Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Redrafting to Perfection?

Since being recommended the work of Ron Berger by Richie Gale, I have become a big fan. I decided to use his idea of working towards perfection with my Y8s. It is the idea that by using feedback and encouraging students to redraft and redo work, there will be great progress and improvement. This video explains it very well:

From the Y8 unit 'Creation', I allowed each student to pick one of three individuals cited as a Christian who had concerned for the environment: St Francis of Assisi, Sister Dorothy Stang or Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha. They were to write a magazine article about the person for the fictional 'Eco Living Magazine' justifying their inclusion in the magazine as a Christian.

The students wrote their articles on lined paper, as opposed to their exercise book, and then got at least two people to peer mark it. They were to correct spelling, punctuation, add suggestions and improvements - as well as adding some encouraging comments! I encourages them to 'ask the expert' with them asking to think carefully about who to ask for help, about what.

Unfortunately I only have a limited number of the drafts, but they ended up covered in coloured markings and improvements. Here are two that I managed to salvage from students (but are two of the less annotated!):


They then got booked into a computer room to type up the improved version, aiming for 'professional perfection':


The quality of the work was far superior to their drafts and their normal homework. It really helped having their peers correct and improve their work. They were all determined to work for perfection too! They were getting each other to 'be editor' in the computer room; students needed a final proof read before printing!

It was far easier than I thought to create a collaborate environment, whereby students were really focused on improvement and working towards 'the perfect article'. They were happy to have their first drafts written all over, improved and corrected; these are girls who are often slaves to neatness from the word go!

There are time considerations to take into account, this took two lessons instead of one for a start. I was also fortunate to be able to book at computer room, writing it out again from scratch may have been a little tedious (and perhaps not showing enough progress for an observer). The 'culture of excellence' was powerful to see in action, and students (and I!) enjoyed it.

I may try it with GCSE students and exam questions of 6th Form and an essay... I think I may show them the video first to explain a little better why we are trying to do this!

Update 6/11/13: Tom Sherrington has also recently blogged about this <here>. He grabbed this screenshot to show the power of redrafting:


  1. Absolutely agree with the value of redrafting/editing/improving work and setting the bar high. Just worry a bit about Berger's 'if it isn't perfect it isn't finished' mantra as I've taught in girls' schools where the drive to perfection becomes debilitating and not helpful - 7 drafts later and some are agonising that it 'still isn't perfect'.

    At GCSE I said write a draft, get feedback from me and use that to produce the next/final piece. If the feedback on the final version shows there is clearly still more to learn/ways in which it could be improved (which is probable), then take those messages into your next piece of work and make that better. Don't beat yourself up if each individual piece of work isn't 'perfect'.

    What do you think?

    1. Thanks for this Jill.

      I do tend to agree. My Set 1 are absolute perfectionists as it is and it could be really damaging for them. I think I'd limit it to one redrafting (as I did with my Y8s).

      It will be interesting to see how my Y12s will come back with their first essay... I've told them it is a draft. I will get them to peer review one anothers and then hand back in 2 days later. I think that will make a much better essay.... I'll keep you posted!