Previous tips and workshops have addressed the importance of formative feedback for student writers, those comments aimed toward generating revision when a student still has time to revise their work. In this tip, we will focus on two types of informal writing that can help students turn formative feedback into effective revision. Revision plans are beneficial for students who have less experience revising the kind of writing they have produced, while revision memos are more useful for more experienced writers.
Revision plans: Laying out the process
Novice writers may be tempted to treat revision as merely a process of error correction. They may start at the beginning of the document and address comments by editing individual lines and sentences without rereading or reconsidering their content. By assigning a revision plan, an instructor can encourage a fuller reconsideration of the students’ writing by focusing on the assignment’s goals and purposes.
A revision plan is typically written after receiving feedback on an assignment, whether the feedback is from an instructor or a group of peers. As the term plan indicates, the revision plan’s goal is to identify the areas of the document that continue to need work and to set priorities and a schedule for completing those tasks.
Constructing a revision plan is a three-step process. First, the student reads the feedback they have received and notes what the reader or readers have identified as opportunities for further development. Second, the student-writer rereads their original document in light of that feedback and identifies places in the text for additions. Finally, the student writer composes a plan for how to address these topics.
The quality of a revision plan rests on two important considerations. First, the student needs substantive feedback on their writing that identifies opportunities for development or reconsideration. The Teaching with Writing site offers several resources on commenting on student writing and effective peer response protocols, and this Blog offers several entries on the same topic. The second consideration is specificity. Students need to describe what they intend to modify and how and why they are making these changes. Asking students to be explicit about their writerly choices helps to emphasize that the student-writer is in control.
A revision plan provides an early indication about what the writer intends to do, and is useful if an instructor wants to examine the students’ revision process. Students who are experienced with revising their writing may resist what appears to be an extra step. Still, it can confirm how students make decisions about what to change. For that reason, it may be a more effective early semester, brief activity.
Revision memos: Describing the revised product
Revision memos are a useful strategy for writers at all levels and can continue a helpful dialogue between readers and writer. Just as academic writers often include cover letters when resubmitting revised manuscripts, students can submit a memo addressed to their instructor that highlights important changes to the document before assessment (or between drafts of a larger project).
A typical revision memo includes:
- summary of the comments and suggestions the writer received
- description of what has changed between drafts based on that feedback
- brief mention of items that remain to be revised
- brief justification for things that remain unchanged
If the revision memo is part of a conversation about a large, ongoing project, the writer may also include directions for the reader on what types of feedback would be most helpful.
While revision plans can allow an instructor to examine and intervene in the revision process as it begins, a revision memo documents what has changed in a text after some rewriting has occurred.
Revision memos can be particularly helpful for large projects, where students may need assistance in keeping track of feedback on the scaffolded components of an assignment. They are also useful as early interventions with writing that students will repeat or develop over the semester (like journal entries or lab reports).
Bardine, Bryan Anthony, and Anthony Fulton. “Analyzing the Benefits of Revision Memos during the Writing and Revision Process.” The Clearing House, vol. 81, no. 4, 2008, pp. 149–154. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/30189981.
Lindenman, Heather, et al. "Revision and Reflection: A Study of (Dis)Connections between Writing Knowledge and Writing Practice." College Composition and Communication, vol. 69, no. 4, 2018, pp. 581-611.
Meeks, Melissa. Teaching Students to Write Better Revision Plans. The ELI Review Blog, May 27, 2017. https://elireview.com/2017/05/22/teaching-revision-plans/
See the Teaching with Writing pages on the Center for Writing website for teaching resources, including sample assignments and syllabi. As many of you know, our WAC program also hosts the popular Teaching with Writing event series. Each semester, this series offers free workshops and discussions. Visit us online and follow us on Twitter @UMNWriting. To schedule a phone, email, or face-to-face teaching consultation, click here.