Teaching Revision

Za’id was not happy with the profile he wrote, but I think it was Donald Murray who said, “Writing is never done; it’s just due.” Nevertheless, the profile is better than the first draft he wrote. The first draft, as most drafts are, was his way of venting, getting all of his thoughts on paper. He went into detail about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Park’s contributions to civil rights. He also talked about how he did not think President Obama would be elected because of his skin color, but was impressed when he was. I think he was trying to talk about how black leaders had influenced him, but he would often make side comments about other issues. When I read the piece, I advised him to focus on Obama as much as possible and to only include sentences that explained how he inspired or influenced him. He did not want to get rid of the majority of what he had written even if it did not support his thesis. He fretted about having to come up with 500 words. If he took my advice, it would knock his paper down to 326 words. Could he come up with nearly 200 words to replace the ones he lost, he complained. I talked him through it. When I read the paper, I circled the words that sounded like reasons Obama inspired him. I told him the words I circled, and I explained that he needed to add sentences that explained why he felt as he did. Once I helped him see that his reasons were buried underneath irrelevant opinions, he was able to focus more clearly on the assignment.