A student walks into the writing center for an appointment. They hand you a paper that seems to be nearly flawless. Where do you go from there? I’ve had this experience before. At first, I wasn’t quite sure how to help them, but then I remembered a strategy that I had recently learned. It’s called Revision RADaR. It’s a strategy used to revise writing for effectiveness. Let’s face it, no matter how good a paper seems at first, there can be little teeny tiny things that can probably be improved. RADaR helps guide you to isolate sentences and find these teeny tiny things and examine if they are effective in the terms of your prompt. What’s with the name you ask? Well, RADaR consists of four steps;
- Words that are not specific, overused, and sentences that are unclear
- New information if necessary
- Descriptive adjectives adverbs
- Rhetorical or Literary devices
- Unrelated ideas
- Words that explain the obvious, provide excessive detail, are repetitive, and redundant
- Unnecessary determiners or modifiers
- Unnecessary details
- To make better sense
- To flow better
- So details support main ideas
Each of these steps can be taken separately and applied at the sentence level. So let’s say a student walks in and hands you a draft that looks pretty solid, here is a way that you could possibly go about introducing them to this strategy.
Tutor: This seems like a pretty solid draft, but let’s take a closer look at some of your sentences and see if they can be improved in any way.
Tutee: Ok, how are we going to do that?
Tutor: We can use this strategy I know called Revision RADaR. Here’s a little chart that we can use to guide us in what to look for when making sure a sentence is as effective as it can be.
(Hand the tutee a print out of the chart below for both of you to look at and check off topics covered as you go)
Tutee: Ok, cool. Can we start with my topic sentence?
And the conversation would continue with the tutor and tutee picking out sentences and using the RADaR chart to analyze them.
This is an extremely effective strategy when trying to improve a draft that seems to be solid, lengthy, or not concise. Also, it’s a great strategy because I feel like everyone does these types of revisions, but sometimes you can forget to check for certain things just because you don’t have an organized way of revising. The Revision RADaR chart organizes it all for you! Another bonus is that the student can take the handout with them and use it when looking over other drafts that they have written.
When I am feeling stressed out, whether from school or life, I would take out a yoga mat and meditate. For those who do not know how to meditate, IT IS NOT SLEEP. It involves a sense of feeling and reflection. Some say it even encompasses a worldly, all-knowing experience.
Many instructors tell their students to set aside their first draft for a couple of days. After, when students pick up their essays, they would be able to have a fresh look for their paper and detect errors that were not apparent right after they typed out the fresh draft. In addition, they would be able to incorporate new ideas into their essays to make it stronger.
Meditation is a way to translate writing to a global level. It allows one to ….just….think…..and …feel. In fact, the closer that I am to the due date of the essay, the more urgent it is for me to meditate and feel what the heart of my essay is conveying.
Obviously, we cannot have every tutee meditate on the floor of the writing studio. However, this reminds me of the experience I had when my tutor gave me a topic to think about and left me alone for about 5 minutes to digest what I learned. This is a form of meditation that could be useful in multiple settings inside the writing studio and out:
Student: I’m really stuck on this part of the essay, do you think it’s strong enough and conveys my message.
Tutor: It’s interesting that you say that. Have you thought much of it?
Student: Not necessarily. It just popped into my mind while I was reading through the paper.
Tutor: Alright. You seem to have valid concerns about this particular part of the essay. It seems pretty good in my opinion. However, if you do think that you can make it better. Why don’t you take a couple of minutes (don’t rush) to think it through. Think how to the audience would perceive the paper after they read this section. Jot or draw anything that would help you remember what to think. Let me make a quick phone call.
After about five to ten minutes, the tutor would come back and hopefully see the tutee brainstorming or writing down ideas for his essay. The tutor can help the writer compare the differences between the two works and possibly lead the student to a decision on how to proceed with his/her essay.
We live in a very fast world. Sometimes, there is only so much time we can devote to one particular subject. The writing studio could be used as a place for the student to think about their essay in a holistic manner, something they probably do now have time to do back in their dorm. At the writing studio, there is no distraction which leaves the writer time to think; this is very similar to meditation!
A second step would be to introduce meditation to the writer. They can use a short ten minutes of meditation if they are pressed for time in order to collect their thoughts and see how can they project their essay to the global level.
So easy, even a child could do it!
A strategy that I find helpful is the ability to make a spider web chart after your paper is possibly complete. This strategy helps you to make sure you remained on prompt and focused during the session; it is kind of like reverse outlining which I just learned about this past week.
What you would do is put your prompt in the center. Next find you topic sentences and put them in circles branching off the original circle. Make sure all of the topic sentences relate to the center circle topic; if they do not work on how you can make them relate.
After you do that we are going to move paragraph my paragraph. Dissect each sentence in a paragraph and see if it goes back to the topic sentence in the circle if so pick the key word in that sentence and attach it off of the topic sentence circle to make the web larger. If a sentence does not belong see if it can be relocated or rewritten, if not then its time to remove. Look at your complete web does everything now lead back to the center.
Here is an example:
Tutor: So what are we working on today?
Student: My article review essay, I’m not sure that it’s on topic.
Tutor: Have you ever used a spider web chart to brainstorm ideas?
Student: Yea, we used them a lot in 10th grade English.
Tutor: Okay, well we are going to use that tool, but in the reverse way. Do you have your prompt?
Student: Yea, here. (pulls it out)
Tutor: Okay now that goes in the center of the blank piece of paper with a circle around it.
Student: (places prompt in center) Now what?
Tutor: Okay each of these 3 paragraphs should have a topic sentence and supporting evidence. Let’s start with paragraph one. What is the topic sentence?
Student: (points to topic sentence)
Tutor: That’s the next piece of your web, put that in a circle and attach it to the first circle. Now can we talk sentence by sentence why they pertain.
Next they dissect the sentences and add them to the web. And basically it looks like a web chart we did at grade school . It is helpful to look back at the pieces slowly to understand how you are doing with staying on prompt.
Here is an example:
Hope this is helpful!