Revision Strategies… Blog post 9

The article Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers by Nancy Sommers discusses the different models of the writing process. Her focus primarily is on the revision part of the writing process. In the article, she describes revision as ” a sequence of changes in a composition-changes which are initiated by cues and occur continually throughout the writing of a work” (pg. 380). She presents two other theories of revision from educators Gordon Rohman and James Britton.

  • Gordon Rohman’s suggest that the composting process moves
    from prewriting to writing to rewriting (“A writer is a man who … puts [his] experience into words in his own mind”-p. 15)
  • James Britton’s model of the  writing process as a series of stages described in metaphors of linear growth (conception-incubation-production)v

Revision, in Rohman’s model, is simply the repetition of writing; or to pursue Britton’s organic metaphor, revision is simply the further growth of what is already there the “pre-conceived” product. The absence of research on revision, then, is a function of a theory of writing which makes revision both superfluous and redundant, a theory which does not distinguish between writing and speech. (pg.379)

Both theories are modeled on the forms of speech of the writer. In order to properly analyze these theories of writing, Sommers conducts a case study comparing student and adult writers.

The student writers were twenty freshmen at Boston University and the University of Oklahoma with SAT verbal scores ranging from 450-600 in their first semester of composition. The twenty ex-perienced adult writers from Boston and Oklahoma City included journalists, editors, and academics. To refer to the two groups, I use the terms student writers and writers because the difference between these experienced principal two groups is the amount of experience they have had in writing. (pg 380)

These two groups of writers were asked to write three essays and revise it twice for a final product. The results showed that the student writers “did not seem comfortable using the word revision and explained that revision was not a word they used” (pg. 380). The experienced writers, on the other hand, “describe their primary objective when revising as finding the form or shape of their argument” (pg. 384)

Her article further discuss these two models of the revision process and the different approach of both groups of writers. This article is important in the context of teaching writing because it is a very important process that all students must learn and teachers should teach students the best ways to revise their work.

Read the Article Here   

I agree with Serkan’s idea of fake news as a theme for the class group project. I think it is an important part of the class research as well as its opportunity to be creative.  We can each present a fake news and discuss its relationship to teaching students in the classroom.

Creative and Functional: Revision vs. Rewriting

Every writer, whether student or professional, has a process for the journey from ideas to finished product. How the writer learns and interacts with that process is the topic discussed in both Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers by Nancy Sommers as well as Teaching Writing as Process Not Product, by Donald Murray. Both pieces provide insight and inspiration collected through many years of experience.

Nancy Sommers led Harvard’s Expository Writing Program for 20 years and established the Harvard Writing Project. She is a renowned researcher and the author of several books on compositional studies. In Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers, Nancy Sommers outlines several theorists that support writing as a linear process connected mainly to the function of oration. She then takes the reader through the portal of her case study which investigates the relationship to revision in student and experienced writers.

The essay outlines the significant distinctions that contrast approaches to the stages of writing in student writers verses experienced adult writers. The students tended toward a “thesaurus philosophy of writing[1],” with their main focus on cleaning up the word choices and checking for redundancy. The thesis statement was acting as a cage with a suffocating component rather than a structure on which to build. On the other hand, the experienced writers tended toward a relationship with revision that was not linear, allowing and inviting each change impact the whole. The process involved honing the argument and refining lines of reasoning. It often engaged the perceived reader as a collaborator as the writer transforms the content into a thesis. The thesis is part of the evolution of the product becoming a structure on which to build further. The reader arrives soundly on the other side; with the understanding that revision is not just a rewording activity. Through the work accomplished in this case, study Sommers redefined revision as “a sequence of changes in a composition. Changes which are initiated by cues and occur continually throughout the writing of a work[2].”

Donald Murray was a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and columnist for The Boston Globe. He was a professor of English at the University of New Hampshire for twenty-six years as well as a writing coach for several national newspapers. Donald Murray’s mission was to demystify the process of writing. He explored the habits, processes, and practices of writers and took seriously his role of the coach; generously sharing his findings. Murray divides the writing process into three distinct stages: prewriting, writing and rewriting[3]. Although his outline follows the seemingly linear format that Sommers’ critiques, Murray’s presentation of the process is anything but linear.

