I like this idea of creating “recipe cards” for things that students are asked to do regularly, but may have only done once or twice before. So I’m creating a library of them on my blog, both for my use and the use of others. Maybe this will be a helpful feature, maybe not. Let me know if you find any of them useful; and feel free to modify them.
This week’s recipe came up a lot this week in my tutoring sessions both formal and informal. Writing a second draft of something is incredibly hard for many kids — it’s not a normal part of the writing process they see adults do, since most of us have learned to write ‘well enough’ to get by on one go-round.
- Skim your paper and choose a style for each paragraph: narrative, descriptive, expository or persuasive. A narrative paragraph is usually about time. A descriptive paragraph is usually about space or color. An expository paragraph is a “how to” manual, and a persuasive paragraph is “I’m right and this is why.” If the subject were Stonehenge, a narrative paragraph would talk about the order of construction over a thousand years. A descriptive paragraph would walk the reader around the site to look at the stones. An expository paragraph would explain how to build your own Stonehenge. A persuasive paragraph would lay out the evidence for your theory of why it was built.
- Rewrite each paragraph so that it matches the overall plan for your chosen style. If it’s about narrative, add more dates and time words; get specific. If it’s descriptive, add colors, distances, and visual details. If it’s expository, write in more steps. If it’s persuasive, use words like “because” and add in your evidence, or words like “although” and play down your rival’s evidence with evidence of your own.
- Rewrite the first sentence of each paragraph to match and unite the new material you just added. This is called the topic sentence. It should be a quick summary of the paragraph’s subject. Make the main subject of this sentence the main subject of the paragraph. If your paragraph is about the cotton gin, then the sentence should start “The cotton gin…”
- Connect each paragraph to the one just before it and the one just after it. If the paragraph is about transportation, and there’s a paragraph about railroads just after it, make sure you mention railroads pushing out canals in the paragraph. If the paragraph before the one about transportation is about immigrants, mention that immigrant labor built the transportation system.
- Search your document for “that”, “I”, “you”, “which” and “and”. Rewrite the sentences with those words in them so those words are unnecessary and can be left out.
- Look for passive voice sentences, and change them to active voice. The passive voice has a construction like “interchangable parts were invented by Eli Whitney”. It’s awkward and wordy. Make it “Eli Whitney invented interchangable parts.” You save two words.
- Find out how many words are in your paper, and cut 10% of the words out.
- Rewrite the thesis statement to match the whole paper. A thesis statement should summarize the whole paper in one sentence. It will be the hardest sentence of the whole paper to write, and you may not be able to write it until the very end.
- Repeat whichever steps of steps 1-8 are necessary. Sometimes one of the steps above will change so many other things that you will need to do further revisions, and do one or more of the steps in the recipe over. That’s OK; let it happen.
What would you put in a recipe for “write a second draft”?