The history of an English 10 class exercise.
by Brad Hyde
Link to Class Notes on
It all began with the death of a friend.
In January, a week or two later, I decided to write a "Lives
Lived" in honour of John Hewitt, my good friend and hiking
partner of many years. I wrote a
750 word piece, taking
a full two months on the many drafts, and sent it off to The
Globe and Mail, Canada's largest circulation national newspaper,
late in March.
Of course, a month passed first without a
word. Then, in response to my email request, the editor, Moira
Dann, let me know that she had accepted the piece for
publication. A few weeks later it was a phone call: "Your piece
is going in, tomorrow, April 18," she had said.
When reading the piece the first time, I
edits with some interest; they were substantial in some
cases, and in others, quite minor. The idea came to me to ask
her for permission to use those edits
as an exercise for learning formal
written composition. Moira, editor of the Facts and Arguments
page, graciously accepted and promised to answer the students'
questions regarding her editing decisions.
The two pieces of writing provided a good
opportunity for study. My final edit was the last of many
drafts. John's wife, a writer herself, helped a great deal,
adding details of their life I had never known; my own gave
advice and support for a lengthy writing project. The edits
were major enough to be interesting and, because of the
constraints of space in a newspaper, she had made many to save
I read the final piece aloud to them to
start, then handed them the two versions. Students worked in
groups of 4 or 5 to check for the editing changes and to
formulate a question about that editing. Neither class took a
break that day, working a solid two hours. The questions were
challenging, thoughtful, and precise. I sent the twelve best off
You may know that an editor's life is a
full one. The day before the following week's class, where we
hoped to hear Moira's answers, I still had not heard from her. I
was ready to make a new lesson when, in the early evening hours,
I received her reply. Each question was carefully, sometimes
humourously, answered in full.
View the questions and answers.
With her reply in hand, the lesson really
began for the class. Each student had a copy. This time, the
whole class worked together, often challenging her decisions in
the finer details of grammar. They even sided with my original
last sentence. See if you agree with me and my two classes, or
Students agreed that they had learned
valuable lessons and saw for themselves the struggle a writer
endures to get the words right, understanding that there is no
one answer to many writing problems.
Have a look
at the exercise in editing. Feel free
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