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Multimodal Mondays: Doodling to Differentiate Revising from Editing

posted: 5.12.14 by Andrea Lunsford

Guest blogger Kaitlin Clinnin is a PhD candidate at the Ohio State University. When she isn’t busy doodling her dissertation on community in composition classrooms, she works as part of the Ohio State Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) team. She can be found on Twitter @kclinnin.


Multimodal projects can be complicated for instructors and students because of the multiple modes of representation and expression in addition to the added difficulty of working with unfamiliar technology. However, as many scholars like Andrea Lunsford and Jody Shipka argue, multimodal opportunities do not have to be focused on high-threshold technologies. Starting with low-stakes and low-threshold technology multimodal processes like doodling can help students practice thinking and creating in multiple modes. According to Sunni Brown in her book The Doodle Revolution, doodles are “spontaneous marks made to support thinking” (12). Brown argues that doodling is not a meaningless activity but a power tool to engage in complex thinking. Doodling is a low-stakes activity with high-impact results including better information retention and multi-dimensional information comprehension. I’ve started to use doodling in my writing classes as a way to engage students in alternative modes of representation. Doodling has been an effective way to start visually brainstorming for assignments or to discuss composing concepts. Additionally, doodling serves as a scaffolding activity for students who may initially be overwhelmed by the need to convey complex messages in a new mode with unfamiliar technologies. As an added bonus, students enjoy doodling!


Engage in multimodal thought processes in order to examine the distinction between revision and editing.

Background Reading

  • Sunni Brown’s The Doodle Revolution
  • Joseph Harris’ Rewriting: How to Do Things with Texts
  • The St. Martin’s Handbook, 4f-4k, on Revising and Editing
  • The Everyday Writer, Ch 10d-11a, Revise and Edit
  • Writing in Action, 5g-5h, Revise and Edit
  • EasyWriter, 10d-11a, Revise and Edit

In Class

If you haven’t already in the semester, lead a class discussion about the power of multimodal thinking and brainstorming (Sunni Brown’s book on doodling is a great resource). I find students initially tend to be skeptical when I hand out big sheets of paper and markers. The more often students are asked to engage in low-stakes multimodal opportunities like doodling throughout the semester, the more comfortable and adventurous they become over time. Be sure to let them know that they are not being judged on their artistic ability and there is no correct doodle.

Ask students to create four quadrants on their large sheet of paper. In the first quadrant, ask them to doodle what revision means to them. In the second quadrant, ask them to doodle what editing means to them. I use the following questions to prompt students:

  • What types of verbs do you associate with revision?
  • When do you revise?
  • What does revision do to your project?
  • How do you decide what to revise?
  • What is your revision process?

After students visually represent their understandings of both revision and editing, lead a class discussion. Ask students to share their doodles if they are comfortable (I often share my doodle first to break the ice), or ask students to share what they drew if they don’t want to share the actual paper.  Many students create a doodle of a traditional, alphabetic essay with some editing marks like carets and flourishes for both revision and editing. One memorable doodle showed a piece of excrement that was transformed via an arrow into a shiny diamond. The doodles student create demonstrate their understanding of revising and editing, and often students find that their doodles are essentially the same for both processes. By discussing their doodles and the assigned readings, as a class we can make distinctions between the two activities, clarify what revision and editing are, and discuss revision and editing processes and strategies.

Following the class discussion, ask students to revise one or both of their doodles based on their new understanding of revision and editing.

Next Steps

After the activity and discussion on revision and editing, ask students to work on a revision plan for their assignment. I have used this doodling and revision plan activity as a way to prepare students for the final assignment in my class, which is a revision of a previous assignment accompanied by a course reflection. Students begin drafting the revision plan in class and submit it later as homework. I prompt students to brainstorm for this assignment using the following questions:

  • What project are you currently thinking about revising?
  • Why do you want to revise this project?
  • What were some of the comments from your peer reviews?
  • What were some of the specific revisions you imagined during the reflection process for that assignment?
  • What revisions would you make to your project if you picked a different audience? A different genre or form? A different position? Different research or evidence?
  • What rhetorical impact would this revision have on your project?

The revision plan asks students to apply their understanding of revision to their own assignments, to develop specific goals for their revised assignment, and to envision their revision process. The discussion of revision and editing as well as the time to apply these concepts concretely to their own work can help students as they work on the next stage of their assignment.

Want to collaborate with Andrea on a Multimodal Monday assignment? Send ideas to for possible inclusion in a future post. 

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