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Reading or Not

There is a discussion on a writing center listserv about not reading the writer's paper in the session but using Socratic method to work through the paper.

In Wendy Bishops book, "Acts of Revision," she suggests a similar idea to revising that she calls "memory drafts" (13-27).

In some sessions, I have found it useful to ignore the actual paper the writer brought in and discuss global ideas sans the confines of an actual paper.

All that being said, I wonder if any of you have experienced/tried this?


  1. No, I haven't done this, but it's an interesting idea. I actually read the Bishop piece for another class, and didn't tie it to consulting. I don't remember the exact name of the piece, so it may've been a different "Bishop' piece than the one you speak of. I remember the "memory draft" idea clearly, though. It's an interesting idea that can be used to revise your own pieces, and it would be interesting to try using it with others. Hmmm...

    Do you have the link to the Socratic article handy?

  2. Yep. I think it's useful to go into a session without assuming we're going to proceed in a certain way. I always ask questions first, although we most often end up reading aloud.

    I've actually had someone place his paper before us on the table and declare, "It's good. You don't need to read it." I looked at him blankly and he continued, "I mean, the writing is good." And we talked about ideas, but not the actual writing.

  3. Anonymous9:45 AM

    I've never done a session without having the paper read aloud, though I can see how the Socratic method would be great (but only if the student is willing to go along with it).

    I do notice a lot of students get hung up on the paper and have difficulty discussing it. Maybe this is when they feel the difference between their spekaing-voice and their writing-voice (which is picking up academic language). When this happens, I'll push the paper to the side, or even ask them to put it away temporarily, and ask them to simply talk about the ideas in the paper, to walk me through their thinking. This helps calm down a lot of students, and by and large works. When it doesn't, we can always go back to the paper, or try something else.

  4. This is the reason I love doing brainstorming consultation sessions. Discussing the argument with a writer before discussing the hard proof. We often both totally get down in this regard. I'll often get excited as we formulate our arguments or dissolve our non-arguments. The best is when the writer's eyes lock into place with that look like, "I get it! I see my own paper!"


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