The part of the writing process that often makes me want to flip my laptop screen down is when my ideas are on the page but there are still immense amounts of revision to do before my writing will be polished and presentable. It takes so much concentration and attention to move writing to a place where it is ready to be shared with the wider public.
My students often seem to share the same struggle. Too often I have found myself reading student work that is on its way to being something really interesting or powerful but the author hasn’t taken the time to deeply revise his/her writing.
This year I am trying to focus on creating assignments and systems that push students towards higher quality products. Here are some of the new (and old) strategies I am using:
– Making sure that assignments have meaning in the world, beyond the walls of the classroom. I try to create work that inherently motivates students to express themselves clearly and deeply because of the ideas and issues at stake.
– Having students write for a real audience. Whenever possible I have students write to or for someone. This can be a letter that will be sent to an author, an Op Ed that is sent to a newspaper, or a play that is submitted to a contest.
– Having students publish their work on their blogs. I repeatedly emphasize to them that they are not ready to publish until they will feel proud of someone Googling their name and finding their work. When I am most organized I have my students get final approval from me before they post. This way I can point out any last revision requirements and slow people down before they rush to publish something that is not polished.
– Making peer editing part of the assignment. I spend a lot of time reading student drafts but I never have enough time to comment as much as I would like. For many larger assignments students are required to have one or two peers give them feedback on their work before they write their final copy. I design the peer edit forms so that the questions reflect what is being prioritized in the assignment. The student editors sign the form after they fill it out and the authors are responsible for making sure that they have received quality feedback.
Ultimately my hopes are to help my students develop skills that help them to express themselves fully and deeply. I want them to understand that if their work if not polished and perfect many people will immediately stop reading or take them and their ideas less seriously.