Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Five for the Price of One: The Revision Station Activity

This activity uses strategies from several sections in the Ways of Writing Handbook. You might have students read the corresponding pages before completing this activity. Any of the station instructions could be used separately. Or you can use them in combination to create a longer, interactive activity that gets students up and moving around.

I set this up as five different “revision stations.” At each of seven tables I placed a different instruction sheet and supplies. Every fifteen minutes students moved around to a station and applied the instructions to their draft. (If students finished before the fifteen minutes were up, they moved to an open seat at another station.)

Station 1
Cut and paste, from page 39.
Use for papers that have organization problems
Supplies: Scissors, blank paper, tape
1. Number each paragraph
2. Cut up your essay paragraph by paragraph.
3. Put your first paragraph aside.
4. Shuffle the paragraphs.
5. Find the one that has the most important point you are trying to make, and make this your first paragraph. See if the others need to remain and reorder them.
6. Tape them onto new sheets of paper, leaving spaces where you might need more information or transitions.

Station 2
Looping, from page 18.
Use for drafts that don’t have a clear direction or enough supporting details
Supplies: Notebook paper
1. Locate the most important sentence or idea in your paper. Write it at the top of a blank piece of notebook paper.
2. Freewrite (write without stopping to edit or correct. Don’t pause, just keep letting your pen and thoughts flow) for at least 3/4 of a page.
3. Read what you’ve just written.
4. Locate the most interesting or important sentence from your freewrite.
5. Repeat steps.
6. Use ideas and/or text from the material you’ve generated to write your next draft.

Station 3
Proofreading, from page 42.
Useful for drafts that need fine tuning in terms of sentence and word level errors.
Supplies: dictionary and writing handbook
1. Reread your essay, sentence by sentence, backwards, looking for spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors.
2. Look them up and fix them.

Station 4
Wordiness, from page 47.
Useful for papers that need more “flow,” that “don’t sound right” or “need clearer sentences.”
Supplies: colored pen
1. Read through your essay and cross out at least fifteen words without changing the content of the ideas.
2. Look particularly for adverbs (very, really, ridiculously, etc.)
3. Look particularly for groups of words that can be made into one, i.e. “due to the fact that” = “because”; or “In the present time”= “now” or “today”.
4. Look particularly for unnecessary signals like “in conclusion”, “it should be pointed out”, or “in my opinion.”

Station 5
Expand, from page 36.
Useful for drafts that need to be longer or to include more supporting details.
Supplies: notebook paper
1. Pretend you are someone else reading your paper for the first time, without any knowledge of the subject matter.
2. Go through your paper and find any opportunity you can to ask a journalists’ question: who, what, when, where, why, how.
3. Write these questions to yourself in the margin.
4. On a separate piece of paper, answer these questions.

You might have them self-select stations. Or you could choose only specific station activities depending on the issues you’ve identified in their drafts. You might also direct them in peer review to offer advice as to which station to visit (in this case it would be important to make clear the purpose of each technique, i.e. paper seems too general, no clear point being made, needs more supporting details: send them to looping activity).

I followed this activity with a ten minute freewrite (to turn in) of their revision strategy, a plan for how they would rewrite the essay for a final grade.

Let me know if you have any questions or ideas about these activities. I'd also be grateful to hear about ways you're using Ways of Writing in your classes.

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