meaning to discover what they truly want to say.

I get the point of his article, but it seems like it would work so much better in a creative writing setting than in my FYW classes. Also, freshmen definitely think that any required revision means they did a poor job on the first draft. It's a punishment, or at best a request for editing "mistakes."


Murray talks about Larson and his research with invention and pre-writing. In class, our search for research topics was almost Larsonesque. We worked for over a week refining our research questions. I asked the students to write down what they wanted to research. I got a lot of one-word answers like "Nike" or "FIFA." We worked as a class, in groups, and in pairs, writing out what we wanted to research, drawing back curtains and peeking under rugs. Some students started with a one-word topic and wrote pages of brainstorming to determine a quality research question. I was very impressed with their focus and the process they used to arrive at their questions. One student, Alex, didn't know how to get further than a topic, and jumped from topic to topic. He accomplished little in class and emailed me later.

Alex: Good afternoon, would it be okay if for my essay I write about the gay right's movement? 

Me: Yes, that would be a great topic! Please go through the same process we used in class to determine keywords and research questions. You need to make an inquiry and answer a question, not simply explain the movement. Please email me your brainstorming, keywords, and research questions. If you need help or direction with that, email me back.

Alex: Keywords: -Gay Rights-Movement-History-Social Equality
I'm having trouble coming up with a research question though. For brainstorming, should I send what I had written down in class trying to figure out what topic to research?

Me: No, I want you to go further with it.  Remember, I don't want a book report about the gay rights movement. I want you to come up with a question regarding the movement that you will have to do research about to find out the answer. I could brainstorm some questions of mine:  Is the movement the only one of its kind or are there other similar ones in other countries? Has the gay rights movement in the US accomplished its original mission now that gay marriage is approved? Has the gay rights movement made more progress with mens gay rights? With womens? Anyway, do you see where I'm going with this? I want you to come up with a question that you don't know the answer to, and can't answer with a quick and simple Google search, so that you will have to investigate.

Alex: Ooooooh okay yea I got it now, thank you!

Alex: Question:Compared to other social equality movements, what are problems unique to the gay rights movement?

Following this exchange, his written brainstorming was rich and his research proposal was one of the best in class. I think this is what Murray means by revision. Reenvision your ideas and see where they take you. Murray talks about internal revision. That's revising the idea of what you want to say. That's what Alex did. Then Murray talks about external revision. That's looking at your writing and seeing if you said it they way you hoped. We will work on that once the first drafts are in.

He goes on to talk about writing teachers and says they should be writers. I like his analogy of art teachers who aren't artists and music teachers who don't play instruments. I thought all writing teachers were (at least amateur) writers, but I guess not if it has to be addressed here. Come to think of it, most of our FYW profs are lit people, Ph.D's in poetry and Victorian Lit. That's not very useful....Just because someone wrote lots of papers for lit classes over the years doesn't mean they are necessarily writers.  Murray warns against the scholars who bring rules and criticism. Oh, I think I know lots of those. 

Instructors should write along with the class (Laura Lopez) to participate and model for the students. Good idea. I have wanted to participate in all my assignments so far, but I haven't had the time to develop syllabi, Moodle pages, handle grading, juggle more than one campus, etc, and do the write-alongs. It's been a goal, and I will get to it. Shooting for fall 2016.  No, wait, I'll be writing my thesis if all goes well. Spring 2016, then. Sigh....see? 

We used to do write-alongs on the board at Essex, an entire 5 paragraph essay on all the boards in the room. Students would help with topic sentences and supporting details, and we'd write the whole essay as a class and then review and edit. The students loved to "catch" me in "mistakes" on the first draft. I'd say, "It's not a mistake because I'm not done yet!" 

While Murray has not been my favorite guy, and I still think his ideas are better geared towards creative writing, I see lots of value in them. Maybe I like him a little better after this article. I like the internal and external revision concept. Maybe I will discuss it in class. No reason not to share the concept with the students. We've worked on internal revision struggling with our research questions and proposal documents. Now we need to draft a paper and use external revision to see if we said what we wanted to say. I don't think Murray means it to be linear in the way I'm using it, but this is how I see its application in my class.

Reading back over this post before I hit publish....Murray isn't as weird as he first seemed.

Weekly Response: Murray’s "Teach the Motivating Force of Revision"

Donald Murray is at it again. He is asking professors to teach students the joy and adventure of revising. He wants students to find new ideas and interests through their writing. They should move through meaning to discover what they truly want to say.

I get the point of his article, but it seems like it would work so much better in a creative writing setting than in my FYW classes. Also, freshmen definitely think that any required revision means they did a poor job on the first draft. It's a punishment, or at best a request for editing "mistakes."


