Contributed by Natalie Taylor, 2015
Students pair up and take the pen to unnecessary sentences, phrases, and words in order to trim their paper down. This peer review session focuses on the practice of revision.
On peer review day, students came with 1 copy of their first draft of a paper. They were told they were working on a 5-6 page paper and they were to bring 4 of those pages to peer review. When they arrived in class, we had a discussion about how the writing was going and what they were struggling with. Then I told them that their 5-6 page paper was now to be only 2-3 pages. While I had some dramatic reactions to the new requirement, students were mostly thrilled that they were now writing a shorter paper.
I paired them up and they traded papers. Their partner’s assignment was to read the paper twice. The first time, they were to make no markings. The second time, they were to cross out everything that was unnecessary, repetitive, or irrelevant. If a sentence needed rewording, they underlined it, but the main priority was to cross things out.
Then they discussed the changes, being sure to talk about the things they thought were working in their paper and their reasoning behind cutting certain things. Writers were encouraged to go home, open a new document, and start over with their partner’s eliminations in mind.
While this assignment made me feel a little deceptive at first, I wanted to students to really understand the real concept of revision. I wanted them to re-envision their paper in a new way and learn that sometimes it’s best to write more than you need, then cut it down. The only way I knew to do that was to change a basic requirement of the assignment. I also wanted students to learn how to make their argument strong in a concise way, rather than focusing on “getting to page count.’ The process of elimination was a little painful for some of the students, but their papers were stronger after the exercise. They wrote more concisely, and I could tell they cared more about their arguments than they had previously.