Revising Content and Ideas: Impact of Language and Higher Order Cognition

Adding content and new ideas to a story, essay, or report can be very difficult, but it is also very important. To do this, students need to be able to reread their writing and note places where they need to change a word, add more description, rearrange sentences, or insert a new paragraph. This requires both good language abilities and higher order cognition.

Higher order cognition includes things such as creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving. Students need to be creative and brainstorm new ideas while they are revising their writing. They also need to think critically about what information they need to cut and what they need to add. Writing is a problem-solving task. There is a topic or assignment that students need to write about. They need to use strategies, including revising, to "solve" the problem and produce a piece of text that fits the topic or assignment.

Here are some strategies to develop and strengthen students' ability to revise content ideas in their writing.

Helpful Hints

  • Have students break the revising process into steps. Have students first go through and mark the places where they need to add or change information. Students can use different colored pencils, pens, or stickers to mark where they need to make changes. For example, green could be where they need to think of some new words, yellow for where they should add more details, blue where they need to move a sentence.  
  • Follow along with the writer as you go through the paper and say back what you believe the paper to be about and what parts struck you as being the best. Make sure everything is clear and that let the writer know all the detail he should add. When proofreading the writer should make sure to correct all errors. Students can exchange papers to check for errors that have been overlooked.  
  • Have students practice developing analogies as a class or individually. For example, students could complete the phrases, "as tall as ___", "as red as ___", "as sad as__". Students could then identify descriptions in their own writing where they could use an analogy.  
  • Give students a list of transition words (usually, finally, unfortunately) and a list of sentences. Have students rewrite the sentences using transition words. As students learn to use these new words, they can be given the list of transition words and be asked to generate their own sentences using the words.  
  • Have student identify an author they enjoy reading. Have them identify and list the criteria for what makes the books enjoyable to read. Students can apply the criteria that they developed to their own writing.  
  • When having students work together as peer editors, first model the process and types of question they should ask. Provide students with a list of questions that they can ask the writer and example sentence starters for providing feedback. For example, "I really liked it when you said..."  
  • Some students need to practice writing every day, preferably in a format that is interesting to them. Real reasons for writing include keeping a journal, making a scrapbook of camp pictures with captions, writing letters or e-mail to friends, and writing letters to get free information, autographs, or photographs of famous people. An adult can read over the students writing and make suggestions for improving it or can model various styles of writing so that they have something to emulate.  
  • Provide specific age-appropriate strategies for the student to use to check his/her work, for example for revising written work:
    • Post writing
      • Does content equal framework?
      • Error monitoring strategies
      • Does the writing make sense to others?
      • Is the writing too long or short?
    • Self-Checking:
      • Do the sentences make sense?
      • Are the correct words capitalized and all others lower case?
      • Is correct punctuation used?
      • Are all the words spelled correctly? (Isaacson, S. 1997)
    • Make sure that:
      • You did not spend too much time on one part.
      • You did not leave out anything important.
      • You did not include too much information.
      • The writing flows smoothly.
      • Events happen chronologically. (Kemper et al. 1995)
    • Questions when revising:
      • Was any information overlooked?
      • My favorite part of the writing is....
      • Is there a section that could be made clearer?
      • Are my thoughts chronological?
      • Could I have done this differently? (Marzano et al. 1995)
    • C-D-O Revising Strategy:
      • Compare: Read a sentence.
      • Diagnose: Does this sound right? Am I getting away from the main idea? Will other people understand and believe the main idea? I like it as it is. Why was this the diagnosis for that sentence?
      • Operate: Do I need to leave this sentence out? Do I need to include more information? Do I need to reword it? I should leave it the same.
      • Go to the next sentence. (Harris et al. 1996)