Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Strategies to Improve Student Writing: Revision Day

A Revision Worksheet can help guide students to ensure a smooth Revision Day.
Improve Student Papers with a Revision Day Assignment

Oftentimes, faculty members who teach in discipline areas other than English ask me, "What can we do to make our students' papers better?  How can we improve their writing?"  

More times than not, however, it isn't really students' ability to write that prevents quality papers.  More times than not, a writing problem stems from time management problems and a lack of revision: Because students wait until the last day before a paper is due to write it, they skip the revision process all together.

In order to help students recognize the value of revision (and the value in leaving time to revise), my advice to faculty is to have two submission dates for papers: The Revision Day, and The Final Draft.  Everyone can generally guess what The Final Draft submission is all about. Let me explain The Revision Day.

The Revision Day Assignment

The class day before a final draft of a paper is due, offer time for students to come together to revise their papers.  Establish rules and guidelines to help the process run smoothly, and be sure the students know whether you will be grading their work for the day and how they will be earning that grade.  A successful Revision Day helps students see the value in the process.

Every institution's various available resources for students will help faculty determine the best requirements. For example, I have established the following rules based on my students' free access to Grammarly and our institutional adherence to APA style for all papers.

1. Bring a typed outline and complete draft in APA format to class on Revision Day.  Along with the draft, please include a print report for both grammar and plagiarism from Grammarly.
2. Arrive on time and ready to begin when class starts.
3. Trade papers with a partner and complete a Revision Worksheet for each paper.  Work together on one paper at a time.
4. Once you've completed the Revision Worksheet, read the paper aloud to the writer. Stop and correct the paper when either of you hears errors or awkwardness.
5. You will be graded on your full participation in the workshop and the completeness of the outline, draft, and Revision Worksheet.
6. I will check in on you as you work to answer questions, review APA formatting, and check your outline for unity, coherence, and clarity.

Making Time to Revise

The time a professor allows for revision depends on the length of the papers and the level of writing skills the students already demonstrate.  For a three page paper, for example, in a freshman English class, I allow two hours, which is one hour per paper if students are working in pairs.  If students work in threes, which I request in larger classes, I allow three hours. Keep in mind, before panicking about not having enough time during the term to offer revision day, that while students are revising each other's papers the topics and ideas in those papers are being introduced or reinforced - concepts and ideas from your course materials.  Furthermore, your students learn to work as a team,  to communicate or support their original ideas more clearly, and to give and receive constructive criticism.

In Summary

If you are missing quality student papers in your courses, please keep in mind that more times than not, it's the students' writing habits that need remediation.  You have the power to make it better by helping them overcome bad habits and showing them the value of time management and revision.

Want to Read More about Pedagogy?  Try

Motivate the WIIFM Student with a Learning Audit Assignment
Using Anti-Plagiarism Software as an Assignment Requirement
Myths about Writing Essays
"New" Ways to Think about Paragraphs

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish or reproduce.


  1. Amy: Enjoyed this post. Are you able and willing to share the revision worksheet? I teach criminal justice courses and would welcome strategies to promote development of student writing. Thanks! Dawn

  2. I am more than happy to share my revision worksheet with you.