The Art of Revision
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It's one of the nasty realities of school life: every major writing assignment must have at least two drafts. Although the last thing your child wants to do after writing an essay is go over it again, revision is an essential part of writing--and many kids today just don't know how to do it. To “revise” means to “see again.” So, if your child skims her rough draft for errors while watching TV, she isn’t revising much. In fact, her essay may not change at all.
- Keeping ideas that “sound good”: More isn’t necessarily better, especially if “more” is off-topic. Your child is thrilled when she cranks out content, which may hinder her from recognizing sentences or entire paragraphs that don’t support her thesis. Ask her: “Is this sentence really necessary? Does it help prove your point?”
- Fearing the loss of the original draft: Your child may hesitate to experiment with or delete large chunks of writing because he feels he won’t be able to revert to his original work. If he handwrites, he can photocopy his first draft before proceeding with changes. If he types, he should store the rough draft as an untouched file during the revision stage – this way, he’ll have a master copy, so he can test the waters of prose with confidence.
- Assuming the reader is versed in the topic: Whether your child’s essay is about global warming or Surrealist art, she should presume that her reader knows nothing of her subject. Each and every idea must be clear. “Students struggle to identify what holes still exist for the reader,” says Orner. “They leave out details and adequate explanations of their ideas, assuming their reader knows what they mean.” Ask your child: “Did you know this piece of information before you started working on this assignment?” If she didn’t, she may have to elaborate on it.
- Failing to envision their audience: Writing can be muddled if your child doesn’t picture his reader. If he’s writing about the best parks or restaurants in his neighborhood, he should envision the type of person interested in his topic. “One question I’m exploring is whether the intended audience and purpose can have a beneficial effect on their motivation,” says Orner. “If they think someone other than their teacher is reading the piece – especially if it’s going to be publicly showcased – they may be encouraged to put greater effort into their work.”
- Starting the revision process too soon: Your child should wait a few days before revising a draft. Distance will make her less protective of her writing. Also suggest swapping papers with a classmate for editing. After, she’ll have a fresher set of eyes and peer comments as she starts her revision. “Students have difficulty identifying errors in their own writing, even when they are able to spot problems in the writing of others,” says Orner.
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