Help Your Child Become a Better
Writer with Six Powerful Revision
BY NIKOLAS BARON
No one writes a fantastic first draft. Well, that’s not entirely true. There are a select few who can spin gold, but they’re not the norm. For most of us, writing is a long and arduous process, filled with draft after draft, revision after revision. And when it’s all done, the most we can hope for is a final product that, while not perfect, is something we’re at least we’re okay with. In short, writing is a process:
In my work with Grammarly, I study how people write and how they become better writers. While there’s no clear, definitive answer, revision always remains an important part of the process. Writers of all levels use the first draft as a chance to get words down on paper. More than likely, when it’s done, it’s a jumbled mess of ideas, nearly unreadable, and certainly not ready for anyone else to see. Revision is what fixes all of this, transforming a less than stellar piece into something the writer can be proud of.
As a homeschool teacher, however, this entire idea of revision can be a daunting task. After all, revision isn’t just about fixing commas and misspellings; often, it’s about rewriting entire paragaphs. Where does one even begin? Well, I would start with the following simple revision tools:
- Time: When a writer finally finishes a piece, his brain releases endorphins, causing a euphoric feeling, and preventing him from seeing anything wrong with the piece. To him, it’s the best thing ever written, and it just can’t be better. Have your young writer put the piece to the side for a week, and then come back with fresh eyes. Most of the time, he’ll notice more than a punctuation error or two.
- Chunking: Have your writer take an entire section (chunk) out of the text and label what purpose it serves. A good piece of writing is composed of a series of ideas that all work together in a logical way to get the writer’s message across. Chunking helps her make sure each section works together for the good of the paper. When she’s done this with sections of the paper, have her also try this with paragraphs. At more advanced levels, she can even do this with sentences. The idea is that everything she’s written, in some way, contributes to the message of the piece. If it doesn’t, it needs to go.
- Reading Out Loud: This may seem like a no-brainer, but writers often forget this tool. Reading out loud can help him find bad phrasing and transitions. If he stumbles over it when he reads it out loud, his readers will stumble over it in their head.
- Reading Backwards: Similar to Chunking, writers use this tool to look for strong, logical connections between sentences. If, in reading backwards, she isn’t quite sure how two sentences are connected, it’s possible they’re out of order. Beyond that, it helps establish a clear thought-process from beginning to end. If the writer can see her train of thought in reverse, then the readers should have no problem following it from the beginning.
- Peer Review: After the writer has taken a few swings at self-revision, it’s time to show the piece to someone else. Often, the writer is too close to the piece to notice errors, which is why he needs to have someone else read through it. Most of the time, the reviewer will find things the writer missed.
- Spelling/Grammar Check: When all is said and done, it’s important to remember that writers are human and even the best will never catch every single error. A spelling/grammar check is never a good replacement for proofreading and peer review, but it can serve as another set of eyes. More than likely, your writer has a check on his or her word processor, which is decent, but definitely not perfect. For a more extensive check, try Grammarly.com’s grammar check that considers over 250 grammar rules.
Your Writer Can Use What Works
Revision will always remain one of the most valuable tools in a writer’s belt. Keep in mind that many of these suggestions won’t work for every writer. Writing is still a personal activity, and each writer has to find what works best for him or her. Whatever tool your writer chooses to use, rest assured that it will, if nothing else, help him or her become better a writer.