Reflecting on Writing

Revising can happen at any time during the writing process. Students may stop at the end of a sentence, reread what they have written, think about what they want to say next, and put it on paper. While students may automatically do this "online" revising while they are writing, it is difficult for some students to reflect on what they have written after they finish their first draft.

Few students revise on their own. For some students, it takes so much time and energy to write a first draft that they feel they are finished with the process when they write "the end." Students who do go back over their writing tend to act as proofreaders, looking for punctuation and spelling errors rather than clarifying ideas and adding description.

To revise, students must first detect that there is something to change and then know how to change it. They must take the role of the reader and think about what details and information they need to add to what they have written. Students must also understand and remember the different rules of language, and punctuation, capitalization.

Even the strategy of peer editing can be challenging for some students. They might not know the right ways to provide someone with feedback or they may misinterpret someone's suggestions as being criticisms. All of these skills are important when students are trying to learn to revise their writing. This chart describes important skills related to revising and editing writing.

Necessary SubSkillsCommon ObstaclesHelpful Tips
Student is able to take the perspective of the audience who will be reading what he/she has written. Student cannot take the role of the reader when re-reading his/her own text. Student does not know what background information to include or what vocabulary to use so that the reader will understand what he/she has written. view
Student is able to add and change content and ideas in a first draft. Student does not know how to revise his/her writing. view
Student is able to find and fix mistakes in his/her writing Student has difficulty editing his/her own papers. view