Murray talks about Larson and his research with invention and pre-writing. In class, our search for research topics was almost Larsonesque. We worked for over a week refining our research questions. I asked the students to write down what they wanted to research. I got a lot of one-word answers like "Nike" or "FIFA." We worked as a class, in groups, and in pairs, writing out what we wanted to research, drawing back curtains and peeking under rugs. Some students started with a one-word topic and wrote pages of brainstorming to determine a quality research question. I was very impressed with their focus and the process they used to arrive at their questions. One student, Alex, didn't know how to get further than a topic, and jumped from topic to topic. He accomplished little in class and emailed me later.

Alex: Good afternoon, would it be okay if for my essay I write about the gay right's movement? 

Me: Yes, that would be a great topic! Please go through the same process we used in class to determine keywords and research questions. You need to make an inquiry and answer a question, not simply explain the movement. Please email me your brainstorming, keywords, and research questions. If you need help or direction with that, email me back.

Alex: Keywords: -Gay Rights-Movement-History-Social Equality
I'm having trouble coming up with a research question though. For brainstorming, should I send what I had written down in class trying to figure out what topic to research?

Me: No, I want you to go further with it.  Remember, I don't want a book report about the gay rights movement. I want you to come up with a question regarding the movement that you will have to do research about to find out the answer. I could brainstorm some questions of mine:  Is the movement the only one of its kind or are there other similar ones in other countries? Has the gay rights movement in the US accomplished its original mission now that gay marriage is approved? Has the gay rights movement made more progress with mens gay rights? With womens? Anyway, do you see where I'm going with this? I want you to come up with a question that you don't know the answer to, and can't answer with a quick and simple Google search, so that you will have to investigate.

Alex: Ooooooh okay yea I got it now, thank you!

Alex: Question:Compared to other social equality movements, what are problems unique to the gay rights movement?

Following this exchange, his written brainstorming was rich and his research proposal was one of the best in class. I think this is what Murray means by revision. Reenvision your ideas and see where they take you. Murray talks about internal revision. That's revising the idea of what you want to say. That's what Alex did. Then Murray talks about external revision. That's looking at your writing and seeing if you said it they way you hoped. We will work on that once the first drafts are in.

He goes on to talk about writing teachers and says they should be writers. I like his analogy of art teachers who aren't artists and music teachers who don't play instruments. I thought all writing teachers were (at least amateur) writers, but I guess not if it has to be addressed here. Come to think of it, most of our FYW profs are lit people, Ph.D's in poetry and Victorian Lit. That's not very useful....Just because someone wrote lots of papers for lit classes over the years doesn't mean they are necessarily writers.  Murray warns against the scholars who bring rules and criticism. Oh, I think I know lots of those. 

Instructors should write along with the class (Laura Lopez) to participate and model for the students. Good idea. I have wanted to participate in all my assignments so far, but I haven't had the time to develop syllabi, Moodle pages, handle grading, juggle more than one campus, etc, and do the write-alongs. It's been a goal, and I will get to it. Shooting for fall 2016.  No, wait, I'll be writing my thesis if all goes well. Spring 2016, then. Sigh....see? 

We used to do write-alongs on the board at Essex, an entire 5 paragraph essay on all the boards in the room. Students would help with topic sentences and supporting details, and we'd write the whole essay as a class and then review and edit. The students loved to "catch" me in "mistakes" on the first draft. I'd say, "It's not a mistake because I'm not done yet!" 

While Murray has not been my favorite guy, and I still think his ideas are better geared towards creative writing, I see lots of value in them. Maybe I like him a little better after this article. I like the internal and external revision concept. Maybe I will discuss it in class. No reason not to share the concept with the students. We've worked on internal revision struggling with our research questions and proposal documents. Now we need to draft a paper and use external revision to see if we said what we wanted to say. I don't think Murray means it to be linear in the way I'm using it, but this is how I see its application in my class.

Reading back over this post before I hit publish....Murray isn't as weird as he first seemed.

Sommers and Final Project

Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers, Nancy Sommers

What the Heck is Writing, Anyway?

The saying goes:  Think before you speak.  Why?  As the article notes, “Revision in speech is impossible.”  This reminded me of the google doc’s speech-to-text capability I mentioned in class last week.  Martha and I briefly discussed whether or not its use could be considered “writing,” based on the fact that words appear on the page.  Perhaps, so, we thought. However, it is impossible to revise those words on the screen without using the keyboard.  Interesting.  Perhaps it should could only be considered “drafting.”  Through this thinking, actual writing might be considered speech, that has been fully thought out.  This all had me thinking a peculiar thought: can something be considered writing if it’s not “written”?  I imagine, here, a boy practicing, in front of the mirror, many different ways in which to ask a girl out.  Writing? Speech? Maybe it depends on what actually comes out of his mouth when faced with the task.  What if he was reading his proposal from notecards?  Does that count? When you memorize a speech and present it, is that writing? What if you never actually wrote it down, but practiced many version of it over, and over again? A weird concept, but if digital media can push the envelope as to what constitutes writing....hey? Furthermore, is writing without editing or revising even writing???? Or, does the delay between brain and pen or keyboard make it writing enough? I'm not sure if I'm actually writing right now. haha

