#SOL17: Revising Writing with Data

Screenshot 2017-08-22 at 11.17.55 AM

First Day

The bus turns the corner and I check once more to see that everything is in my car.  One picture down although it’s kind of gloomy and there is no sunshine on this auspicious day.

The brakes squeak as the bus pulls to a stop in the road. I hear the stop sign pop as it is extended. “Smile, just one more picture!”  He takes three steps, turns, and looks as I snap the photo and then he resumes his journey up the steps.

I’m sure it’s blurred, I think as tears stream down my cheeks. This would not be the day to take a lousy picture. I watch as he walks down the aisle and chooses a seat in the third row behind his friends.

He looks happy but he was so quiet this morning. Only the top of his head is visible from outside the window. The driver looks down, closes the door, and the bus lumbers down the road.

I hop in my car because it’s just five miles and I will be at school for my son’s second “First Day of School” picture. It’s 1995, The First Day of School, and there are no digital pictures.




Screenshot 2017-11-27 at 12.17.43 PM.png

Dear Reader,

If this story felt familiar, you are absolutely correct.  This is a revised version of a “slice” posted on August 22nd here.

Which version do you like best – the revision above or the original posted in August?  And why? 

Continue to think about those two posts on the same topic as I explain . . . 




I found this really cool tool, SAS Writing Reviser, that can be added to google documents to help writers revise and strengthen their written work.  I wanted to put the tool to the test so I pulled up several documents and tested it out.

It was TOO much!

So then I had the brilliant idea of taking an “old slice” and checking out the data prior to a revision.  I really wanted to “test out” the theories that were already rolling around in my brain!




 

Data

My data.

My numbers.

My information to review, consider the implications, revise . . . or not!

I control my use of it.  I am headed straight to the statistics. (No starting at the beginning for me!)

Screenshot 2017-11-27 at 9.53.25 AM

What do I find interesting?  

Screenshot 2017-11-27 at 12.12.01 PM.png

The 27 sentences with an average sentence length of 7 words and where 12 are listed as simple sentences was a big surprise.  But I’m not yet sure what I am looking at.  So more data is needed.

Sentence Length Bar Chart

Screenshot 2017-11-27 at 10.00.49 AM

Screenshot 2017-11-27 at 9.59.07 AM

Confused?

The pop up box allows a limited view of the work so two screenshots were necessary!

Three sentences have 0 words.

What does that mean?

More.Data.PLEASE!

Sentence List

  1. The bus turns the corner.
  2. My last check to see that everything is in my car.
  3. One picture down.
  4. It’s kind of gloomy.
  5. No sunshine for this auspicious day.
  6. The brakes squeak as the bus pulls to a stop in the road.
  7. I hear the stop sign pop as it is extended. “
  8. Smile!
  9. Just one more picture!”
  10. He takes three steps, turns, and looks.
  11. I snap the photo.
  12. He starts up the steps.
  13. I’m sure it’s blurred.
  14. Tears stream down my cheeks.
  15. This would not be the day to take a lousy picture.
  16. I watch as he walks down the aisle and chooses a seat.
  17. Third row.
  18. Behind his friends.
  19. He looks happy but he was so quiet this morning.
  20. Only the top of his head is visible from outside the window.
  21. The driver looks down.
  22. Closes the door and the bus lumbers down the road.
  23. I hop in my car.
  24. Five miles and I will be at school for my son’s second “First Day of School” picture.
  25. It’s 1995.
  26. The First Day of School.
  27. No digital pictures.

The title and sourcing information of the document was included in sentence 1 making that count over 25 words so that’s helpful information for future analyses.  The writing reviser is good.  It checks all written work, even the words and sentences that I have added to my working google doc.  Only two sentences were originally in the length range expected for essays.

And my mind is whirling with possible uses for this sentence list

for revision and editing purposes.

Hmmm . . .  Is it a formatting issue?

I have one sentence consisting of just one word that really looks like at least a negative number on the chart (8).  Two bars hit the “0” exactly and those seem to be the two sentences with two words ( 17, 25).  So the visual representation in the Sentence Length Bar Chart seems to be off.  Just seeing the sentences listed out verifies that I do have a lot of short sentences.  

Draft Thinking

What if I were to change the length of sentences?  Or even to put in a run on sentence or two, deliberately, for effect?  Those are choices that I could make as a result of reviewing all three pieces of data under the support tools. (leaving four other choices totally off the grid at this time)

Revision Statistics

 

Check out the statistics for the Revision. The Writing Reviser provides a side by side comparison of the original and the revision, but that didn’t work when I kept it totally separate in my Google doc so that I could “keep” the versions separate.

