Monday, July 11, 2011

National Writing Project Day 9: Revision

One of the great parts of giving your full effort and attention to something is that you're ready for any surprises which may come your way, good or bad.  I've been focused in my workshops for the last two weeks--more than I imagined considering they are taking place during beautiful summer days.

My surprise today was actually an A-Ha moment while working with the concept of revision.

Typically revision is a regularly scheduled part of the writer's process.  I've done it.  I've hear colleagues do it.  I went it through it myself as a student: write a draft, bring it to class to have your mistakes circled, and take it home to revise.  Hand in the final copy.

There may be variations to that example, but the core of my learning today is how silly I've been.  I've literally worked with revision as if it were a stand-alone moment.  As if we write-write-write and then take it home and then that is the roller coaster ride of revision takes place--alone in your room, at a desk, door closed.  As if that is where the magic happened for thousands of American teenagers with each writing assignment.

Revision: the wild ride on the Kansas tornado just before safely crashing atop of the Witch of the Deadline.  Upon landing, all color returns to your face and you open the bedroom door to the farmhouse; your younger brother and his good-time friends tumble around the house.  The paper is done--it has been matter what that mean ol' Miss Gulch has to say, you have a revised product to submit tomorrow.

I experienced at least five different exercises today where revision was either implicitly or explicitly ingrained as a part of the routine of writing single words, sentences, paragraphs, and even brainstorming sessions with partners.

It is interesting to look back on the word--revision.  To have a vision again.  To re-visit.  Yet that is misleading to students and teachers, isn't it?  Revision isn't a separate stage exclusively.  We revise as we write--whether we are overwriters or underwriters.  If we overwrite, we'll certainly have to cut some things out.  If we underwrite, we'll have to go back and insert more text.

As we scan our memories or creative ideas we are picking and choosing what to place on paper--revision is happening naturally.  How often have we paused before writing a line which excites us only to think it through again--revision.

It can be such a simple and painless concept--yet, somehow, in some adolescent circles it is made out to be a giant inconvenience.  It can seem so daunting to a student when left to the back end of a process: take all of this work you just muscled through and rewrite it using stronger verbs, improving your punctuation, minding your focus, double-checking your content and support...and so on.

No wonder some do not revise in that classic mode--it sounds exhausting.

I've revised this blog several times in the act of writing it and until today I never thought of it in that way.  I'm the classic underwriter--I write enough to put my ideas down and then I go back through and build it out from the inside, and go back through again and again to change words, alter meaning, twist a phrase just so.  In my example of a classroom, I may not have believed or understood that to be a form of revision.

And some kids have authentic experiences with this which they have already enjoyed.

Take the example of MadLibs.  Are there many American kids out there who haven't toyed around with at least one pad of these fun oddities?  If they have, then they have experienced revision as they've wrestled over which adjective sounds the most disgusting and subsequently hilarious.

I'm glad I paid attention--I don't think I wrote anything the rest of the day today without recognizing those many moments when revision just kicked in on its own.

No comments:

Post a Comment