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Lesson Plan

Making the Cut: Revising Memoirs by Detecting Clutter and Confusion

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Making the Cut: Revising Memoirs by Detecting Clutter and Confusion

Grades 6 – 10
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Two 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Rebecca Addleman

Tualatin, Oregon


National Council of Teachers of English



Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice



Rather than extending a two-page paper to five pages by restating facts, philosophizing aimlessly, or simply making things up, students engaging in this revision lesson learn how to make the cut. In Zinsser’s guide for nonfiction writing, he states, “The secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components” (7).  Students begin by improving a slide presentation by removing pictures.  They translate their reasons for cutting pictures into reasons for cutting unnecessary words and sections from their own memoirs.  Experiencing revision instead of memorizing the rules of revision helps students move beyond head knowledge of Zinsser’s clean-and-cut advice to individually adopted practice. 

Zinsser, William. On Writing Well (6th ed.). New York: Harper Perennial, 1998. Print.

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Slide presentation: Vienna

Slide presentation: Amusement Parks

Sample Memoir: “The Unexpected Dangers of Roasting Marshmallows”

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Flower et al. suggest a cognitive process model for writing, which is based on hypotheses and research regarding the differences between novice and expert writers (21). Flower et al. and Hayes describe revision as a process that depends on the writer’s initial ability to detect problems in the text. Because novice writers often struggle to diagnose areas for revision, they resort to basic proofreading rather than revising word choice, organization, and content for meaning. This lesson is designed to help students detect revision needs by using visual literacy knowledge as a scaffold for identifying revision issues in their own writing.

Flower, Linda, Hayes, John R., Carey, Linda, Schriver, Karen, & Stratman, James. "Detection, Diagnosis, and the Strategies of Revision." College Composition & Communication 37.1 (1986): 16-55. Print.


Hayes, John R. “Modeling and Remodeling Writing.” Written Communication 29.3 (2012): 369-388. Print.

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