Instant Feedback: Using Writing Reviser to Teach Key Concepts


Although most often used as a tool to refine an entire essay, Writing Reviser also offers innovative opportunities to isolate and overcome some of the most durable stumbling blocks to forceful writing.

Let’s consider one perennial obstacle: recognizing—and choosing skillfully between—active and passive verbs.

In the traditional approach, students look at a handbook and review sentences about which they have little interest and no personal investment. They mull over the difference between subjects that act as opposed to those that are acted upon. They’re instructed to look for tell-tale signs of passivity: a to be verb + a past participle. They may be asked to comment on the shift in nuance between “Taylor Swift is admired by young audiences” and “Young audiences admire Taylor Swift.”

As most English language arts teachers can attest, however, this series of enlightening activities seldom produces seismic changes in students’ writing or in their ability to recognize and choose between active and passive verbs in their own work.

One tool-based lesson (TBL) that uses Writing Reviser—Political Palaver and the Passive Voice—allows teachers to take a more auspicious approach. That's because the tool identifies passive constructions in sentences the students write themselves. So after reviewing the basics, you can do something like this: assign students two brief essays, one in which they intentionally use the five instances of the passive voice to obfuscate something they want to hide, another in which they use active voice exclusively to call attention to something they want to promote. We've provided one topic in which students must write about stealing a team mascot (an elephant), but the possibilities are vast.

Writing Reviser highlights instances of passive voice.

This exercise lets students turn a potentially dull lesson on an abstract problem into an opportunity to showcase their creativity while demonstrating their grasp of key concepts. And with Writing Reviser, students can check their work to verify that they have successfully used or avoided passive verbs. The tool also provides helpful explanations for students still struggling to grasp the concepts.

We’d love to hear some of the innovative ways you use Writing Reviser. And check out a few of our many tool-based lessons. You'll be loved by your …. uhm … Your students will love you for it.

Here is a sample of the more than 40 English Language Arts tool-based lessons:

Mark Twain Shows How to Support a Topic Sentence 

Expletive Deleted: Cutting Empty Uses of It and There

Always Avoid Clichés like the Plague

Can That Be Compressed?



About Author

Tim McBride

Supervisor, Educational Multimedia Writing

Tim McBride has degrees from Rochester Institute of Technology and NC State University, where he taught English for several years. His first book of poetry, The Manageable Cold, was published recently by TriQuarterly Press at Northwestern University. He works as a writer and an editor on Curriculum Pathways. He lives in Cary, NC, with an American pit bull terrier named Charlie McCarthy and a Catahoula hog dog named Junk.

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