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Common Core Standards: ELA - Literacy

Grade 9-10

Writing WHST.9-10.5

Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.

Set the Stage

Process, process, process. Your students might run for the hills when you suggest a revision or two, but we know that real writing is all about the revision, so drag those students from their hiding places and get them back to work. No one gets it right the first time, least of all your students (no matter how much they might like to believe that their first draft is a perfect draft), so it’s important to show them the difference in quality between a first and final draft. Give students a concrete set of qualities to aim for in a finished piece of writing, and help them customize their own revision checklists. 

Shmoop also recommends you design assignments that encourage students to engage genuinely in these process steps. You can do this by providing a menu of options for planning, drafting, and revision activities, but then require students to turn in their drafts-in-progress so you can assess how well they are able to address each stage of the writing process. Not everyone plans their writing the same way (we, for one, rarely use traditional outlines), but everyone should do some form of planning. With a little bit of freedom for students to find what works for them, we think they’ll do a bit less of the run-and-hide thing.

Example

Dress Rehearsal

As part of a physical science writing project in which your task is to inform your classmates about earthquakes, you have written a first draft. You believe this draft is near-perfection, but your science teacher is requiring you to revise. Whatever. Now, you might think that means to look for the MUGS (Mechanics, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling) errors that you learned about in English class, but your science teacher is asking you to fix more critical problems. You know, big picture stuff.

Your elbow partner peer-reviewed your (near-perfect) draft, and he (gasp!) found some serious problems. Sorry. Your draft explains what earthquakes are, where they are most likely to occur, how they are measured, what their effects are, and how communities can be better prepared for them. Your essay seems to have all the right information, says your partner, but some points caused confusion. How can you fix it?

In the paragraph about what causes earthquakes, you give two causes: volcanic activity and shifting tectonic plates in the fault zones. You did an acceptable job describing how volcanoes set off earthquakes, and your partner understood that since he already knows what volcanoes are. However, he didn’t understand about the tectonic plates because he has no idea what those are. Let’s face it, you have no idea either.

Your audience is your classmates, so you know that you must explain what these plates are since no one in the room is a geological expert. After a bit of research, you add several sentences to explain that tectonic plates are gigantic slabs of rock that make up the earth’s upper layer. These shift and at times trigger an earthquake. Picture a stack of plates being carried by a waiter.

Another comment made by your peer-responder was that when you gave the location where earthquakes are most likely to occur, you didn’t support that point with evidence. Oops. On the other hand, you gave too much information in your explanation of how scientists measure the severity of an earthquake. To fix these issues, you add statistics about where earthquakes usually occur, and you take out some of the extra information on measurement techniques. While you’re at it, you put all this information into more understandable vocabulary that’s better suited for your audience.

You notice while you’re revising that the information about how communities can be made safer comes before your description of the disastrous effects of an earthquake. That doesn't make sense, so you move this to after the effects. This improves the logical structure of your paper because now readers will first see how dangerous earthquakes can be, so they’ll understand the need for better earthquake preparedness.

Last, you check for and edit MUGS errors, and find that you’ve done a great job in remembering all those grammar lessons. Ms. Walsh would be so proud!

See, there’s so much more to revising than spell checking! You’re left with quite a mess… arrows here, scratches there…but that final draft is going to be SO much easier for your classmates (and you) to understand.

That’s a Wrap

Too often students believe that revising means editing. Here, they’ve shown that revisions include developing missed concepts, finding and including more information, adding or deleting details, and checking for surface errors. Mastering these skills will help them in all content areas and prove valuable in their college and professional work. Now that’s something to shake about!

Drill

Task Recognition
Read the following paragraphs from an essay. Determine what step of the revision process is being used to improve this draft.

Revision Word Bank

editing rewriting deleting adding rearranging

“The concentration camps of Nazi Germany (1) was horrific places. (2) It was a deadly time These were dangerous places for Jewish people (3) in Germany. There were many concentration camps around the Germany (4)area, but the three well-known camps (5) are Birkenau, Buchenwald, and Buna. (6) Many families lost their loved ones and still reminisce think of them today. (7) People Prisoners there worked hard (8) labor, didn’t have a choice, and most were killed immediately. These camps were big and deadly. Many families lost their loved ones and still (9) reminisce of them today.

Buchenwald was the largest concentration camp (10) to be established. It was located in a wooded area on the northern slopes of Ettersberg, about (11) 5 miles northwest of Weimer in east-central Germany. Buchenwald was opened by SS authorities for male prisoners in July (12) 1937, ;women weren’t allowed until the middle of 1942. (13) Prisoners were confined in the northern part of the camp in an area known as the main, while SS guard barracks and camp administration compound were located in the southern part. Buchenwald was a work camp, providing an important source of labor (14) for the war effort. A labor camp meant people were sent there to work long strenuous hours. Some of the labor the prisoners did was making guns and other machinery.

Answers/Explanations:

1. The correct answer is editing. Watch that subject-verb agreement. Camps were.

2. The correct answer is rewriting. This might look like a deletion, but the same information is rewritten in the next sentence.

3. The correct answer is deleting. Good choice—you’ve got too many Germanys going on there.

4. The correct answer is deleting. Clearing up unnecessary words always improves your writing.

5. The correct answer is editing. Verb tense; good catch. Thankfully this is all in the past.

6. The correct answer is rearranging (move to end of paragraph). Since this sentence brings us into the present day, it should come at the end, after all of the past events have been detailed.

7. The correct answer is rewriting. This is a good change because it makes clear that you are talking about the prisoners specifically. Many Nazi soldiers worked at the camps too, but that’s not who you mean here.

8. The correct answer is deleting. Unnecessary. Work and labor mean basically the same thing.

9. The correct answer is rewriting. Reminisce implies remembering happy times; definitely the wrong word here.

10. The correct answer is deleting. Unnecessary, again. You’d be surprised at how many words we use that we don’t really need.

11. The correct answer is editing. There are some conflicting rules out there about when to spell out numbers and when to use numerals, but everyone agrees that you should spell out numbers less than ten.

12. The correct answer is editing. This sentence is really two sentences put together, so you need a semicolon, not a comma.

13. The correct answer is deleting. This information is too specific and detailed for this topic. If you were writing a detailed essay about this one camp, the information would work, but it’s not needed in an essay that provides an overview of the most well-known Nazi concentration camps.

14. The correct answer is adding. The added info here makes the type of labor more specific. The camps weren’t for farming or manufacturing cars; they were specifically providing labor so that Germany could continue the war effort.