Have Students Read Their Writing Aloud When Revising

If we purposefully teach student writers the habit of  ‘rereading’ their writing, we provide them with a powerful tool for improving the quality of their writing. This reading includes, rereading as they draft,  and rereading as part of revision. They begin to hear their words as a reader will hear them. It provides powerful feedback.
When drafting a piece of writing the developing writer is commonly driven by the production of words across the page. The urgency surrounds the act of writing,  so the writer is not necessarily focusing on what the words are ultimately saying. The result is often- too many words or too many ideas. The writing may lack focus.  A decision is required at this point. What exactly do I want my words to say and mean?  It may be difficult to throw away words considered precious. Remember though, each word cut from the text may lead to preserving the energy of the overall piece. The writer should not retain words that refuse to contribute to the overall message. No freeloading allowed!

When conferring with student writers, I often ask them to cover up a particular word in a sentence and then have them reread without uttering that word just to see if it makes any difference to the meaning; the flow of ideas. The covered word is usually redundant. the sentence is tighter without it.

To assist in this process of identifying and culling the words not pulling their weight, it is helpful to read the piece OUT LOUD. I once taught a student who would regularly read her draft pieces to her pet dog when she returned home after school. Not sure what feedback she received from the dog, but she often found parts she believed needed revising. So the strategy certainly worked in her favour.

When reading aloud, it is often helpful for the writer to imagine they are hearing the words for the very first time. The writer needs to listen for places where there is hesitation, or the words stumble across the tongue. -Noticing where confusion or a sense of losing the flow develops while reading.  -The Hhh? moment!

The writer needs to listen for places where the words cease to carry the meaning they wish to convey. These are the places where more precise language needs to be injected. The words may need to be re-energized. If the words sounds ‘fluffy’ or unclear the writer has work to do.  If the words sound dry and formal (essay speak) and there is no sense of the writer’s voice –more revision is needed. One of the goals of the writer is to make the writing reader friendly.

 These are the rereading messages we need to drive home to our students. We also need to practice what we preach as teachers and demonstrate these strategies ourselves (Think Aloud Strategy).

Encourage students to read their words aloud and ask them what they hear.  Sentences should be lively! The meaning should leap off the page straight into the mind of the reader. Reading the raw stuff aloud helps the writer to improve the content. That way sentences have more hope of approximating the energy they need and the words begin to shine.


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