"The unheard voices of children": A study of young children's revision in writing

Year: 2017

Author: Wang, Yingmin

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Writing is an under-researched area in literacy. Revision, a significant component in composition, remains a relatively a minor dimension (Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1987; Fitzgerald, 1987; Flower & Hayes, 1981; Flower, Hayes, Carey, Schriver, & Stratman, 1986; Sommers, 1980; Zimmerman & Kitsantas, 1999). The majority of research has focussed on teaching revision with few studies conducted from children's perspectives to understand their writing development. Revision is important for learning writers for two reasons. First, revision can help writers develop metacognitive ability to understand tasks, evaluate discrepancies between intended and actual text, decide on appropriate strategies and make revisions (Fitzgerald & Markham, 1987). Second, revision provides opportunities for students to establish authorship and to become writers. When students revise, they make substantial effort to consider their audience in order to achieve rhetorical goals. As students independently compose and self-monitor during revision, they are becoming experienced writers.

A number of empirical studies have shown that beginner writers are not inclined to make revisions (Dix, 2006; Fitzgerald & Stamm, 1992), and the revisions they do make are mechanical changes, such as spelling and grammar (Graves, 1979). In the context of New Zealand, students' ability to revise is currently highlighted across all levels of the national curriculum (Ministry of Education, 2007). With particular reference to revision in the curriculum, writers are expected to "add or delete details and comments, showing some selectivity in the process" (Ministry of Education, 2007, pp. 8, 14) by level 2, which spans Years 2 to 5 in primary schools. Research has suggested that children are able to revise in the first year of primary school (Fitzgerald & Stamm, 1992), however, New Zealand literature has shown that primary school children rarely revise their text (Dix, 2006).

The purpose of this study is to explore children's revision development in the context of New Zealand. At the heart of revision is children's learning environments, knowledge and intentions. The overriding question is: how do children develop revision competencies in different writing contexts? An ethnographic approach to observe, document and engage with four children (Level 2) on their composition practice in an urban primary school in low socio-economic area for two terms (20 weeks). My research project is in progress. By the end of November, I will be able to provide preliminary findings on how learning environments, knowledge and intentions intertwine and develop in children's revision.