Green Squiggly Lines:

Historical Contexts

In 1982, Colette A. Daiute, John C. Bean, and Richard M. Collier each published articles in CCC that reflected upon word processors and students' revising processes. These articles linked the use of word processing to the possibility for student writers to focus on the mental acts of writing and revising rather than on the labor-intensive physical tasks associated with pen-and-paper and type-written compositions. Significantly, the act of revising-and the effectiveness of that revision-was considered in relation to teacher commentary. Teachers read, responded to, and evaluated student work-and these actions made the student writing better. Word processors facilitated these revisions.

However, in May of 1982, Nancy Sommers's "Responding to Student Writing" and Lil Brannon and Cy Knoblauch's "On Students' Right to Their Own Texts: A Model of Teacher Response" also appeared in CCC. Sommers called for a greater understanding of teacher commentary, "the most widely used method for responding to student writing" (p. 184). Brannon and Knoblauch argued that teachers should stop responding to student discourse in ways that shaped students writing to meet the criteria of "our own Ideal Texts" (p. 159). Both "Responding to Student Writing" and "On Students' Right to Their Own Texts" suggested that changes to students' processes of revising were more than questions of writing technologies-they were questions of pedagogy that related to the methods used to encourage students to reflect upon-and change-their writing. Reading, responding to, and evaluating student texts should reach beyond the directive, sentence-level comment according to Sommers, Brannon and Knoblauch. Reading, responding to, and evaluating student texts should encourage-and be part of-a larger reflection by teachers and students upon the students' progress as developing writers.

By eschewing questions of media-of composing environments-Sommers's and Brannon and Knoblauch's works inadvertently begin a series of discussions about teacher response that does not directly address the technologies used in students' composing and teachers' reading. A quick trace of scholarship on teacher response in the 1980s reveals an abundance of thoughtful and provocative studies, but little concern with the media in which students write and in which teachers comment and evaluate. Daiute's, Bean's, and Collier's arguments about the technological, physical environment of composing affecting the overall development of an essay's theme as well as the sentence-level mechanics through changing the process of commenting and revising do not figure into the late-1980s and 1990s discussions of responding to and evaluating student work.