Last week, I wrote about Online Identity Revision Plans. Today, I want to share a focused activity that fits online identity revision as well as revision in any writing classroom. This activity is modeled on the 1–3–5 rule used in planning and to-do lists. The goal is to change revision from an overwhelming challenge to fix everything into a targeted plan to improve the document.
The 1–3–5 Rule for To-Do Lists
Using the system, you divide your to-do’s into three categories:
- Simple tasks that are easy to complete.
- Medium tasks that take a little more work.
- Large tasks that take more time and require more effort.
As this Post-It Note article explains, “A small task might be washing dishes after dinner, while a large task might be preparing your garden for spring.” After you prioritize your tasks, you create a to-do list for the day that includes one large task, three medium tasks, and five simple tasks. The Muse shares a simple template to structure the to-do’s in their article “A Better To-Do List: The 1-3-5 Rule.”
Applying the 1–3–5 Rule to Revision
It’s fairly straightforward to adopt the 1–3–5 rule as part of a revision activity:
- Ask students to prioritize their revision tasks into the three categories:
- Simple tasks
- Medium tasks
- Large tasks
- Choose tasks to complete: one large task, three medium tasks, and five simple tasks.
- Focus on those nine tasks in your revision.
Easy-peasy, right? Students determine what counts as simple, medium, and large, and then they follow their plans to revise their drafts or online identity. As teachers, we know that what is simple for one writer may be quite large for another, so this system works well for differentiated instruction. Students are in control, choosing what fits their needs. With the same structure as the to-do list version of the rule, students can even use The Muse template (above) as a handout.
Customizing 1–3–5 Revision
If students in the writing classroom need more structure than the open version of 1–3–5 Revision provides, you can easily customize the activity to fit your course. Rather than simple, medium, and large tasks, describe kinds of revision. For instance, focus on the difference between surface-level changes and deep revision with this 1–3–5 Revision schema:
- Conceptual Change: Think about changes to your overall idea and development. You might change your thesis or supporting paragraphs. This change will require working throughout the draft to change the way the ideas are conceived.
- Structural Changes: Consider how the document is put together. You might rearrange ideas or work on how sentences work together. For instance, you might set a goal to work on sentence variety in your introduction.
- Surface Changes: Focus on style and mechanics. You might look at word choice or a particular comma rule.
Another option for 1–3–5 Revision activity focuses on where the revision effort is centered, like this example:
- Paragraph Level: Think about changes you can make to your paragraphing that will strengthen your draft. For instance, you could think about a way to unify your paragraphs or about a strategy that improves paragraph openings.
- Sentence Level: Look at how sentences work together to improve the draft. For instance, you might set a goal to work on sentence length by combining sentences, or a goal to make the phrasing concise and direct.
- Word Level: Examine the individual words in your draft with a goal to increase their effectiveness. You might consider whether the words in your draft are concrete and specific, and make changes to improve the phrasing, such as deleting filler words.
These custom versions simply help students with the process of prioritizing their revision plans by showing them which kinds of revision are valued and the amount of effort that they should apply. Surface changes should be simple tasks while conceptual change should be a large task. Like the 1–3–5 Rule for To-Do Lists, the specific attention to prioritizing according to guiding categories should increase the effectiveness of students’ revision plans.
Keep Revision Active and Specific
No matter what kind of 1–3–5 Revision strategy you try, encourage students to keep their 1–3–5 plan active. ProfHacker’s “3 Ways to Makeover Your To-Do List” begins with the suggestion to “Start Each Task With a Verb.” This strategy stresses the action involved in the revision task rather than the end result or a need that should be met. Rather than adding “details” as the one large revision task, for instance, begin with a verb that says what to do about or with details. The actively-phrased task on the 1–3–5 plan might be “develop concrete details in the body paragraphs.”
Active phrasing has to be paired with specific and well-focused ideas. A writer might list “work on concise phrasing.” While that idea begins with a verb, the writer still has to figure out how to “work” on that phrasing. What exactly is she going to do? She could strengthen her revision plan by specifying exact strategies to apply to the draft, such as “delete unnecessary filler words, such as really and very.”
The 1–3–5 rule structures revision in a way that asks students to think more deeply about the work they need to do on their drafts. The strategy requires that students move beyond the idea of making corrections. It requires them to choose tasks that are more than simple editing and proofreading. While making the revision process move beyond surface errors in concrete ways, this 1–3–5 activity also makes the revision process specific and manageable. There are just nine tasks to complete, and at the end of the activity, the student should have the satisfaction of a checked-off list of to-do’s.
What do you think of this revision activity? Are you willing to give the 1–3–5 Revision strategy a try? Do you have revision activities that work well with students? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
Photo credit: Reichsstraße 135 number.svg by 3247's Image Wizard, on Wikimedia Commons, used under public domain.