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Lesson Plan For Revising Essays

Teaching How to Revise a Rough Draft


You don’t have to read every single rough draft your students write.  You can even grade them in class with this essay revision checklist lesson.


The Next Generation of Trade and Grade

The battle raged. Mr. Wilson, the chemistry teacher, struck Mrs. Tallerbigley in the head with a beaker. Her math colleague stabbed Mr. Wilson with a compass. Principal Fitzpatrick, in an effort to stop the fracas, was pelted in the face by a soccer ball and kicked by Coach Williamson. That’s when I stepped in.

“Attention! Attention! Let’s resolve this…discussion on the merits of trade and grade. Some say it’s a waste of time and an infringement of student privacy. Others say it’s a necessary evil that frees us up for better Internet time planned lessons. I say, let’s make trade and grade both a time to teach and a time to save time!” The fighting stopped. I was told to come up with a lesson plan that accomplished both or I would be hung from the gym rafters by my underwear.

I had work to do. My life depended on it. I came up with the granddaddy of all trade and grade lesson plans. I taught students how to revise an essay while grading their rough draft.

Common Core Standards

Teaching essay revision satisfies the following common core standards.  Use this list to impress your administrator.  Use actual English to let your students know what you’re doing.

W.9-10.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
W.9-10.1c  Use words, phrases, and clauses to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships between claim(s) and reasons, between reasons and evidence, and between claim(s) and counterclaims.
W.9-10.1d  Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.
W.9-10.1e   Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.
W.9-10.2a  Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information to make important connections and distinctions; include formatting (e.g., headings); graphics (e.g., figures, tables); and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
W.9-10.4  Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
W.9-10.5  Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of L.9-10.1-3.)
L.9-10.1  Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

Revising and Grading the Introduction

Although you will save time not having to grade rough drafts, the main purpose of this lesson is to teach students how to revise an essay.

  1. Instruct students to read their own rough draft.
  2. Instruct them to highlight the thesis statment.
  3. If there is no thesis statement, tell them to write a gigantic zero at the top of the page (give them a chance to rewrite it for a grade).
  4. Instruct students to underline the topic sentence of each paragraph.
  5. Exchange papers.
  6. Instruct students to read the introduction. If the introduction hooks the reader, assign 10 points.
  7. If the thesis statement (already highlighted) contains a subject and an opinion, assign 10 more points.
  8. If the thesis statement is the last sentence of the introduction, assign 5 points.
  9. Write the score for the introduction next to the introductory paragraph (25 points possible).
  10. Discuss ways to improve the introduction as you grade.

Evaluating Body Paragraphs

In addition to grading the body paragraph of an essay, use these procedures to teach students how to revise an essay.

  1. Exchange papers again.
  2. Look at the topic sentence for the first body paragraph. If there is no topic sentence, explicit or implied, then the paragraph receives a zero.
  3. Highlight the topic sentence.
  4. If the topic sentence satisfies at least 3 of the 5 requirements for a good topic sentence, then give it 10 points.
  5. Scan the paragraph for facts and concrete details.  Highlight them in a different color.  If there are at least two accurate, relevant facts, assign 5 points.
  6. Scan the paragraph for commentary, analysis, and insight.  If there is a 2:1 (or more) ratio of relevant commentary to relevant facts, assign 15 points.
  7. Each body paragraph is worth 30 points.
  8. Discuss examples of what constitutes relevant facts and commentaries in an essay.

The Conclusion

  1. If the conclusion of the essay exists, contains at least two sentences, and successfully wraps up the essay (this varies with the type of essay your writing), assign 15 points.
  2. Give the rough draft back to its author.
  3. Instruct students to contest unfair grades. Having students explain why their rough draft deserves more points opens the door for learning.
  4. Instruct students to revise their rough draft.
  5. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

I’ve taken these lesson plans and added notes, graphic organizers, and more lesson options to create what I consider an invaluable resource for middle school and high school teachers. It’s only $5.95.

It includes 10 lesson plans aligned to common core standards, notes, and over 15 assignments with answer keys. All you need to do is print out each assignment, make copies, and pass them out. Here’s a Free Topic Sentence Sample Plan to give you an idea of what the paragraph teaching guide has to offer.

Of course, you’re more than welcome to make your own handouts and assignments that took me weeks to make and years to perfect.

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written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 2/17/2012

Evaluating writing is the first step in the revision process, so why don't students do it? They don't know how...until now.

  • Evaluating Writing: Development Issues

    Writers often spend too much time on side issues and too little time on the main issue.

    • Suggestions for Adding Material:
      1. Use an anecdote or a funnel paragraph in place of a one sentence introduction.
      2. Explore the history of the topic in your introduction.
      3. Assess the importance of the topic.
      4. Make additional points in the body.
      5. Use illustrations and examples.
      6. Expand the conclusion
    • Suggestions for Deleting Material:
      1. Put paragraphs into an outline and eliminate superfluous words.
      2. In short essays, limit introductory materials to the bare essentials.
      3. Eliminate lengthy anecdotes and needless examples.

    *Thanks to Schaum's Guide on Writing Great Essays for helping me revise my essays

  • Publishing

    Writers often forget the last step in the writing process, publishing.

    1. Check for spelling and punctuation errors.
    2. Check the format.
    3. Check the works cited.
    4. Make sure it's neatly typed, printed, and spell checked.
  • Procedures

    Now that you've improved your writing, it's time to teach others:

    1. Instruct students to copy the above information on evaluating writing.
    2. Instruct students to evaluate one of their own essays and write a paragraph evaluation of it, with specific examples.
    3. Arrange students in groups of 3-4.
    4. Have each person in the group do the same for each other's essay.
    5. Instruct students to redo the essay based on their evaluations.

    Sometimes it's beneficial to evaluate a published essay from an accomplished author:

    1. Read a published essay in class.
    2. Instruct students to evaluate the essay in paragraph form, making special note of good essay writing.

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