Search Menu


This site is available only to JEA members. Please log in below.

Deep revision


In this lesson on revising beyond copy editing, students will bring first drafts to class for feedback. The teacher or student leader uses “compliments, questions, and suggestions” to control the amount and quality of feedback student reporters give other student reporters. “Deep revision” is when authors expand or collapse paragraphs; narrow or change the focus, angle, or approach a piece; cut, move or add paragraphs; or systematically revise one aspect throughout a piece of writing.

A good precursor to this lesson is the Revision lesson in the Writing module.


  • In an attempt to offer visionary feedback that fosters deep level revision, students will offer at least three high-quality compliments, three high-quality questions, and three high-quality suggestions to each piece of writing he or she is given.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1-3 above.)
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.


50-100 minutes


Completed first drafts of student writing

Lesson step-by-step

1. Introduce the idea — 10 minutes

Explain to students that they are going to work on deep revision today. To steal a comparison from Teaching Adolescent Writers by Kelly Gallagher, deep revision is akin to outfitting a car with hydraulics, installing a more powerful engine, or replacing the backseats with a movie projection system. Deep revision is not surface revision, and it is not final revision. (Final revision involves proofing for grammar, spelling, and AP Style, and making decisions about font and paper choice. More about surface revision can be found in this curriculum.) Revision usually happens in this order: deep revision, surface revision, and final revision.

Generally, every piece of writing receives three kinds of feedback (compliments, questions, and suggestions), and additional rationale, examples, and explanatory notes accompany each piece of feedback. Workshop participants avoid responding to handwriting, punctuation, grammar, spelling, capitalization, and AP Style because such proofing is reserved for line editing and surface revision at the final stage of drafting. So what should participants look for? This depends on the type or genre of article, the scope or angle of article, and more. This workshop’s success depends partially on students’ familiarity with a variety of genres.

Write “compliments, questions, and suggestions” on the board, and explain that they will frame their revisions through these three response categories. As you write, give examples of questions in each category (examples provided below).

  • Compliments
    • What do you like about the writing? What should the writer be sure to keep for the next draft? If you don’t compliment good parts, the author may assume they are bad and get rid of them.
    • Don’t be false or general: I just can’t describe it… I just really like it… That’s interesting… Good job!… It had a sense of, just kind of, you know…
  • Questions
    • What is unclear? What do you not understand? What would you like more information about?
    • If you understand everything, you might use your questions to request more of what is good.
    • Some responders may combine questions with suggestions, since a question sometimes naturally leads to a suggestion.
  • Suggestions
    • Make suggestions for improvement.
    • Use “I” statements instead of “You should…” One idea: If this were my paper I might try… Another: One way to change this would be… I went ahead and thought of some ways…
    • When you make a structural or visionary suggestion, pinpoint four or five places where the author might get started.

2. Illustrating the review — 5 minutes

Teacher draws a Venn Diagram on the whiteboard or projector and establishes similarities and differences between “responding” and “evaluating.”  Use the following guidelines, and talk out loud to students as you create this diagram:

  • Responding is not evaluating.
  • While responding and evaluating can feel judgmental, “evaluating” is done at the end of the drafting process, usually when a work is published and critiqued or reviewed by the public.
  • “Responding” is done in the middle of the drafting process and is not the same as a review.
  • Similarly, responding is not “annotating.”
  • Annotating is done for the benefit of the reader; responding is a more selfless act, completed for the benefit of the writer.

Teacher says, “For each piece of writing I give you, you will offer compliments, questions, and suggestions—at least three of each. That’s a minimum of nine high-quality comments you’ll write in the margins of the writing I give you. That’s a lot. In some cases you may end up writing more words than the author wrote to produce the draft. This is one way responding is a selfless act. At the end of today, I may evaluate the quality of your feedback to this work. That’s right, I might look at the work itself, but I’m more likely to look at the ideas in the margin.”

3. Begin editing — 35 minutes

Teacher distributes student writing so no reporter is responding to his or her own work. Teacher asks students to lay claim to their compliments, questions, and suggestions by writing “Responded by [name]” on the top or the bottom of the work. Using the descriptions for compliments, questions, and suggestions included above, teacher introduces each stage of responding one step at a time, providing examples as necessary and asking students to write in the margins of the work in front of them.

As you go, introduce the rubric one stage at a time, emphasizing the notion that not all feedback is equal or valuable, that feedback exists along a spectrum of degrees of quality. The teacher or student leader encourages the group to stay focused during this work time, as sometimes students’ first impulse is to fill the air with talk.


For this assignment, the teacher assesses the feedback on the article and not the article itself. The rubric below may be used for assessing compliments, questions, and suggestions.

Fair(1 point) Good(3 points) Excellent(5 points) Total points
Compliments Insincere, vague, sarcastic or mean; could potentially be written on the top of any paper, maybe without reading it; compliments skin-deep qualities like grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. too early in the drafting process Sincere but too vague; or, sincere and specific but lacks elaboration and reasoning and doesn’t say why one part is better than another; or, includes elaboration and reasoning but doesn’t pinpoint or address the writing Descriptive & detailed, gives reasoning as to why one part of writing is better than another and elaborates on why, pinpointing qualities of good writing; compliments large, structural topics in specific ways, not just small parts ____ / 5
Questions General, offensive, random, or sarcastic; unrelated to the writing; offers little to no explanation after the question is asked; question may be closed-ended Sincere and answerable but not specific; open-ended but encourages small instead of big changes; lacks an elaborative statement after the question, i.e. responder doesn’t say why he or she wants to know Usually open-ended, clarifies unclear parts, or requests more of what is good, or encourages big changes. Following the question, responder offers potential answers, or says why the author should answer the question, or how answering the question will help readers ____ / 5
Suggestions Uses “you should” and sounds authoritative, mean, or sarcastic; offers no explanation or elaboration or examples; lacks relevance to the writing; suggests no large, overall, structural changes Sincere but not enough elaboration; not as collaborative as it could be; elaboration not detailed enough and/or lacks examples; shows where improvements can be made but lacks direction as to how improvements might be made; suggests some structural changes Collaboratively reasons with the author; offers specific ideas with examples using 1st-person language instead of “you should”; uses collaborative words like “could,” “maybe,” and “for example” discovers trends, suggests large, structural changes, and says where, how and why those changes might happen ____ / 5
Total points ____ / 15