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What is the effective way to revise students' composition?

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Li Xia

Joined: 09 Nov 2007
Posts: 1

PostPosted: Tue Nov 27, 2007 7:23 am    Post subject: What is the effective way to revise students' composition? Reply with quote

I am a Senior High School English teacher from China. Now I have some problems in revising studentsí composition. Generally speaking, when I revise the studentsí composition that are handed in, I always take spelling, sentence structures, tenses, ideas and organization into consideration. So I often underline the word or sentences that contain errors. And sometimes I also write down the comment for encouragement. But it doesnít work because some students seldom pay attention to this or even they donít read their revised composition for a second look, for they may think errors mean failure. And their improvement in writing is not obvious. Now I really want to know your common practice in revise the studentsí composition. What is the most effective way to revise the studentsí composition or diary? How to give a grade that interests them?Would you please help me out?
Thanks a lot!
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Joined: 18 May 2007
Posts: 151
Location: Los Angeles, California

PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2008 7:39 pm    Post subject: Set clear guidelines; follow a rubric Reply with quote

As someone who has spent many long evenings reading and grading student papers, I can completely sympathize.

When I started teaching writing classes, crammed with too many students, at Santa Monica Community College, I discovered the benefits of setting clear guidelines and following a rubric. I handed out, with the writing assignment, the actual rubric that I would use to grade the papers.
Content = 40
Structure =30
Style (including grammar) = 30

Under each category, I would list several particular features. For instance, did the author use a range of sources? Did the author use both primary and secondary sources? Was the essay persuasive? Did the author consider other perspectives with respect?

Obviously, you alter the rubric for each assignment. The rubric helps students avoid errors, reduces confusion over grades, and reduces your grading time. Why? You just use checkmarks - and make a few notes.

For instance, at the bottom of each paper I write "Good Mistakes"... my term for student errors.

insufficient support verb tense problems missing articles
weak conclusion spelling errors citation problems

As for marking the papers themselves, I use the metaphor of a pelican looking for fish. The pelican swims over, eyes a fish, and grabs it. I don't machine gun papers with error corrections: I just identify one or two "good mistakes" on each paper and focus on those errors.

Is that a perfect system? No. But it provides detailed, meaningful, and practical feedback that allows students to make new, different, and hopefully better "good mistakes" on their next essay or research paper.

Finally, and this may be very Californian, I used to tell high school students that they could write about anything for 30 minutes and they didn't have to even show me. If they wanted, they could turn in their writing journals for me to read and I would provide my reaction as a reader. Grammar didn't count and spelling didn't count in journal writing. They almost always wanted me to read their writing. Journals were for self-expression, brainstorming, and first thoughts.

Sorry for writing so much. I didn't have time to make it shorter or better.
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Joined: 12 Jul 2008
Posts: 22
Location: Lahore, Pakistan

PostPosted: Mon Sep 01, 2008 1:53 am    Post subject: Assessment and Editing of Student Writing Reply with quote

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Joined: 18 May 2007
Posts: 151
Location: Los Angeles, California

PostPosted: Mon Sep 01, 2008 4:54 am    Post subject: Nice links - You might like the OWL from Purdue Uni. too! Reply with quote

Those links provide solid, detailed worksheets and a strong review of writing principles.

You might also find the Online Writing Lab (OWL) from Purdue University helpful. Whether teaching undergraduates the basics of writing, ESL students grammar, or business executives a few tips for their professional writing, OWL includes the most concise, practical, and accessible worksheets that I've found on line. I always include it on my course websites for both native speakers (undergraduates) and ESL students (graduate students.) Check it out!

Here is the link for ESL writers.

As so often in teaching, we have to balance accuracy and production. I tend to focus on just one or two particular "good mistakes" at a time to avoid intimidating or unintentionally silencing students. Just a thought.

Good luck!
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Sally Olsen

Joined: 08 Apr 2004
Posts: 1322
Location: Canada,France, Brazil, Japan, Mongolia, Greenland, Canada, Mongolia, Ethiopia next

PostPosted: Tue Sep 02, 2008 4:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some great ideas. I particularly favour the journal writing. I write at the same time on an overhead plastic and then show the students how I edit and refine and sometimes just want to throw it out and start again. I think it might help to do a little preparation too - get them to write down three topics they might write about. This can be something on the content of your course or a topic they might encounter on an exam. Then talk with another person about each topic quickly until they decide on one topic and what they can cover.

I also used to fold over the paper by two inches down the side and ask the students to leave this blank while they are writing. Then when they are through they go back over and write in the 2 inch strip if they are uncertain about what they have written, spelling, tenses and so on. Sometimes even though the student got it right, they weren't certain and you can reinforce that they did indeed get it right. The two inch strip also allows you to draw arrows if you think the organization needs help.

You can then do the peer editing in class and allow them to work with others to make it better. Again that two inch strip can be used for peers to ask questions that would help clarify their argument.

Now that we have such great facility to do the work online you can set up your computer to add comments automatically in between lines and even rewrite a few essays to show the students where they might be going. I usually rewrite the shorter assignments and hand them back to the class to judge. There are some great comments. Of course everything is anonymous unless the author wants to be known. I give them about ten examples and try to include various good examples of things they might watch for and include the next time.

It is very interesting that the authors often think they have written exactly what I gave them in the rewrite and are shocked when they get back their original paper to see their mistakes. Of course, I try to keep as closely as possible to the original.

The students get really good at "marking" other's essays and giving justifications for their marks.

Writing is really personal so I am very careful with evaluations that might be taken personally. I would never comment on their personal appearance in a negative way and I try to think about their writing in the same vein. I have arranged for certain students to see a counsellor though after reading their writing. Of course, this is done in the most caring way possible and with complete privacy.
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Joined: 16 Aug 2010
Posts: 21

PostPosted: Tue Aug 17, 2010 10:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

writing and reading are vital to success not only in school but in life. Good writing needs a purpose and can come in many different forms. Revising can be defined in several ways. It is making decisions about how to improve a piece of written material. Revision is also looking for areas in your writing where your writing could be more clear, interesting, or informative.
Here is the link for online writers :
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[email protected]

Joined: 05 May 2012
Posts: 18

PostPosted: Sun May 27, 2012 6:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I love these ideas on how to effectively edit students' writing. I especially like and employ three of these techniques quite regularly. I use rubrics for each writing genre (students know exactly what they need to do to achieve a good mark), I model my own writing for my students on an overhead projector, and I am careful to hone in on only the most important errors on a paper (as too much correction can be overwhelming). Little by little, we see improvement. Wink
As for the issue of students not taking note of editing marks and making corrections, I always have them turn in all rough drafts with their final drafts. They are made aware, beforehand, that if they did not clearly attempt to correct their mistakes, they will have points taken off of their final grade. I find that the accountability factor of turning in their edited rough drafts is effective.
Also, for editing, a co-worker of mine has begun to use the online source, Drop Box, so that her e-mail will not fill up so much. It seems like a simple and useful tool, so I'll probably try that out next September.
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