What they'll do today in class:
- Analyze the sample essays
- Practice workshopping
- Discuss revision
Connection to course goals: The activities from today's class emphasize the importance of revision in the writing process. Practicing a workshop with the sample essay asks students to evaluate how well a text meets a writing context, while at the same time developing their critiquing skills in preparation for helping each other revise on Tuesday. Also, the discussion of revision is designed to produce a clearer and more constructive idea of what revising a text actually entails. Here students begin to see that revision means not only the words on the paper, but the ideas they're trying to communicate through those words.
Take about 5 minutes to skim over the sample essay again, and then respond to this question: How well does this essay meet the context for Essay 2? What aspects of the essay work well in meeting that context and why? What parts of the essay don't meet the context as well and why?
Discuss WTLs - We're trying here to get them thinking of the sample essay in terms of the context of the assignment rather than as a "model" for them to follow or avoid.
- Discussion questions:
- Which parts of the sample essay worked well for our context?
- Which parts didn't work as well?
- Generate a list of these CONTEXTUAL strengths and weakness on the board. (NOTE: Hopefully students will raise issues of focus and development, but if not make sure you ask them to consider these aspects of the sample essay. These are the two most important parts of writing we're trying to teach them with this essay, so try to focus on them as much as possible.) Some possible questions you might use to get at these issues:
- What is the overall claim of the essay?
- Are there any parts of the essay that don't seem to connect to the overall claim?
- What are some examples of effective evidence in the essay?
- Are there areas where the audience might want more examples or development? If so, where and why?
- Other concerns such as style, grammar, tone, etc. can certainly be brought up and discussed, but emphasize that these are less important in the overall scheme of an essay than focus and development.
Transition: Now that we've decided where this essay works well and where it needs more work, let's practice providing constructive feedback that could help this writer improve.
Practice workshopping by suggesting to the author of the sample what they could do to improve.
- What are your experiences with workshopping/peer critique?
- Have you done any peer critiquing of any sort in the past?
Generate a list of "what helps" and "what doesn't help" in regard to workshopping and getting feedback on your work.
- Be HONEST but tactful.
- Point to specifics.
- Make suggestions.
- Don't take over the paper.
- Concentrate on larger issues rather than smaller issues in early drafts.
- Strengths and weaknesses
You might have them try to place the list you come up with in a hierarchy. Which are most important in providing good feedback. Concentrating on larger issues, for example, is probably more important than providing specifics. Pointing to specific examples of misused commas won't help the essay much if the main problem is the focus isn't narrow enough.
Transition: Let's put these to practice on the sample essay…
In groups of 2 or 3, look at the list of strengths and weaknesses.
On your overhead, write the author a brief letter which provides constructive feedback that will help them revise and improve their essay. Be sure to consider the list we came up with above.
Present critiques. As the groups present their letters, ask the class to evaluate how helpful the feedback would be. Be sure to emphasize strengths and weaknesses in each example. They'll probably all have some helpful feedback, but also places that could be more useful. And remind them that you're all trying to become better critics - at this point it's not important who has the best letter, it's important that as a class they learn what type of feedback will be constructive so they can help each other improve.
Transition: Now that we've practiced workshopping and giving constructive feedback, let's turn to an example of revision and consider what this example says about how and what to revise.
Discuss revision. Your goal here is to demonstrate to students that an important part of revision is re-thinking the ideas and the focus of an essay, not just correcting grammar and mechanics, or changing a few words around.
- Handout the E.B. White essays (found in the appendix)
- Have the students read through the drafts, and then use the following discussion questions:
- How does the first draft differ from the last?
- What is the first draft about? How would you summarize it to a reader? What is the main point?
- What is the last draft about? Summary/Main point?
- What changes through White's various drafts?
Complete a full draft for workshop on Wednesday