Murray adds and emphasizes the human touch of the teacher. He presents the importance of the educator’s role in influencing the relationship a student develops to their writing. An educator must consistently redirect and re-engage the student in the process of seeking out their truth. Murray encourages the reader to teach process not product and create curriculums from this vantage point. He places listening and interaction at the heart of compositional studies and reveals ten implications of teaching in this style which include student-driven text, unique subjects and language, multiple drafts as needed, creativity and functionality side by side, individual exploration, alternatives without limitation, time, mechanics and in the end a grade. Murray emphasizes the importance of time and space to allow a process to unfold before completing a final product. Even then, the writer is never finished.

Although I found Nancy Sommers’ case study very interesting as a starting place, it fell short for me in several regards. I would argue that the variables were only subjectively distinguished. In separating groups by age and experience, many other questions were opened and left unaddressed. I would like to test long-term studies to see what stages are contingent on the development of the frontal lobe of the brain and a result of matured executive functioning. I would also like to track more specific distinctions in learning style using the seven different styles that have been outlined by Mainemelis, Boyatzis, and Kolb: visual, aural, verbal, physical, logical, social, and solitary[4]. Working with a similar process to Sommers, I would like to analyze data through the lens of these learning categories.

I would also like to find a way to isolate the significance of mentorship and coaching in the development of writers from student to experienced writer. Inherent in Sommers’ study is the idea of making independent writers. Relationship to the teacher is implied, but not directly connected to the data. Murray emphasized this component in his work. I believe mentorship and human interaction is a vital part of the process is. That is where the art of teaching comes in to play. Even in a classroom setting each writer can and should be addressed as an individual with a unique process. I believe this is what Murray meant when he said: “respect the student .” By nature, students are result/goal oriented. It’s the nature of the education system because grades have been an essential way to codify and measure learning.

In some ways, I think the process is just as it should be. Every so often each learner comes upon a mentor that shifts the process from autopsy to a living and connected experience. These moments are magical, precious and select. I always heard that it takes ten years to no longer be a beginner at anything. In my experience, writing has stages to pass through. I see each stage as a rite of passage each time I go through the process. I love the loose way that Murray outlines the stages and then infuses the personal touch.

Questions about the content of the articles:

1). Maturity is progressive, and executive functioning develops as the frontal lobe of the brain matures. For most this process continues into the mid or late twenties. Perhaps to teach these more evolved forms of “revision” will create more opportunity for stress and frustration. Is the linear process necessary for young writers to become the more developed experienced writer?

2). Regarding inspiring student writers. How much of that is the teacher’s responsibility and how much the student’s responsibility to be present, open, and engaged?

3). The question of time. How much of it is a lack of time?

4). Is the problem the fact that students think it is supposed to be easy? How do we teach process without suffocating creativity? How do you inspire? How do you engage? How do you find the “truth?”

 

Footnotes:

[1] Sommers, N. (1982). Responding to Student Writing. College Composition and Communication, 33(2), 148-156. doi:10.2307/357622 p381

[2] Sommers, N. (1982). Responding to Student Writing. College Composition and Communication, 33(2), 148-156. doi:10.2307/357622 p. 381

[3] Villanaueva, Victor. Cross-Talk In Comp Theory. A Reader. Urbana, Illinois. “Teaching Writing as Process Not Product.” Donald Murray.

[4] Mainemelis, C., Boyatzis, R. E., & Kolb, D. A. (2002). Learning Styles and Adaptive Flexibility: Testing Experiential Learning Theory. Management Learning33(1), 5–33. https://doi.org/10.1177/1350507602331001

 

Further reading that I would like to connect to these two essays:

  • James Zull

http://www.ascd.org/ASCD/pdf/journals/ed_lead/el200409_zull.pdf

  • Learning styles:

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1350507602331001

  • Cassidy:

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/0144341042000228834?needAccess=true

 

Regarding end of they year group project:

I love the idea that seems to be settling of a potluck website. My understanding is that we each pick a theme to submit and then everyone will make an entry on each of the themes.