I think the tide has turned quite a bit since Sommers wrote this article.   Her research revealed that the “student” writers employed more of an editing approach to revision, opting for surface-level changes, while the “experienced” writers sought to “form and shape their argument” through revision.  I am confident that, if asked, my students would share an understanding of what it means to revise that is closely-aligned with the views of the more experienced writers.  In short, the experienced writers used the writing as a means to arrive at meaning, while the students “knew” what they want to say before they start to write.

Sommers’ final plea for student writers to “seek the dissonance of discovery, utilizing in their writing, as the experienced writers do, the very difference between writing and speech-- the possibility of revision,”  is no easy feat.  While my students may understand the true purpose of revision, putting it into practice is a whole different story.  

snoopy-good-writing-is-hard-work[1]

Final Project thoughts
I think we’re all pretty set in what we’d each like to do for our vignette...part of the beauty of the idea was that we’d each get to explore what interested us most. And, while I agree that there should be some continuity and theme that ties it all together, I think we do have one, it’s just a matter of defining it more clearly for the world to understand.  “Writing” is a very broad topic, but I don’t think we’re too far all over the place to not have cohesion.  There are many aspects of writing that none of us is going near.  So, I’m thinking our name/theme should be something simple, personal, and be general, yet specific, in its connotation….   

Maybe:    Writing Matters  


Or:      Write From the Heart  

Image result for write from the heart


Perhaps when we roundtable each of our vignettes, something better will arise….In the meantime, I’ll sleep on it….lol. We could add a tagline to the titles to better explain the theme????

Sommers and Final Project

Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers, Nancy Sommers

What the Heck is Writing, Anyway?

The saying goes:  Think before you speak.  Why?  As the article notes, “Revision in speech is impossible.”  This reminded me of the google doc’s speech-to-text capability I mentioned in class last week.  Martha and I briefly discussed whether or not its use could be considered “writing,” based on the fact that words appear on the page.  Perhaps, so, we thought. However, it is impossible to revise those words on the screen without using the keyboard.  Interesting.  Perhaps it should could only be considered “drafting.”  Through this thinking, actual writing might be considered speech, that has been fully thought out.  This all had me thinking a peculiar thought: can something be considered writing if it’s not “written”?  I imagine, here, a boy practicing, in front of the mirror, many different ways in which to ask a girl out.  Writing? Speech? Maybe it depends on what actually comes out of his mouth when faced with the task.  What if he was reading his proposal from notecards?  Does that count? When you memorize a speech and present it, is that writing? What if you never actually wrote it down, but practiced many version of it over, and over again? A weird concept, but if digital media can push the envelope as to what constitutes writing....hey? Furthermore, is writing without editing or revising even writing???? Or, does the delay between brain and pen or keyboard make it writing enough? I'm not sure if I'm actually writing right now. haha

I think the tide has turned quite a bit since Sommers wrote this article.   Her research revealed that the “student” writers employed more of an editing approach to revision, opting for surface-level changes, while the “experienced” writers sought to “form and shape their argument” through revision.  I am confident that, if asked, my students would share an understanding of what it means to revise that is closely-aligned with the views of the more experienced writers.  In short, the experienced writers used the writing as a means to arrive at meaning, while the students “knew” what they want to say before they start to write.

Sommers’ final plea for student writers to “seek the dissonance of discovery, utilizing in their writing, as the experienced writers do, the very difference between writing and speech-- the possibility of revision,”  is no easy feat.  While my students may understand the true purpose of revision, putting it into practice is a whole different story.  

snoopy-good-writing-is-hard-work[1]

Final Project thoughts
I think we’re all pretty set in what we’d each like to do for our vignette...part of the beauty of the idea was that we’d each get to explore what interested us most. And, while I agree that there should be some continuity and theme that ties it all together, I think we do have one, it’s just a matter of defining it more clearly for the world to understand.  “Writing” is a very broad topic, but I don’t think we’re too far all over the place to not have cohesion.  There are many aspects of writing that none of us is going near.  So, I’m thinking our name/theme should be something simple, personal, and be general, yet specific, in its connotation….   

Maybe:    Writing Matters  


Or:      Write From the Heart  

Image result for write from the heart


Perhaps when we roundtable each of our vignettes, something better will arise….In the meantime, I’ll sleep on it….lol. We could add a tagline to the titles to better explain the theme????

