Teaching Revision in the Writing Process: How to Make the Middle Clear and Concise

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After teaching students how to hook the reader with masterful leads, I felt good about myself. I boasted my greatness in the teachers' lounge and taunted colleagues on my way to the restroom. Then I read the body of my students' essays. In shock, I ran back to the teachers' lounge and rescinded every boastful utterance, apologized to all the teachers I had taunted, and cancelled my weekend golf trip to South Carolina.

It was time to go back to basics.


1. Instruct students to answer the following questions as a warm up activity:

  • What should writers include in the body of an essay?
  • What is the purpose of the body of an essay, middle of a narrative, or middle of a news article?

2. Discuss their answers and write them on the board. Trick them into discussing the following:

  • The writer should keep the readers' attention that was hooked in the introduction.
  • The writer should focus on the thesis if it’s an essay or the story if it’s a narrative.
  • The writer should maintain momentum by getting rid of unnecessary words. Ideas must grow constantly.
  • The writer should build toward an end, informing the reader of specific details or developing ideas presented in the opening.

3. Instruct students to write their audience and their purpose for writing at the top of their paper to keep them focused.

4. Instruct students that when revising a rough draft or writing a first draft, look for ways to make it more focused on the audience and content.

Questions Every Writer Should Answer

Instruct students to copy these questions and have them visible while writing or revising:

  • Who is my audience?
  • Why am I writing this?
  • What information have I included that does not relate to my topic?
  • What questions have I left unanswered in the body?
  • How does the body relate to the introduction?
  • Where is the writing dull or boring?
  • Where would examples, illustrations, or anecdotes clarify ideas or make a point?

TIP: Instruct students to write rough drafts on one side of the paper only, double-spaced. That allows for cutting and pasting, and writing notes in the margin. Using different colored ink for revising helps students and teachers recognize revisions.

Peer Editing Option

Peer editing allows students to read the work of their peers, see mistakes in others' writing, and you to not have to grade 8 million essays.

  • Divide students into groups of three to four.
  • Instruct each student to read his or her rough draft.
  • Instruct group members to answer the above revision questions.
  • Students work individually and revise their rough draft.
  • After students make revisions, reassemble the groups and have them share.
  • Choose two or three students to read both their rough draft and their final draft.

TIP: Because this assignment will take more than one class period, pick up work daily and assign a daily grade.

This post is part of the series: How to Revise Essays for Organization: Six Lesson Plans that Work

Organized people accomplish more. So does organized writing. teach your students how to organize their writing and how to revise their writing with these five excellent lessons.

  1. A Lesson Plan on How to Hook Your Reader with Dynamite Leads
  2. Writing Lesson Plan in Making the Middle Clear and Concise
  3. Lesson Plan: How to Write an Effective Conclusion
  4. Lesson Plan: How to Write Effective Paragraphs
  5. A Lesson Plan on Writing Coherent Transitions
  6. Lesson Plan: Writing a Good Topic Sentence