Workshopping, Round 1

This morning in comp 102, we held our first workshopping day, and I’ve got mixed feelings about it. It’s hard to read one’s own work critically, true–but I still feel that looking at others’ work is an important first step. Workshopping helps us acheive the degree of distance necessary to a critical examination of one’s own work. The first part of class we spent going over some tips and tricks for strong, precise, and concise writing tailored to the scene description assignment, which is due on Thursday. Then, I wanted students to use those tools to make substantial revision suggestions on the body of their peer’s draft, followed with a final comment generalizing strengths and weaknesses, and concluding with a brief discussion of the findings.

Some groups seemed to work well, while others didn’t–but I’m not sure what the problem was. If it’s boredom, finding other things more interesting to discuss, and so on, then perhaps smaller tasks are in order. Perhaps it’s too much to ask that students can concentrate on a single, :30 minute, purpose driven task? I did try running the Keaton film, One Week, in the background as part inspiration, part white noise, which may have added a certain something to the room.

Overall, the drafts were on track, and they did use the present tense, third person, and active voice almost exclusively–which is significant, especially for this assignment. Some things I noticed in drafts: verbs in general could have been stronger, though there was clear attention paid by most to find the right words; several students made a clear effort to vary the sentence structure in interesting, innovative ways; and in discussion, several groups definitely drew on the tools for revision we’d discussed as a class. I’m interested to see what the revision process results in, as that will give me a good sense of how to pair students for future workshops. So, a mixed but promising bag!

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