Editing is one of the many steps of the writing process that our students want to avoid. But if they are ever going to grow as writers then they are going to have to learn to edit. It’s simply unavoidable. The question for us as teachers is how to get our students to understand the importance of editing, start practicing it, and internalize that it will help them grow as writers. It’s no easy task.
I Failed to Teach Editing to My Students
When I was in the classroom I failed to teach editing to my students. I would send them off alone or with a partner to edit their work. I assumed that they had already learned what to do in previous years. The final pieces they turned in were less than stellar and they paid the price for it with a poor grade. But the truth is I was the one who messed up because I didn’t do my job as their teacher.
Growing to be a Teacher Who Can Teach Editing
Every teacher makes mistakes in the classroom. The good thing is as teachers we know that we can learn from our mistakes and become better teachers each day. Was there a time you realized you did something completely wrong in the classroom? I know now that I can teach editing to my students in a meaningful way with lots of different strategies in the years to come.
What is Editing?
Before we teach editing we must know what editing is. It needs to be clearly defined so we can teach students how it is different from the other steps of the writing process.
Editing is the last thing a writer does to their writing before publishing. Once the written piece is organized and readable the writer is ready for editing. Editing will help make their writing more understandable for the audience because the writer is checking for spelling, capitals, periods, and grammar. Editing is a detailed process where the writer or editor works line by line to make improvements to a sentence.
I find that editing is often confused with revising. Like I said, editing is the last thing the writer does before publishing their work. Revising is when the writer checks the organization and readability of their writing. They might add words, sentences, paragraphs, or even pages. Sometimes revising also means taking confusing or off-topic parts out of their writing. If you want to read all about editing vs revising check out this article.
Kss dqdwfeep in mind that the writing process is not linear. We teach it that way to our students in the beginning, but at some point, we also have to teach them that they will revise, edit, and then have to go back and revise again.
Learn How to Teach Editing From Other Experts
Teach Editing to Students in a Meaningful Way
No two students are alike there isn’t a single answer for getting your students to buy into editing. But there are several ways to teach editing so we can try different strategies with our students.
The first thing you need to know is to teach editing from the beginning of the school year, with every assignment. This sets a clear expectation for students that they are going to be editing all assignments in your class. If you didn’t start at the beginning of the year then start now.
Teach Editing By Teaching Mindset
Our mindset affects everything we do, including how we approach editing. Often we need to help our students examine their mindset. If we understand how they are thinking we can help them better. If we can instill a new mindset and good habits into their writing they will grow as writers. Here are a few starting points to look at with your students.
- Teach Editing Separate From Drafting
Drafting is a completely different step of the writing process and it should purposely be separated. Teach your students to ignore editing while they write their first draft. They shouldn’t be asking for spelling help, just getting their ideas down.
If you have a student who really can’t let go of correcting then tell them to just circle a word and move on. It’s still editing so I would only tell students who really can’t move past a spelling error. If you want to read more about the drafting process check out this article.
- Teach Editing By Not Editing for Your Students
When you tell your students that you are not going to edit their work for them they will be confused and struggle. Who doesn’t love when they get a teacher to edit their work? I loved when my college professors said that if I got my work done early they would take a look. But if we edit for our students then they will only have one paper that is better. If we teach them how to edit and make them practice they will grow as writers. It’s like the old saying, “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will each for life.”
- Teach Editing Progress Over Editing Perfection
Editing is a skill that takes most people a lifetime to learn. I am still learning how to write better and edit better. My writing is by no means perfect, and our students’ writing won’t be either. However, I am getting better with every blog post. We need to teach our students that learning to edit their writing is going to be a process. They will not become perfect editors in one lesson or one school year.
Teaching students to have a progress over perfection attitude will help make your classroom a safe place to make mistakes. If you grade with progress over perfection as your guiding light then your students will learn to take risks and trust you. You will be supporting a growth mindset, rather than just telling them to do it.
- Teach Editing with Practice and Time
Learning to edit takes time and practice. Be sure that you are making a safe place for your students to learn this complex step of the writing process. The mistakes they make as editors are simple opportunities to learn to write and edit better. Learning to edit takes a growth mindset from your students.
Also, be sure that you are considering what is reasonable for each student. You shouldn’t be grading every paper the same way because students are not the same.
Teach Editing So Students Find Their Mistakes
How many times have you sent your students off to edit, they come back a few minutes later, and in the first sentence, you find five errors. Here are a few editing tricks that can help your students find their mistakes more easily.
