We are three days into an argument writing activity where students have chosen between Apollo and Hephaestus as the more powerful god and have come to class with a rough draft. As I circulate around the room checking in the homework assignment, they exchange work with a partner. The goal of this activity is to notice whether or not the ideas flow in an easy to follow manner. The purpose is NOT, I let them know in no uncertain terms, for their partner to find and fix grammar errors! I learned this hard way from noticing how popular certain students are for this activity and overhearing comments like, “I want so-and-so for a partner because she really knows how to spell.”
When students have their own work back, we spend some time making sure all the required parts are included in the paragraph. They are listed in the Myth Madness Guidelines and on this chart. We follow the color-coding pattern by highlighting or underlining each part as it appears in the paragraph. In this way, missing parts are easily identified, which makes the revision process that much easier. I find this to be one of the most engaging ways to get students involved in the revision process. Of course, problems arise if students are not accurately identifying these elements in their writing so it is important to guide the process and meet with those students that need extra help.
Whenever we start a writing assignment students always ask, “How long does it have to be?” “How many sentences do I need to write?” Rarely, if ever, do I reply with a number. Beware if you do because although you will get that exact number they will be the shortest, blandest sentences you will ever see! Writing enough to clearly explain your stand on a topic is the goal. Too few details or not enough elaboration leaves the reader unclear or unconvinced of your stand on the issue and too many details may leave the reader confused and unclear of the main idea as he gets lost in details.
After explaining this to the class, I ask for volunteers with specific questions on sections of their writing that we examine together to find the ‘just right’ fix. An example of a completed paragraph appears here. Then I take time to meet with students who are still struggling to meet criteria. There are those who wrote six scrawny sentences and still think they’re good and those that wrote 2.5 pages and cannot figure out what to delete!