Reflection: Peer Response Assignment, Jaxon Style



We tried the peer review in class today based on Jaxon's article. Students brought in two copies of their research proposals. I had students write memos to peers on the back of their papers. That took about 25 minutes in the early class and only about 15 in the later class. Then, I made sure they exchanged papers with someone they don't sit near, because we have done some peer editing before, and I didn't want them going to the same folks each time.

I explained that the proposal isn't just a preliminary document to the research paper, but an important stand-alone genre. Then I offered lots of points for the peer feedback. I didn't, as Jaxon suggested, let them bring the assignment home. There was plenty of time in class.

Pros:
  • Always love it when students help each other. It allows them to feel empowered and important. Their opinions matter, and they put them in writing for an audience (their peers). I read over some of the comments and memos, and they were insightful and helpful.
  • I noticed some students looking back critically over their own papers. Others were asking questions about the memos they received. Everyone I heard seemed to appreciate and value the honest feedback.
  • I was particularly pleased with Peter's use of this collaborative exercise. Peter came out as a member of the LGBTQ community in his research proposal. (I doubt most students would have classified him as belonging to that community had he not disclosed it.) He emailed me regarding his paper, and I reminded him that we would be peer reviewing the papers. He decided to stick to his topic. We were able to absorb the information while treating it as an academic issue, focusing on the proposal. Nicely done, Peter.
  • Some students were talking to each other for the first time, which was nice, because they are freshmen and don't always make social connections easily.
Cons (to tweak for next time):
  • Some students felt like they had to talk with the author to write the response. I wanted them to respond only to the writing without asking the author for clarification; I wanted the writing to stand silently on its own. Besides Jaxon's time constraints, this may be another reason why she wanted the assignment to go home.
  • In the morning class, it took the entire class period for the students to finish. In the later class, they all felt "done" with 15 minutes to spare. Hmmm.
  • Some students didn't understand exactly why they were writing the memo to the student instead of having a discussion. They may have felt this was an "exercise" or busy work. Also, many wanted to write in teen language, texting style, since the audience was a peer. Another reason to make it a take-home assignment?
  • The directions I took from Jaxon's paper were a bit wordy and possibly confusing to use as directions for students. (I don't think she intended them as such, anyway.) I will streamline for next time to clarify my expectations.
I'm interested to see the changes they make to their proposals when they upload the final drafts on Tuesday! In the meantime, I'm going to tweak the process and prepare for a peer review of their first drafts of the research paper.

Reflection: Peer Response Assignment, Jaxon Style



We tried the peer review in class today based on Jaxon's article. Students brought in two copies of their research proposals. I had students write memos to peers on the back of their papers. That took about 25 minutes in the early class and only about 15 in the later class. Then, I made sure they exchanged papers with someone they don't sit near, because we have done some peer editing before, and I didn't want them going to the same folks each time.

I explained that the proposal isn't just a preliminary document to the research paper, but an important stand-alone genre. Then I offered lots of points for the peer feedback. I didn't, as Jaxon suggested, let them bring the assignment home. There was plenty of time in class.

Pros:
  • Always love it when students help each other. It allows them to feel empowered and important. Their opinions matter, and they put them in writing for an audience (their peers). I read over some of the comments and memos, and they were insightful and helpful.
  • I noticed some students looking back critically over their own papers. Others were asking questions about the memos they received. Everyone I heard seemed to appreciate and value the honest feedback.
  • I was particularly pleased with Peter's use of this collaborative exercise. Peter came out as a member of the LGBTQ community in his research proposal. (I doubt most students would have classified him as belonging to that community had he not disclosed it.) He emailed me regarding his paper, and I reminded him that we would be peer reviewing the papers. He decided to stick to his topic. We were able to absorb the information while treating it as an academic issue, focusing on the proposal. Nicely done, Peter.
  • Some students were talking to each other for the first time, which was nice, because they are freshmen and don't always make social connections easily.
Cons (to tweak for next time):
  • Some students felt like they had to talk with the author to write the response. I wanted them to respond only to the writing without asking the author for clarification; I wanted the writing to stand silently on its own. Besides Jaxon's time constraints, this may be another reason why she wanted the assignment to go home.
  • In the morning class, it took the entire class period for the students to finish. In the later class, they all felt "done" with 15 minutes to spare. Hmmm.
  • Some students didn't understand exactly why they were writing the memo to the student instead of having a discussion. They may have felt this was an "exercise" or busy work. Also, many wanted to write in teen language, texting style, since the audience was a peer. Another reason to make it a take-home assignment?
  • The directions I took from Jaxon's paper were a bit wordy and possibly confusing to use as directions for students. (I don't think she intended them as such, anyway.) I will streamline for next time to clarify my expectations.
I'm interested to see the changes they make to their proposals when they upload the final drafts on Tuesday! In the meantime, I'm going to tweak the process and prepare for a peer review of their first drafts of the research paper.