The theme I would like to put forth is the idea of inspiring students to write and revise. I am interested in how each person in our class would present an assignment that leaves the space and time that Murray referred to in his essay. How would you create an assignment that both leaves room for a search for the truth and develops the skill of mechanics and argument simultaneously. So the assignment should have room for three revisions as Sommers presented in her study.

 

 

 

 

Revising a Journey

Reading the articles, Teach Writing As a Process Not Product and Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers, by Donald Murray and Nancy Sommers respectively, made me visualize an analogy of sort. The message that the articles attempt to share is basically allowing students use the language as a tool to discover themselves. The writing process in itself should be a reflection of their personalities and views on life; understanding who they really are. Therefore, an analogy such as the following could be made from it:

There is an inexperienced guide who wishes to make a trip into an unknown region. He believes that making a solo trip will allow him to earn the experience he needs in order to become a real and dependable guide. Based on what he knows, also on his own intuition and expectations of what is to come, he begins to make the necessary preparations for it. He could visualize his journey; an informative experience consist of trials and hardships out in the wilderness. A backpack full of important items, a sleeping bag, and even a walking stick are all included in his list of ideal components.

The first steps of the journey make him excited, as well as pretty nervous. He considers the possibility of failing in his quest but manages to find the courage to continue. A lot of effort is required of him. He treks through an unknown land full of forests, hills, and streams. He makes mistakes along the way, such as taking the wrong turns or following the wrong trails, but he figures out the perfect path to reach the destination; the farthest reach of the land. He begins to realize that the journey is a self-discovery of his own nature in actuality and the path-finding aspect is only an incentive. He keeps a paper with drawings and notes on it. As he discovers more paths and signs, he jots down more notes or discards others. Eventually, he makes it to the end of his journey and recalls his full experience for one final reflection of his achievement.

He now feels the need to perfect a map and share it with others. Based on his recollection, he makes the adjustments needed. A map with great artwork and crucial marginal notes that displays the region with utmost details is created. The sheet of paper is basically a culmination of his full experience he has earned from his journey, and it is ready to be shared by everyone else who is interested. He now feel confident that he has taken a big step toward becoming a great guide in the future.

 

Final Project:

In our last class, we have decided to create a web-page that displays written works based on different themes. I think, I would like to go with the theme/topic that we have already explored in the class and it is Fake News. Or rather, being more specific, exploration of how people conceive what truth is and how they choose “the truth” that benefits them the most. There is a couple of sources that come to my mind which would be very useful for this project. One of them is a YouTube video showcasing a psychological study in relation to this particular topic. Another source is an old article I had read long time ago, and it is about the concept of truth. It examines how people choose to believe in “the truth” by the way it is presented to them. Though, I will have to find the article first in order to be able to use it. Of course, Equity Unbound could also be a great resource.

ix. i rewrote this title 6 times and nothing worked so this is what you’re getting

(please have a fancy quote as compensation for the bad pun/joke that was the title)

“Instead of teaching finished writing, we should teach unfinished writing, and glory in its unfinishedness. We work with language in action. We share with out students the continual excitement of choosing one word instead of another, of searching for the one true word” (Murray 4).

The idea of revision is both a good friend of mine and completely lost on me. Sometimes it’s one and sometimes it’s the other. Depends on the writing, I suppose.

Like these blog posts–they’re the latter. Revisions? Drafts? Nah. This is always the first draft. The first thoughts that pop out of my head. And if my mind changes halfway through, I don’t go back and rewrite. I make it known practically mid-sentence that I’m changing my mind. Which… I can see how that can be annoying to read. It’s different from academia, where you’re supposed to have a set idea and stick with it. But like. That’s now how the mind works, y’know? A person’s beliefs and ideals change all the time. Shouldn’t it be interesting to see that in motion?

Or maybe it’s just me.

There’s also those strike-throughs I do sometimes. This thing. The cross-outs where I feel information is just a touch bit irrelevant, but important enough to me whereas it doesn’t warrant a complete deletion. Maybe it’s a bit of selfishness there, me wanting to post thoughts I have a good feeling no one else would particularly care about… and still keeping them in. I guess it’s like my own little version of mock-editing.

