Saturday, October 31, 2015

Writers, Revising, and Then, More Revising

                Nancy Sommers 1981 essay, “Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers”, though somewhat dated, is a very thorough descriptor of revision for all writers. The principles are the same as current thinking as are the student responses. I especially liked her references to writing as being modeled on speech (the art of rhetoric?) and I agree wholeheartedly that revision is often viewed as a separate part of the writing process—almost an afterthought. However, because writing was originally an art prepared for oratorical use, where one could not reverse their words once uttered, revision needed to occur before the words were spoken---within the composition. As Sommers states: “What is impossible in speech is revision…” (379). Writers, can enjoy the luxury of this process until their project sounds as they imagined and expresses what their intent demands.

            The reduction of revision as a major part of the writing process is, evidently, a common mistake made by many students. To me, the idea is ludicrous as I revise almost anything I write—including emails and greeting cards—until I get the writing to honestly reflect what I hoped to say. Most pieces are always in revision until they must be handed in or submitted.  Sadly, even supposedly finished pieces are victims of my harsh revision (or at least some minor “tweaking”). I am just eternally grateful for Microsoft Word and computers…
From a case study done at Boston University, Sommers’ provides samples of student definitions of revising. Though many of my fellow students share those opinions, an equal amount know the importance of working through their entire piece to improve clarity, organization, and argumentation. Sommers believes that only through revision can one find the true argument. I personally agree as this has proven true on several occasions when, after hours of research and conflicting thoughts, I have grown away from my main point. But, as one revises and cleans up the ball of confusion (Temptations) they have created, the original argument—in all its conviction--is rediscovered and hopefully, proven. If not entirely, more revision usually solves the problem. Sommers’ experienced writers echo this philosophy, and some other ones far more advanced then I employ, but her student writers are not using this process in the way it is needed. Of course, her student writers are probably my age, considering when this study took place, so perhaps they have learned to utilize the benefits of revision by now…

Donald Murray's "Teach the Motivating Force of Revision" follows the same theme. He suggests that teachers write along with students which seems to make sense and serves as a model for the students to follow. I like his mentality for students to find new meanings and make discoveries in their writing. I am uncertain, that all students are willing to find those meanings but I applaud his ideas. The concept of "internal revision" I especially like--I think I do a lot of that myself and it is a benefit for students to utilize in much the same way as Sommers' advice! His main point that struck home with me was that teachers should be teaching revision as part of the writing process. If students believe something is a minor afterthought they will treat it that way. Now, because I had read the other essay before I checked the revised reading list, I will post some thoughts I had on that one too.
 The voices behind “Teacher-Writers: Then, Now, and Next” focus on the teacher as writer and how this practice enhances the teacher-student relationship. This current essay reviews the development of the teacher-writer from the early phases, through the research period, and today with teachers as writers advocating intellectualism and high pressure issues. At its inception in the 1970’s and 80’s, the idea was to promote teachers as writers to promote pedagogy and both encourage and pioneer the writing workshop. Teachers were expected to ‘walk the talk’ (178) and be on the same page (no pun intended) as their students. As time moved on, teachers became researchers during the 1990’s and 2000’s. Today—advocacy, as teachers fight and write for a specific cause and create a strong voice for activism and resistance.
Teacher-writers situate themselves among other same-minded individuals where all study and engage in similar groups where the emphasis is on inquiry, agency and advocacy of this, and other, processes. This involvement supports the life of teacher as writer, and research does show a change in perspectives that form teaching practices. This makes sense as teachers are essentially becoming the “student” as writer-researcher’s, taking them back to their earlier days of writing. As teacher-writers, they too seek approval, face deadlines, and are rewarded by the success of a finished product. But where is it all going?

In today’s society, teachers are often being put down, which makes this action all the more purposeful. Teachers as spokespersons pose an important step towards recognition of the benefits of writing. The need for a strong voice is answered with teacher-advocates and the “power of the pen” has been proven superior to that of the sword repeatedly. Teacher-writers can promote writing as a valuable skill, a necessary tool, and a catharsis using their informed voice.
The final project! I have been throwing my idea around all week as it seems to be changing before my eyes. But at least I know what I want to use! I love Martha's Voki; I already played with that and she will introduce (at the very least) my piece. I also want to use Animoto for the body. My hope is to use Voki to begin AND then shift into Animoto  to keep it moving.Also, I love Laura's idea of Writing Matters--it is perfect!

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