The article, Motivating Middle School Students to Revise and Edit, by Angela Conner outlines an interesting concept which focuses on how best to get eighth grade students to become interested in revising and editing their writing. The article follows Conner as she involves in her students in three different projects designed to have their writing read and evaluated by readers other than herself.
The first project was for the students to create research booklets that would then be read by sixth graders. The topics of the research booklets were picked from a collection of preselected books. The students picked up information from the books and then proceeded to write a five-paragraph research booklet on it. In addition to the paragraphs, they also had to write a title page and a bibliography, as well as interview another student and write an author biography. After their first draft was completed, the students engaged in peer evaluations for revision purposes. Many mistakes went uncaught during this time and so the papers were brought to the teacher and the students actually expressed delight when their mistakes were pointed out. After all, these booklets were to be read by sixth graders and the eighth graders definitely did not want any mistakes to be caught by the younger students. The booklets were actually evaluated by the eight grade students before being handed to the sixth graders based on such things as whether the format had been followed, had it been effectively edited, was the presentation attractive, etc. When the sixth graders actually got the booklets, they were required to fill out a questionnaire summing up what they liked best about the booklets.
The second project was a collection of love poetry written by the students which would then be published and distributed to the students, other teachers, the library, etc.
Students read different types of love poetry in preparation before trying their own hand at writing one. The students were required to hand in one rough draft poem each day for three days and a final draft of each poem the following Monday. When the anthology was finally finished the students were invited outside to attend a book signing party and most of the students were delighted to see their work in print.
The final project was for the students to write a short story, a news article, or a poem that would then be submitted to a citywide writing competition. Revision seemed much more important to the students by this time, and they made extensive use of revising and editing checklists. Despite the increased interest in revision from one project to the next, however, their abilities to actually do the editing did not improve as greatly.
Overall, the quality of the students' writing increased as a result of the projects, but still not as much as Conner had hoped. The lesson she learned was that editing and revision are concepts which must be directed taught. Another important insight gained from the experiences was that it is important for eighth graders to see their work actually published, or at least, read by more than an audience of one: the teacher. Knowing that their work will be read by others was a prime motivational factor in getting the students to work harder to make sure their writing was as good as it could possibly get.