And now I’m rambling. Anyway.

We read two articles this week: “Teach Writing as a Process Not Product” by Donald M. Murray and “Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers” by Nancy Sommers. They got me thinking a lot about revision. About students’ revision process, experienced writers’ revision process, my revision process.

Murray’s piece was particularly enlightening, as I’d never really thought about the way professors/teachers look at students’ writing. They’ve been taught to critically analyze “literature, which is finished writing; language as it is used by authors” (3). And so they have to pull away from that mindset in order to help the student before they actually take their writing as a finished product and grade it. I dunno. Just the comparison alone was interesting. I hadn’t thought about it that way.

What I liked about the Sommers piece was the comparison–(I guess I just like comparisons?)–between students’ definition of revision and revision strategies and those of authors/experienced writers. A lot of what the experienced writers were saying (383-84) is kinda how I go about my revisions. I particularly “rewrite as I write” if I have enough time and patience to rewrite at all. Real talk, in most cases, I’ll go through a few types of ways to say a sentence in my head before I even write it. Then I’ll get it down and see how it reads. If I like it, it stays. If not, it disappears. But the idea usually stays the same, just gets reworded.

This is particularly apparent in my fiction writing. I’ll usually go back and revise as I’m still writing the piece. I’ll be going about a chapter and have no idea How To Write This One Line, so instead of wasting time, I’ll go back and read all of what I have so far. It’s kinda like smoothing out wrinkles in a way. Maybe if I “experience” the work from the beginning, smooth out the roughness, I’ll clear up where I want to go once I get back to That One Line I couldn’t get earlier. I dunno, in my head I’m just picturing like smoothing out wrinkled cloth or like kneading dough and I have no idea why but like BIG SHRUG we’re gonna run with it, I guess.

Anywaaaaayyyyy I’m looking forward to discussing these pieces in class.

But before I go, last class we discussed our final project and what we wanted to do in a collaborative doc. I like the ideas we came up with. The idea of a “Potluck” kinda event/website where everyone focuses on their own topic while also participating in everyone else’s topics is Really Cool. We discussed a bit about what we want our topics to be and how we want to contribute to the project and I’ve been thinking about those since.

I’m pretty sure I’ll be doing something about writers’ voices and identity(/identities) in their writing. I’ll probably go back to my old blog posts and my presentation as a refresher of the more Technical Aspects of voice in writing so I can do a brief explanation of concepts and the history of voice in writing in general as well as academic writing (starkly different). Also, in class, I wrote up a little activity that could be done for my section of the site. I’m not 100% on the details, but I was thinking that visitors of the site/the other participants on the site/my classmates could experiment to see the differences between how they speak and how they write (to an academic standard) about the same topic. Something like:

1) Writers would record themselves talking about a topic they’re passionate about and, afterwards, write it down exactly as they spoke it. Grammar mistakes and colloquialisms and all. Complete transcription.

2) Write a short “academically/professionally coherent” discussion (or whatever term is most appropriate) on your topic. Then, record yourself speaking it aloud.

I suppose it’s a more personal kind of analysis, seeing the differences between the two. And there would be no pressure. Just a fun little experiment or activity.

I DUNNO. Maybe I’ll change it. Maybe I’ll expand on it.

In the meantime, it’s what I’m gonna go with!

Welp. I think that’ll be all for this week.

See y’all soon!

–C

ix. i rewrote this title 6 times and nothing worked so this is what you’re getting

(please have a fancy quote as compensation for the bad pun/joke that was the title)

“Instead of teaching finished writing, we should teach unfinished writing, and glory in its unfinishedness. We work with language in action. We share with out students the continual excitement of choosing one word instead of another, of searching for the one true word” (Murray 4).

The idea of revision is both a good friend of mine and completely lost on me. Sometimes it’s one and sometimes it’s the other. Depends on the writing, I suppose.

