Revising during Writing in a Second Grade Classroom

Article excerpt

This study investigated the revision practices ofsecond grade writers. The investigator became a participant observer in a classroom. The compositions of children were examined, and children were interviewed in the midst of writing. The classroom teacher was also interviewed about children's revisions and interventions to encourage children's revision efforts. These questions were used to frame the gathering of data: 1) How much do children revise?, 2) When do children revise?, 3) What kinds of revisions do children make?, 4) What revision differences occur among writers who have varying levels of writing expertise?, and 5) How does the classroom teacher intervene to encourage revision?

Revision is a central and important part of writing. It is significant partly because it can affect the writer's knowledge (Lowenthal, 1980; Murray, 1978; Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1986) and because it can improve compositions. Yet few children, especially young children, revise on their own. An important instructional issue, therefore, is finding ways teachers can intervene to encourage revision.

This descriptive study investigated the revision practices of second grade writers. The investigator became a participant observer in a classroom in an elementary school in the Pacific Northwest. The compositions of children were examined, and children were interviewed in the midst of writing. The classroom teacher was also interviewed about children's revisions and interventions to encourage children's revision efforts. These questions were used to frame the gathering of data: 1) How much do children revise?, 2) When do children revise?, 3) What kinds of revisions do children make?, 4) What revision differences occur among writers who have varying levels of writing expertise?, 5) How does the classroom teacher intervene to encourage revision?

The definition of revision used in this study comes from Fitzgerald (1987): Revision means making any changes at any point in the writing process. It is a cognitive problem-solving process in that it involves detection of mismatches between intended and instantiated texts, decisions about how to make desired changes, and making the desired changes. Changes might or might not affect meaning of the text, and they might be major or minor. Also, changes might be made in the writer's mind before text is written on paper, while text is written, and/or after text is written (p. 484).

Findings

How much do children revise? All of the second graders in this study made revisions. In an assignment to write a report on an animal, the amounts of revisions made on paper between drafts ranged from 5 to 26, with an average of 12 per paper. The word length of the papers for this writing assignment ranged from 51 to 209, with an average length of 88 words.

When do children revise? The second graders in this study made revisions before writing, while writing, and between writing drafts. Revisions before writing occurred as children were considering and excluding topics before deciding on a topic to write about. Children also made in-process revisions while writing first and second drafts of their reports. But the majority of revisions made by the second graders occurred between drafts, or on second drafts after completing first drafts.

What kinds of revisions do children make? The children in this study mainly made surface or mechanical revisions. The most common revisions were for spelling, followed by capitalization and punctuation changes. There was little evidence of revising for meaning. The few instances involved adding, deleting or substituting single words rather than phrases, sentences or paragraphs. There was no evidence of revising by moving or shifting words, phrases, sentences, or paragraphs for better organization of text.

What revision differences occur among writers who have varying levels of writing expertise? The second graders in this study were judged by the classroom teacher to be either low-, average-, or high-ability writers. …

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