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Another writing question: how much revising?

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My question is about DS11 and his writing. He loves to write creatively, he likes to write reports in topics of his interest and had his first go at a persuasive essay (mainly because we had been talking about the difference in expository and persuasive writing and HE wanted to try an example.) He is, however, NOT the perfectionist his sister is.

So, I am wondering whether my approach makes sense:


I have him write a draft and print it. I read and critique his writing, we discuss why certain improvements have to be made. We ended up addressing several issues with his last assignment: what belongs directly to the topic and what thoughts can be omitted (content - he loves writing and gets carried away), eliminating fluff phrases like "I am trying to say", making strong statements through active sentences (style). I feel that these were a lot of different issues to address at once.

DS rewrote the essay, incorporating all the things we talked about, and gave me the revised version. The issues we had discussed are improved. There are, however, other things that could be made better... but I decided to accept the improved version and NOT make him go through another iteration.

My thoughts behind this decision were: he learned important things through the first round; I do not want to introduce more issues but focus on the ones we decided to work on right now; I would like him to see that he is making progress and not feel depressed about not being perfect. So i figured, there will be a next assignment, and the other issues can be worked on then.

He already feels that having to revise his paper means he did a bad job. I need to convince him that this is a natural part of the writing process and that his first draft, despite some criticism, had a a lot of good points: a clear logical structure, almost perfect grammar and spelling.


Since writing instruction is the area I feel most unsure about, I'd like the input from more experienced teachers on this board. Would you consider this OK? Would you make your 11 y/o revise until a perfect product is achieved? Or would you focus on just one single issue and leave everything else alone?

How to keep the balance between strong instruction and not frustrating the student?

(I find math so much easier: something is either right or wrong. There is no personal taste involved, no gradual improvements....)


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I'll just paraphrase MCT. It's better to pick what you're focusing on, do that and move on. Jot down some notes on what was wrong w/ that piece and let that be the focus for the NEXT paper. Write often. More is better he says rather than editing once piece to death. I know for me, by the time I've written it and edited it once, I'm sick of it. I think for me, it would have been better to write more and edit each piece for specific topics.

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I pick my battles when editing.


My oldest is a natural writer, loves to put pen to paper and writes for fun in his spare time. He tends to be too wordy and include extraneous "fluff". Editing doesn't bother him, his feelings aren't hurt by it, but he does have his own voice and will defend it if pushed. I can edit his work fairly thoroughly. We still do not end up with a "perfect" paper though.


My younger son was pencil phobic. He literally began to itch when he was asked to write in early elementary. He is better now and actually can produce good content. He is touchy about editing and takes it as a personal attack on his worth. I edit his papers for ONLY the skill we are working on at the moment. If he is having problems with something we have worked on in the past I will point it out as well but it always upsets him. Sigh...

We are working on it.

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Studies support what the other posters have told you (and so does my experience with students in freshman writing classes). It's best to focus on one or two aspects of a paper in revision.

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