Entries from February 2011 ↓

Put a positive spin on editing

Put a Positive Spin on Editing | Writing with Kids

A quick peek at the “Editing & Revising” category in the sidebar will show you that I talk about editing quite a bit here. It’s a big deal for so many homeschoolers—and is often the very thing that puts a damper on an otherwise decent day or week of writing.

I’m always on the hunt for a fresh idea to share that will make the editing process even a teensy bit easier for you and your kiddos. Editing can leave an unpleasant taste in many a mouth, so today, let’s look at ways to make the process more positive.

Start Them Young

I love to see parents begin to teach self-editing skills during the elementary years—before anxiety, fear, and self-deprecation begin to overtake their children. While they’re still young, introducing them to simple ideas can actually make self-editing fun!

  • For example, you can absolutely revolutionize self-editing with one little trick: Make a photocopy of your child’s original writing project and let her self-edit the copy. This allows her to preserve the original, which many children are quite reluctant to mark up.
  • Encourage children to identify a difficult word they spelled correctly or a sentence that has no errors. They love hunting for things they did well, rather than only focusing on mistakes.
  • Another suggestion: Provide them with their own set of supplies such as highlighter markers, colored pencils, and tiny stickers. Armed with their personal editing tools, children can sit down with a real sense of purpose to find those errors and highlight the things they did well. Editing can become a joy instead of a dreaded chore.

“My son feels very professional having a tool kit for this specific job.”  -Karen, WA

A Second Pair of Eyes

But don’t stop at self-editing. Every paper benefits from another look, so once your child is finished self-editing his work, take time to edit it yourself.

  • Keep suggestions to a minimum.
  • Don’t try to find every error,
  • At this age, there’s no need to ravage your child’s paper with a red pen. When you do spot something that needs attention, try not to cross out or erase. Instead, simply print the correct word or punctuation mark directly above the old one.

When finished, give your child the opportunity to rewrite his composition on fresh paper, should he so choose.

Positive, Encouraging Feedback

Put a positive spin on editing | Editing skills for kids and parentsIt’s not always easy to edit a child’s writing attempts. We’re naturally inclined to point out all the mistakes, roll our eyes, sigh deeply in exasperation, or even become angry. Clearly, that’s not the best approach when dealing with a tender-hearted nine-year-old.

So before a negative word rolls off your tongue, affirm your developing writer by searching for things you can praise.

Next time you look over your child’s paper, why not try making a few of these positive and encouraging comments?

  • You’re off to a great start!
  • I love your ideas.
  • You are so creative.
  • What a descriptive story!
  • You shared some interesting facts.
  • Wow! You remembered all your capitalization rules.
  • Thank you for trying so hard.
  • I can see that you’ve put a lot of thought into your story.
  • Great word choices! My favorites are “powdery” and “luffy.”
  • I like your title. It gives me a good clue about your story.
  • This is my favorite sentence.
  • Fantastic! Look how your punctuation has improved.
  • You are becoming a great writer.

More Ideas: Editing Skills for Kids and Parents

Speakable Gifts writing contest for children

My friend Maxine Randall of Speakable Gifts has announced a writing contest for children in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades

Children are asked to write a story based on the poem “Little Words of Kindness” and submit their story for judging by March 31, 2011. You can find the contest rules and prizes here. WriteShop has donated one of the first-place prizes: a StoryBuilder of the winner’s choice!

It’s Never Too Early: Developing College-Level Writing Skills in High School

Alisa Gilbert joins me today as a guest blogger here at In Our Write Minds. Alisa blogs for bachelorsdegree.org. Today she’s sharing some great tips for parents of college-bound high schoolers.

Everyone under the sun will tell you how important it is for children to develop solid writing skills. It’s a key job skill, after all.

More and more universities are incorporating writing across the curriculum, meaning your college-bound child—no matter her major—will invariably encounter courses in which she is asked to write research papers and essays throughout the semester.

The Price of Unpreparedness

Even though we tout the importance of writing in high school, I believe many parents and educators simply pay it lip service. Writing standards in high school are so far below college standards that many freshmen are shocked to discover how little they’ve learned and practiced to prepare them.

Personally, I was home-schooled throughout elementary school, after which I attended public high school. My high school writing assignments, even ones in advanced English courses, were graded on a completion basis. Aside from correcting a few of the more egregious spelling and grammar errors, teachers paid scant attention to anything beyond very basic writing no-no’s.

When I started college, confident enough in my writing ability to consider majoring in English, I was absolutely stunned when I received Bs and Cs on my papers, all dripping in red ink. Although I eventually endured the rigorous process of unlearning all the bad writing habits that went unnoticed in high school, I’m convinced I could have learned how to write well years before.

What Can You Do?

I was lucky enough to have taken courses with a few professors who really cared, who took the time to teach me what good writing meant. For students who are still in high school, I suggest developing college-level writing skills as soon as possible.

One thing to keep in mind is that writing isn’t like math, where you either understand it or you don’t. It’s an ever-evolving process; it never reaches a stage of “perfection.” Also, learning to revise rigorously, reading over every sentence to ensure stylistic clarity and logical soundness, is just as important as checking for grammar and spelling errors.

Unfortunately, schools generally don’t stress developing strong writing on an institutional level simply because it’s expensive. It takes time to teach one of the most difficult skills anyone can learn. And many teachers are simply not up to the task of working with every single one of their students to improve their writing. It’s logistically impossible. This is where homeschooling comes in.

For starters, if you want your kids to learn to write well, they should read as much as they can. Encourage them to read books that interest them, as well as books that force them to expand their vocabulary and ways of thinking. Have them practice writing beyond school assignments, and read books on writing, too.

Most importantly, before parents or students dismiss the importance of writing skills, thinking that writing well is only within the purview of English majors, consider this: One of the key skills employers cite as deficient among recent graduates is written communication.

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This guest post is contributed by Alisa Gilbert, who writes on the topics of bachelor’s degrees. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: alisagilbert599@gmail.com.

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