Academic journal article New England Reading Association Journal

Revision: Different Editors for Different Drafts?

Academic journal article New England Reading Association Journal

Revision: Different Editors for Different Drafts?

Article excerpt

How can different editors for different drafts help students to discover themselves and their writing?

A few years ago as a high school English teacher, I began to notice that the majority of my student writers were working with as many as six different editors on a single, five-page paper. Initially, the writer in me cringed at the process: a different editor for each new draft. This was not how writers worked.

As a result, I urged my students to confer with the same editor for the first three revisions of a writing project. Except for the more capable writers, the majority of my students returned almost immediately to the multiple-editor process. When I asked why, they offered a number of reasons: "There aren't enough good editors who can look at one paper draft after draft and make good suggestions"; "The same editor gets bored with my paper"; "It's just quicker to go to a different editor in the writing center instead of having to track down the same person"; and the most frequent comment, "I get a lot of different ideas from different editors."

I understood their explanations, though I felt that "a lot of different ideas from different editors" could be confusing for many. Ultimately, my instincts said "trust them" as I recognized three pieces of unmistakable evidence to support their process: (1) all ability levels of students produced a good deal of revised writing for their portfolios during each eight-week quarter, (2) writers of all ability levels created fairly effective pieces when supported through the editing process, and the clincher, (3) as a young writer I, too, had used different editors for different drafts of a writing project.

The Neglected 'R':The Need for a Writing Revolution, Report of The National Commission on Writing in America's Schools and Colleges, recommends that "...the amount of time students spend writing . . . should be at least doubled" (2003, p. 4). Working with different editors throughout the revision process supported my students as they spent more and more time with individual pieces of writing.

This article examines reasons to allow and/or encourage our student writers to use different editors for different drafts through the revision process.


I met Matthew at a soccer tournament during the fall of his 8th grade year. As the high school varsity coach, I smiled for the talent Matthew would bring to our team over the following four years. As an English teacher I had to wait until Matthew's junior year to enjoy him in the classroom.

For the five papers of his first-quarter portfolio, Matthew worked with eleven different editors. They included his parents, three adult friends, and six student editors. He also received three letter responses about his finished portfolio from a student colleague, his mother, and me. Clearly, Matthew's work was subjected to a broad and diverse lens, in keeping with Thomas's assertion that "narrow lenses don't help us see the richness of our students' strengths" (2000).

When interviewed about his choice to use a different editor for each revision, Matthew said he did so "just to get different opinions. It's not so much the grammar aspect of it, my mom's good at that. With all the different people, I got a lot of ideas" (Personal Interview, 2000).

The Self:

The Theme of Matthew's First Quarter Portfolio

Writing is an art, a creative act in which the process-the discovery of the true self--is as important as the product-the self discovered and expressed.

-Berlin, 1988, p. 477-

The year's work in our multi-aged English class included quarterly portfolios based on various themes (Kent, 1997). For first quarter the theme was The Self; students focused four of the five required portfolio papers on personal issues. The fifth paper remained a free choice; however, most students wrote about issues close to home. Matthew wrote about his soccer team.

The length of the papers ranged between 600 and 1000 words; the genre remained the student's choice; three papers were to be thoroughly revised and two were to be revised once. …

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