I have received one of the nicest Christmas presents ever. My college boy, home for the holiday, remarked to me in the car, "You know, all that work you made me do on my college essays really helped me out. And this year, when a friend asked me to look at her essays, I used what you taught me as way to get her to fix up her writing." And then he said, "One thing I'm finding out is that writing is a way to figure out new ways to think about what you don't know, and understanding grammar and parts of speech and stuff is really, really helpful when I'm trying to do that."
Oh, the torment of last year's college essays! He was so grumpy and defensive and procrastinatey, and I was forced to be the nag queen, and it was all so unpleasant. So I couldn't have been more surprised, and more delighted, to receive this unexpected thanks and to know that he continues to find what I taught him useful and compelling.
If you're interested in reliving my three-part emergency college essay intervention strategies, check out these links from last year.
Revision strategy 1
Revision strategy 2
Revision strategy 3
Of course, I tailored these strategies, particularly the third one, to address specific weak points in my son's drafts; but as I reread them again after a year of not thinking about them, I believe they do cohere as a valid, layered approach to guiding a writer structurally while not damaging her voice or point of view. In real life, I also required a fourth step, which for some reason I didn't document: the proofreading stage, in which the writer hunts down the final typos and mechanical errors. With kids I often find the best way to get them to focus on these picky details, especially missing words, noun-verb agreement problems, etc., is to have someone else read the essay aloud, slowly, while the writer follows along on his own copy and circles or highlights the mistakes as he hears them. Then, on the final pass-through, he can focus on caps and punctuation without being distracted by the typo issue.