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Three sessions that I observed this week dealt with students who came in with a finished draft. In each session the tutor started by asking the student what the assignment guidelines were and what the actual paper was about. From there each tutor took a different approach in going over the paper with the student. One tutor read over the whole paper in great detail, pen in hand making corrections as he went along. There was an awkward silence for about fifteen minutes as the student watched the tutor silently mark up his rough draft. Another tutor went through the paper paragraph by paragraph and started asking questions about the body paragraphs before even getting to through the introduction. While some questions did seem relevant to making the paper more effective, a few suggestions made were things that were already included in later portions of the paper. The tutor failed to realize some of the techniques the student was already using since the paper had not been read in its entirety. Finally the last tutor I observed quickly skimmed the paper, before going through each paragraph individually with the student. I found this to be the most effective method, but was curious if anyone else had any opinions on the matter. I feel that by skimming the paper you are able to get a basic idea of where the student is and determine if they are having any organizational issues. Still, this could be difficult if you are working with a student who comes in with a very long paper. In this scenario, what is the best way to approach the session since time is limited?  


  1. Pamela10:35 AM

    As a one-on-one writing tutor in a community college learning center, I've found that the "skimming" strategy works best for me. I'm a very fast reader, so I can usually scan a typical 4 page paper and gain some understanding of the direction a revision needs to go. Students don't always recognize their editing priorities -- after all, if they could recognize an error, they wouldn't be making it.

    Another common strategy is to simply start at the top, with the student reading the paper, and working sentence-by-sentence through it. This is best for fixing errors of punctuation, clarity, and mechanics. However, this sort of line editing does not address bigger ideas such as transitions, paragraphing, or effective conclusions.

    Many times, too, the student has worked and reworked a more polished introduction; while the end of the paper lags, and is more of a rough draft, so the whole process of reading aloud takes more time when starting at the top. Scanning ahead gives me the opportunity to say, "Let's start at the end," making a short session more effective by skipping to the most-needed revisions first.


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