4 Ways to Easily Help Students Boost Their Understanding of Revising vs Editing

The writing process exists for a reason.  Writing is never perfect the first time and often not perfect on the tenth time either.  However, teaching the writing process can be challenging because students never seem to know the steps, understand the steps, or follow the process.  We can help our students become better writers by helping them with the writing process.  The steps that are the most confused are revising vs editing.

What is Revising Vs Editing?

When I first started teaching, I did not understand all the steps of the writing process.  Brainstorming, drafting, and publishing all went fine. The two steps that I had the most trouble with were revising and editing.  We had those cute posters in our classroom and talked about some of the steps, but even when I worked with seasoned teachers, I felt that these two steps got mashed together. This makes sense because the writing process is not linear and we often go between steps but our students need to understand each step to do that effectively.

Teaching Myself About Revising vs Editing

To be a more competent teacher and curriculum creator I needed to gain a better understanding of revising vs editing.  As I started to educate myself through online research, I started to remember some acronyms that were supposed to be taught throughout the whole fourth grade.  And I thought, “Huh! If I didn’t connect it until now, I wonder how many students did?”  Maybe your school has instituted some similar acronyms or writing curriculum.  It’s not that the idea was bad, it’s that it didn’t connect and stick for me as an adult, so I wonder if it was effective for my students.  

Revision and editing checklists are another popular tools.  I have one specifically for slideshows.  But they will be more valuable to our students if they understand the different steps.

Differences Between Revising and Editing 

Revising is all the things we do that make our writing flow better.  Revising is when we add to or take away from our writing.  When we revise, we add words, sentences, and even paragraphs that clarify what we are saying.  We might rearrange sentences, paragraphs, or even an entire essay.  Revising is more than adding to writing though.  It’s when we take away parts that are confusing or extra words.  

One of my extra words is “really,” I use it way too much.  Removing parts of my writing to make it better was something I was not good at in school.  It’s actually something I am still working on.  


Editing is when fixing good writing. When we edit we have already checked the flow of the writing to make sure everything makes sense and is organized in a useful and understandable way.  Editing is when we check capitals, periods, spelling, and grammar.  It’s the little fixes, like using the wrong there, that make a story easier to read and more enjoyable or a persuasive piece more convincing.  This is the step where our students should work on applying all the grammar lessons we teach them.

How Other Describe Revising vs Editing

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Explaining Revising vs Editing to Our Students

Revision and editing are two different steps in the writing process as you can see from the explanations above. It’s very important that we make the differences between revising and editing clear to our students.  As a student, I often revised my work; I just didn’t know that’s what I was doing. 


We forget to help students identify which step of the writing process they are working on.  We are leading them through the writing process, but they don’t know what step they are on, so that means it’s going to be hard for them to use those steps successfully to work independently in an efficient way.

These tips for helping your students understand revising vs editing and the rest of the writing process are ordered from simple to complicated, at least in my opinion.

Teaching Revising vs Editing in Our Mini-Lessons

This is really such a simple thing we can incorporate into every mini-lesson.  Tell your students what part of the writing process they are working on each day. Write it on the board and inject it into the lesson several times.   

Did you know that people need to hear something 7 times to remember it?  A quick google search will give you a variety of numbers, but the consensus seems to be 7-10, which means you need to tell your students at least 7 times during the writing mini-lesson.  

One thing I do when I am teaching my gymnasts a drill is I tell them something like, “The most important part is the pop!”  Then I ask, “ What’s the most important part?”  They all know the answer and have repeated it, so they are more likely to remember it.

Asking students what step of the writing process they just learned about would make a great exit ticket question too.

Teaching Revising vs Editing with Posters or Bulletin Boards

Every classroom I ever worked in, as a paraprofessional, long-term sub, and teacher, has had the writing process posters hung on the wall in the same spot, all year, gathering dust.  They are so stagnant that the students don’t even notice them after a few weeks.  I can think of two ways we can use these posters as a proactive tool in the class rather than paper that blends into the walls.

First, we can take the poster down and put it front and center when we are working on a particular step of the writing process.  This is another simple way to help students learn the difference between all the steps of the writing process, like revision vs editing.

Second, we can create a bulletin board using the writing posters.  Our students are not always working on the same step of the writing process.  As they work, they should be able to identify the steps of the writing process they are working on. 

1. Create a bulletin board with five sections, one for each step of the writing process. 

2. Create fun, movable name cards

3. Have the students move their names to the correct step of the writing process at the beginning of each writing work session.

This bulletin board, which can be adjusted at the beginning of each writing block, allows students to identify the writing process they are working on and work at their own pace.  It also gives them a simple way to manipulate the writing process with their hands, so they will remember it better.

Teaching Revising vs Editing in the Writing Process with Poetry

Poetry is one of my favorite ways to help students gain a strong understanding of the writing process.  I love using poetry to teach the writing process because it is a short writing assignment.  When you give your students informational writing or narrative writing it takes weeks to complete the assignment and the writing process.  It’s hard for students to visualize and grasp the writing process when it is so spread out, especially the steps of revising vs editing because they are similar.  Poetry usually takes two days to teach.  I can take my students through each step and explain why they are different quickly. Poetry helps our students see and understand the whole system of the writing process.

Poetry is a great change of pace from the usual writing assignments, helps students develop their author’s voice and understand the writing process.  Short poetry assignments help the writing process become cohesive.

Read more about Teaching the Writing Process with Poetry.

Teach Revising vs Editing and the Rest of the Writing Process in a Game

Students love games and I love them too.  I love getting my students to do hands-on work as much as possible because when they manipulate information with their hands they are going to learn, understand and remember it better.

Creating a writing process game would be a great way to help your students understand revising vs editing and the rest of the writing process.  Again, I think revising and editing are the most mixed-up steps.

I can imagine a few games off the top of my head: trivia, sorting, board game, connect 5.

Teaching Revising vs Editing Creatively

Revising and Editing are the steps of the writing process that get all mixed up.  Students and teachers have trouble keeping them straight because writing is fluid, we change parts as we go, and they are so closely related. The writing process is not linear.  We are supposed to go back to a previous step when we get stuck. However, to be able to do that they need to understand the writing process first.

If we get creative with how we teach the writing process our students will understand the differences better, which will result in them being able to work better independently.  If it’s a boring lesson then they will not remember what we said.  Get a little creative and silly to help your students really understand the steps to take to become master writers.

More Poetry and Writing Articles

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Here is Your FREE Prompt for Writing Poetry

I know that you needed a prompt to help kickstart your students’ writing.  Here is an entire lesson for FREE.  My Our School Poem guides students through using sensory language to describe their school. The step-by-step directions guide your class through the writing process with all the necessary worksheets make this the perfect lesson for your classroom

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