The activities for this week emphasize (1) the importance of ongoing revision during the writing process, (2) the role of document design and formatting in the preparation of polished essays, and (3) the use of illustrations (charts, graphs, images, animations, video, etc.) as persuasive and informative devices. In terms of revising, your overall goal is to help students understand that writing continues even after they've completed their first draft. It would be ideal if they begin to see and value the improvements made during this process of rewriting. In terms of document design and formatting, your goal is to help students understand, first, that they must adapt their documents for publication in a specific venue and, second, that (among other things) document design calls a reader’s attention to specific information and ideas. In terms of illustrations, your goal is to expand students’ understanding of “evidence.” Students should understand that, in addition to such devices as paraphrases and quotations, they can draw on a wide range of illustrations, tables, charts, and so on to support their arguments.
Backwards Outline Activity: The backwards outline activity encourages students to look closely at the organization, focus, and coherence of their essay by considering how each paragraph functions in relation to the overall claim. Students can complete a backwards outline on their own draft or on their peers’ drafts. Since the directions for this activity can seem complicated, you might try to lead students through each step verbally (announcing each task and waiting five-to-ten minutes for students to complete the step). The outline below is a guide. Revise it as you see fit.
Backwards Outline Workshop
Read through your draft once without making any marks. Then re-read it while completing the following steps:
1. On a separate sheet of paper, write down the main claim of the essay. Quote directly from the essay and/or put it in your own words.
2. Then, divide the sheet into three columns.
3. In the left hand column, number and summarize what each paragraph says. If there is more than one idea in the paragraph, list the ideas as separate points.
4. Review the list in the left-hand column and see if similar things show up in different parts of the draft. (e.g. Are both #2 and #8 examples that prove the same point? Do #4 and #7 bring up the same example?) If so, suggest some possible reorganizations on the reverse side of your outline (and/or on another sheet of paper).
5. In the middle-column, write a sentence that summarizes the connection you see between what each paragraph does and the overall claim at the top of the page. If you can’t see a connection, put a question mark in the column.
6. Look back to see if each connection is made obvious in the draft itself. Under each connection you’ve written, make a note of “obvious” or “not obvious”.
7. In the third column, write down connection you see between each paragraph (e.g. between paragraph one and paragraph two, between paragraph two and paragraph three, and so on). If you can’t see a connection, put a question mark in the column.
8. For those paragraphs where you could see a connection, go back and examine the draft to see if the author has provided a transition for the reader explaining this connection. Mark each connection you listed with a note of “transition” or “no transition.”
9. Based on your analysis of the organization and coherence of this essay, make suggestions about how to re-organize and where stronger connections are needed. In your suggestions, be sure to consider whether any lack of clarity in organization, coherence, or evidence may result from the claim itself (i.e. ask whether the organization is hard to follow because the claim is trying to prove too much).
10. Finally, re-examine the draft one more time for evidence and provide suggestions about where more examples or proof are needed to support the argument.
11. When you receive comments on your draft, use them during revision.