Re-vision. Re-seeing. Looking and then looking again. Shifting points-of-view. Repositioning vantage points. Is what we see truth or mere convention? In my composition class, I’ve been introducing students gradually to a deeper understanding of revision as a concept of rethinking, as opposed to simple editing. We’ve been using Adrianne Rich’s essay “When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-vision” as the basis for this discussion. I facilitate with these slides. Here’s how we went about it in class last week:

  1. As students walked in, I displayed McArthur’s Universal Corrective Map, pictured below, and asked that they freewrite on what they thought and felt about this map.


    As usual, this really bothered some folks, resulting in comments like “that’s just wrong.” Others demonstrated a real misunderstanding of the physical universe, saying things like “that’s not how the world looks from outer space–it’s upside down.” This in itself created some nice discussion, but once I showed this clip from the TV show West Wing, things really heated up.
  2. From here, I paraphrased what Rich says about us being “drenched in assumptions” of the world and our place in it and that we must question those assumptions. Then we did a little group work where groups drafted discussion questions on Rich’s essay “When We Dead Awaken,” swapped questions with other groups, and then dug into the essay (using the discussion question along with other prompts I provided).
  3. After some time, groups shared their insights with the rest of the class, but the discussion didn’t get as deep as I would have liked (due mostly to a lack of preparation on the students’ parts). I’d hoped to get to another activity which would force them to “work” the text a little harder, but we ran out of time. We’ll do that activity next class. Time permitting, it could have been an extension activity for this class meeting. I’ve described it briefly below.
  4. Extension Activity: It’s called “Read, Summarize, Extend, Answer.” Project passages from the essay on the screen at the front of the room, toss a ball to some unsuspecting student and ask him or her to “read” the quote directly from the screen. That student in turn tosses the ball to another student who must “summarize” the quote using words of his or her own. After this, the student tosses the ball again to another person who must “extend” what the previous student said by adding other ideas, insights, connections, etc. Finally, this student tosses the ball again to another student who must answer a question displayed on the screen below the quote. (This question is designed to have the student make a connection between Rich’s essay and other texts and ideas we’ve been discussing in class.)