Like these blog posts–they’re the latter. Revisions? Drafts? Nah. This is always the first draft. The first thoughts that pop out of my head. And if my mind changes halfway through, I don’t go back and rewrite. I make it known practically mid-sentence that I’m changing my mind. Which… I can see how that can be annoying to read. It’s different from academia, where you’re supposed to have a set idea and stick with it. But like. That’s now how the mind works, y’know? A person’s beliefs and ideals change all the time. Shouldn’t it be interesting to see that in motion?

Or maybe it’s just me.

There’s also those strike-throughs I do sometimes. This thing. The cross-outs where I feel information is just a touch bit irrelevant, but important enough to me whereas it doesn’t warrant a complete deletion. Maybe it’s a bit of selfishness there, me wanting to post thoughts I have a good feeling no one else would particularly care about… and still keeping them in. I guess it’s like my own little version of mock-editing.

And now I’m rambling. Anyway.

We read two articles this week: “Teach Writing as a Process Not Product” by Donald M. Murray and “Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers” by Nancy Sommers. They got me thinking a lot about revision. About students’ revision process, experienced writers’ revision process, my revision process.

Murray’s piece was particularly enlightening, as I’d never really thought about the way professors/teachers look at students’ writing. They’ve been taught to critically analyze “literature, which is finished writing; language as it is used by authors” (3). And so they have to pull away from that mindset in order to help the student before they actually take their writing as a finished product and grade it. I dunno. Just the comparison alone was interesting. I hadn’t thought about it that way.

What I liked about the Sommers piece was the comparison–(I guess I just like comparisons?)–between students’ definition of revision and revision strategies and those of authors/experienced writers. A lot of what the experienced writers were saying (383-84) is kinda how I go about my revisions. I particularly “rewrite as I write” if I have enough time and patience to rewrite at all. Real talk, in most cases, I’ll go through a few types of ways to say a sentence in my head before I even write it. Then I’ll get it down and see how it reads. If I like it, it stays. If not, it disappears. But the idea usually stays the same, just gets reworded.

This is particularly apparent in my fiction writing. I’ll usually go back and revise as I’m still writing the piece. I’ll be going about a chapter and have no idea How To Write This One Line, so instead of wasting time, I’ll go back and read all of what I have so far. It’s kinda like smoothing out wrinkles in a way. Maybe if I “experience” the work from the beginning, smooth out the roughness, I’ll clear up where I want to go once I get back to That One Line I couldn’t get earlier. I dunno, in my head I’m just picturing like smoothing out wrinkled cloth or like kneading dough and I have no idea why but like BIG SHRUG we’re gonna run with it, I guess.

Anywaaaaayyyyy I’m looking forward to discussing these pieces in class.

But before I go, last class we discussed our final project and what we wanted to do in a collaborative doc. I like the ideas we came up with. The idea of a “Potluck” kinda event/website where everyone focuses on their own topic while also participating in everyone else’s topics is Really Cool. We discussed a bit about what we want our topics to be and how we want to contribute to the project and I’ve been thinking about those since.

I’m pretty sure I’ll be doing something about writers’ voices and identity(/identities) in their writing. I’ll probably go back to my old blog posts and my presentation as a refresher of the more Technical Aspects of voice in writing so I can do a brief explanation of concepts and the history of voice in writing in general as well as academic writing (starkly different). Also, in class, I wrote up a little activity that could be done for my section of the site. I’m not 100% on the details, but I was thinking that visitors of the site/the other participants on the site/my classmates could experiment to see the differences between how they speak and how they write (to an academic standard) about the same topic. Something like:

1) Writers would record themselves talking about a topic they’re passionate about and, afterwards, write it down exactly as they spoke it. Grammar mistakes and colloquialisms and all. Complete transcription.

2) Write a short “academically/professionally coherent” discussion (or whatever term is most appropriate) on your topic. Then, record yourself speaking it aloud.

I suppose it’s a more personal kind of analysis, seeing the differences between the two. And there would be no pressure. Just a fun little experiment or activity.

I DUNNO. Maybe I’ll change it. Maybe I’ll expand on it.

In the meantime, it’s what I’m gonna go with!

Welp. I think that’ll be all for this week.

See y’all soon!

–C