Statistics – Revision

Revision areas                                       Preliminary   Current

  • Words                                                            206
  • Sentences                                                        14
  • Paragraphs                                                       5
  • Average sentence length                              14
  • Possible wordiness                                          1
  • Prepositional phrases                                    18
  • Passive voice                                                     2
  • Relative clauses                                                0
  • Simple sentences                                              2
  • Possible sentence fragments                          1
  • Possible run-on sentences                               5
  • Subject-verb sentence openings                   11
  • Prepositional phrase sentence openings      0
  • Dependent clause sentence openings           0
  • Words used more than once                         33
  • Weak verbs                                                         9
  • Present tense verbs                                         30
  • Past tense verbs                                                 1
  • Cliches and jargon                                             0
  • Possible vague words                                       1
  • Possible pronoun problems                           11
  • Possible dangling modifiers                             0
  • Possible misplaced modifiers                          3
  • Areas to check for parallelism                         8

Screenshot 2017-11-27 at 10.35.54 AM.png

Sentence List

  1. The bus turns the corner and I check once more to see that everything is in my car.
  2. One picture down although it’s kind of gloomy and there is no sunshine on this auspicious day.
  3. The brakes squeak as the bus pulls to a stop in the road.
  4. I hear the stop sign pop as it is extended. “
  5. Smile, just one more picture!”
  6. He takes three steps, turns, and looks as I snap the photo and then he resumes his journey up the steps.
  7. I’m sure it’s blurred, I think as tears stream down my cheeks.
  8. This would not be the day to take a lousy picture.
  9. I watch as he walks down the aisle and chooses a seat in the third row behind his friends.
  10. He looks happy but he was so quiet this morning.
  11. Only the top of his head is visible from outside the window.
  12. The driver looks down, closes the door, and the bus lumbers down the road.
  13. I hop in my car because it’s just five miles and I will be at school for my son’s second “First Day of School” picture.
  14. It’s 1995, The First Day of School, and there are no digital pictures.

RESULTS:

Data confirmed that the visual bars are not correct as my shortest sentence is five words (5) and it looks to be about 4 words on the graph above.  Now eight of the 14 sentences are within the expected range or above according to the graph.

Do the numbers tell the whole story? The average sentence length in this version (14) is almost in the bottom of the range expected for an essay (15 to 20). In order to have longer sentences, I combined several so the second version has 14 instead of 27 sentences where now only two (down from 12, YAY!) are listed as simple sentences.  

What data do you find interesting?

What data would you give more credence to?

What data would you ignore?




Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.                                                                                                      slice of life 2016




The rest of the story:

My vote is for my original slice because:  a) the juxtaposition of the actions and my thinking as well as the varying sentence lengths, and b) the way it sounded when I read it out loud. The data and the Writing Reviser has great possibilities for students writing essays and informational texts.  I think the utility for narratives needs further exploration.

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10 responses

  1. I always feel an initial wariness of data analysis of writing, for it seems to dehumanize the experience of the writer’s intent. I did find it interesting, I admit, to follow your thread of looking at the data. But then I got so caught up in the numbers and analysis that I lost track of the original story. See? That’s data for ya.
    🙂
    Kevin

    1. Kevin,
      Too funny as I did that while writing this post. Data can be all consuming and an “over-analysis” can cause one to focus on discrete skills and lose track of the purpose of the entire piece. I do think there is some promise for HS students who use Writing Reviser. It could help with goal setting as well as lessons on “improving writing”. However, context matters! 🙂

  2. I appreciate you sharing your experience with this tool. But for me, it turns writing into a lifeless task. Instead, write without thinking of words like prepositional phrases and dangling modifiers. I write with my heart and I know you do to. But glad you tried it out. Now I’d return to writing without it!

    1. Sally,
      So true.
      BUT if a teacher had a rubric and wanted no dangling modifiers and 8 transition rubrics to be in the top category, I would be willing to “check” my work with a tool like this before I turned it in for lifeless scoring! ❤

  3. I liked the first one too. You lost me in all the data analysis, but the heart of your thinking is evident in both pieces and that’s what matters.

    1. Ramona,
      I know! The data became the story and then all was lost. LOL!

      So if I was a college student who had an instructor that did not seem to appreciate my writing style, I would use something like this to argue my point that I started with “x” and I improved to (?)x and “No, I’m not changing it any more! LOL

  4. I was lost among that data,too. I thought both slices captured what you felt at that emotional moment – the first was bit more “in the moment” and felt more authentic. I am too much the humanities person, Fran – for me the magic in writing is hard to number crunch with.

    1. Tara,
      Thanks for your description. I was also trying to show that “sentence combining” without conversation, practice and an understanding of the message is nothing but transitions and punctuation.

      Love that . . .”the magic in writing is hard to number crunch with”

      And yet also thinking about the reality that computer algorithms are scoring writing already. 🙂

  5. Well done, Fran! I vote for the first one! I found your data analysis fascinating. I’ve done this sort of analysis using the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Scale, and I’ve used limited aspects manually with students to notice style in mentor texts and guide them in crafting their own. However, I’ve not used it as a total text revision tool. I’m so leery of formulaic writing. In the case of your paired passages, I think it stifled vibrancy in your narrative. However, I’m definitely agreeing with you that it may be a worthy tool for students when revising essays and informational texts, especially since student writing is being scored by computer algorithms — as you noted in your reply to Tara’s comment.

    1. Alice,
      Ah, yes, the Flesch-Kincaid. I remember comparing multiple readability formulas as they always seemed to be so contradictory – ah, “pesky numbers”.

      More study is definitely needed but I did see potential in the instructional components both in terms of the “writers” and the “mentor texts” implied for use.

      I don’t believe it is the answer for all writing but it could be another tool if the decision-making is left in the hands of the author. I’m on a different project but I do want to go back and compare some of the results with other genres of my writing.

      Thanks for thinking with me!!!

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