- Edit After a Break
Editing as soon as we finish a piece of writing is a bad idea. What we pictured as the perfect piece of writing is still in our minds. We autocorrect the errors in our brains. Have students take a break before editing. This can mean that they take a walk, wait a day, or longer before they edit their draft. It’s like taking a step back while drawing, suddenly you see the hand is four times bigger than the head.
- Read It Outloud
Editing by reading our work out loud is not fireproof because our brains still want to fix the mistakes for us. On the television show Brain Games, they had people walking in a park stop to read an incorrect sentence. There were some repeated words in the sentence and more than half the people didn’t see the error. I tell my students about this show. They need to read the words that are actually written. It’s easier to read the words that are written after a break.
- Peer Editing
Peer editing is a classic editing practice. Professional writers have editors too. Peer editing can benefit our students in a few ways. Students will see that everyone is learning how to write and we all make mistakes. They can also support each other as they edit to make their writing better. Finally, if you have students read each others’ work out loud they are going to hear a lot more errors. I have seen so many students who do this say things like, “Oh no! It was supposed to be ___.”
- Use Video or Audio Recording to Teach Editing
Have students record themselves reading their work. Students might not like watching themselves on camera or listening to themselves, but they will definitely hear errors and mistakes more often with this method. The best part is that by recording their work they are finding their own mistakes.
This is a method that works in other places besides writing. I have been telling my gymnasts for years to straighten their legs and point their toes. They think they are doing it until I record them and show them. Suddenly they have pointy toes.
There are apps like Flipgird and Seesaw that make it easy for students to record themselves and turn it in so you can check to make sure they are working. But you can use any camera that will allow students to watch it back.
Teach Editing Through Visuals and Supports
Using visuals and supports to help students learn isn’t anything new or revolutionary. But maybe one of these ideas is new to you. I know that it’s easy to get into a routine and pattern of doing the same thing for every writing assignment. Sometimes a fresh idea or one we forgot about can increase student understanding and be a nice change of pace.
Revision and editing checklists are pretty common. If you use revision and editing checklists in your classroom make sure that they are specific to each assignment. Take time to talk to your class about any checklists you use to make sure they understand them. You may want to use the checklist in combination with rounds editing (coming up soon).
- Anchor Charts, Posters, and Editing Symbols
These visuals can be on the walls, projected on a screen, or in your students’ writing folders. Maybe you like to keep them in all three places. These classic writing tools are still useful to help guide students through editing. When I learned about editing symbols in middle school I thought they were magical because they made editing easier. Take time to teach your students how to use whichever of these tools you have available to them. Never assume that last years’ teacher taught them the way you expect them to be used. It makes your expectations clear for your students and reduces confusion.
- Word Walls or Word Lists
Word walls are common in lower elementary grades, but they get put aside in upper elementary and middle school. Upper elementary and middle school students might not need a word wall like the littles, but imagine if you created word walls with vocabulary that might be helpful for the current assignment or words your students misspell all the time. Word walls for older kids can still be effective if they are specific to the students’ needs.
Alternatively, you may choose to have a word list to add to their writing folder. Maybe each student has a list of words they commonly misspell. Word lists that make looking up information faster are always useful.
- Books and Articles
I can’t imagine any teacher stopping students from looking something up during the editing process. However, if you used library books or they don’t know where they found the information it could be more difficult. Try to keep some books and articles easily accessible to students until the assignment is completely done.
You may need to send kids back to the library too. The writing process is not linear and while they are editing they may need to go back to research a little bit to make sure their work is accurate. This is a great lesson for students.
When I was teaching in fourth grade the librarian would put the books students were currently using on a cart. It made it easy to go back to their sources. Maybe your librarian could do the same.
Acronyms are a trendy way to teach students how to revise and edit. The goal is that students will remember the steps of editing and revising because of the acronym. The most common ones for editing are ARMS and CUPS. There is nothing wrong with this trendy editing method as long as you take time to explain it to students and help them internalize it.
One amazing lesson I saw, from Learning at the Primary Pond, was a flipbook with CUPS written on different flaps. Then under the C – capitalization – the teacher can have students write different things they’ve learned about capitalizing. As they edit for capitals they can check their flipbook to help them edit more effectively.
- Grammar Interactive Notebooks
Grammar Interactive Notebooks are meant to be more than a place to gather lessons about grammar. Students should be able to use them as a reference tool for editing. If students have a grammar question they should be able to look up the answer in their notebook. If you use Grammar Interactive Notebooks be sure to show your students how to use it as a reference tool so that it’s not sitting in their desk gathering dust until the next grammar lesson.
Rubrics are a common grading tool. I‘ve spent time talking with my students about their rubric, but it’s a lot of information too quickly. What if you cut apart the rubric and went over one part at a time. You can give more detail, have better conversations and not overwhelm your students.
