Tuesday, January 29, 2008

How will I know what to fix?

Today my students had a peer review scheduled, so they were required to bring drafts of the papers which are due Friday. When I clarified that they would not be turning these preliminary drafts in to me, one student asked, "How do we know what to fix if you don't read our papers?"

She didn't know what kinds of changes her rough draft could go through that weren't specifically directed by her teacher. Which is a reasonable concern from someone who may have never been asked what she thinks about her own paper.

With this class, I'm trying to instill the notion that revision is about making things better, which may not involve "fixing" anything. Last week I asked if anyone had ever read anything they didn't like. (The answer is pretty obvious.) One student hadn't liked Animal Farm. We discussed why that was. It wasn't because George Orwell had bad grammar or even wrote confusing sentences. It was just the idea of animals running a farm that bothered the student. So, I emphasized, the kinds of things that would have improved the book are not the kinds of things students usually change in a rough draft--spelling and word choice. Making something good is more complicated than making it correct.

1 comment:

Chris Panza said...

So true.

I often tell students when they do revisions not to waste my time or theirs making "editorial changes." I think most students don't understand "rewrite" beyond that level. They think that the teacher is a kind of copy-editor, finding grammar and spelling mistakes and the like, and that's all they need to fix.

I always say "rewrite means reTHINKING" things, such that you make the paper better. Very rarely does this ever happen. Mostly it's just editorial nonsense. As I'm sure you have seen, it's terribly hard to go up against 12 years of hard core bad educational habits.