You could also give your students one strip of the rubric as you teach a coinciding mini-lesson. Teaching students about a skill and then explaining how you expect that skill to be used in their writing could help improve their grades and effort.
- Practice and Mentor Sentences
You can use practice and mentor sentences to help your students learn how to correct specific types of errors. You can do this as a whole class activity or individually. Create or find a sentence that is related to their writing topics and the skill you are teaching. Purposely add some errors. You can tell students there are 3 errors or however many you put. Have them copy the sentence and correct the errors. You can make checking their work a game by throwing a ball or having a relay.
Making sure this is meaningful learning that is connected to the rest of their writing work is important. You don’t want the lessons to be isolated.
Teaching Editing to Motivated Students
Students often lack any motivation to edit their writing. Who wants to do more work? Here are a few ways to engage your students in editing.
- Teach Editing Through Positive Marks
As teachers, we are told all the time that relationships with our students are key to helping them learn and we should use positive reinforcement. Editing by nature is designed to rip apart our writing in order to improve it, but to an elementary or middle school student, it can be defeating to see those editing marks. What if we let them use something, like a green highlighter, to mark the parts that they did well or think are all set. It adds some positives to editing.
- Teach Editing By Editing a Copy
I totally get that making copies of students’ work can be a pain in the butt. But if you think way back to when you loved school as a kid and you turned in a paper you thought was perfect and well written. Then after waiting and waiting you get it back all marked up with a grade so much lower than you expected. That beautiful paper you worked so hard on is marked up.
I know I am talking about the published piece being turned in, but the same is true of any paper that a student has worked hard on. When they think it’s done and beautiful it’s hard to see it get marked up. Edit a copy. It’s much easier to do if your students type and they just print two copies.
- Teach Editing Outside
Okay so the actual lesson might be easier to teach inside, but when you are giving your students time to edit go outside, to the library, in the hall. Find some locations that make this rather boring process fun and different.
- Teach Editing With Editing Eyes, Erasers, or Pointers
Editing is all about detail, but since it’s a long process students get bored and distracted. However, you can give your students special trackers that help them keep their place on a line and are a little fun. You can use anything you want and glue it to a pencil or popsicle stick. Some teachers use eyes, erasers, or pointers.
- Teach Editing With Colors
Use lots of colors in the editing process. We naturally want to make boring tasks less painful. Music and color are simple ways to add a little brightness to life.
Teach Editing With Focus Correction Areas
This tip is more for teachers than students, but would you be willing to change how you grade? When I was a student the teacher had Focus Correction Areas. It was three or four parts that I needed to focus my corrections on. Each FCA had a specific number of points I could earn. Say the FCAs were staying on topic, spelling, and capitals then that was all that my grade was based on. I focus to make sure those areas of my writing were as perfect as I could because that’s where my grade came from.
Students today have so much anxiety. They worry about being so perfect and I think if we focused our corrections on a few areas it would allow them to grow as writers with less stress.
Teach Editing in Rounds
Editing in rounds is something that professional editors do and it’s perfect for the classroom as well. As teachers, we love to scaffold and break down complicated tasks for our students so they gain a better understanding and learn more. We can do the same exact thing by teaching our students editing in rounds.
We can send our students on editing scavenger hunts or treasure hunts. Each round is one read-through of their writing. By the time students have completed every round of editing, they will have read their paper several times. In each round of editing, they are looking for specific errors. For example:
- Usage – subject/verb agreement
Professionals work from the big picture of what the writer is saying and work towards smaller details, but I think using rounds of editing to help students catch these common errors is a great start to helping them progress as editors. If you want a quick way to make sure your students are editing each round assign a color to each round. A quick look will show you what round they are on and what errors they’ve corrected.
Before you send them off for each round of editing be sure to model how to find and correct these errors. Integrating grammar into actual writing assignments is how students really learn grammar. Integrated grammar lessons will make the knowledge more meaningful and sticky, meaning it will stick in their heads.
Wrap up Tips Leave Room to Teach Editing
Have you ever had a student who wrote less just because they didn’t have enough room? I had a very special student who would shorten his writing because it didn’t fit on the page. He would edit until there wasn’t room to do it easily. He had a point. Editing is useless if you can’t read the changes you’ve made.
That’s why we need to leave room for editing. I’m not the creator of this idea. Many teachers have had their students skip lines or leave the back of a page blank. It can seem like a waste of paper to some, but it leaves room to edit. The Not So Wimpy Teacher brought this idea one step further by leaving a wide margin on one side of the paper to leave even more room for editing and revising. It’s simple and reduces students’ excuses.
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