Entries Tagged 'Editing & Revising' ↓
May 6th, 2013 — Editing & Revising
IT’S that time of year again, when your student hands you the writing assignment he supposedly worked on for the past month. Visions of triumph swirl through your head—this will be the crowning writing project of the school year, the showpiece for grandparents’ open house night. Yet now, as you stare down at the jumbled sentences, you see only a disorganized, cluttered mess.
This may seem like the perfect time for a homeschooling mama to panic or retreat. But before you do either, take heart! Your kids have a bunch of words and bright ideas to share with the world. They probably just need a little more guidance and instruction. Arm yourselves against the Cluttered Writing Monster, and let the battle begin!
Cluttered Writing Problem #1: Too Many Topics
Imagine that your 10-year-old’s book summary includes a paragraph like this:
The ship captain was a mean man. He never smiled. Every morning, the captain ate his hot breakfast in his cabin on the ship. The captain’s teeth were crooked. The food always tasted bad on the ship, because the cook was a runaway blacksmith. The cabin boy was the one who always brought the captain’s breakfast. The cabin boy liked to look at the maps in the captain’s cabin. The walls smelled musty, but the maps smelled like faraway places. The cabin boy didn’t want to run away.
Often, students think a “summary” means writing down as many facts as they can remember. But as you know, a one- to three-page summary should focus on a few important topics, not a boatload of trivia. If you want to stop cluttered writing in its tracks, help your child organize his thoughts out loud. Here’s one way to do this:
You: Who is the main character?
Child: The cabin boy.
You: What are four of the most important qualities about this character?
Child: He’s obedient, he loves exploring, he makes friends with everyone on the ship, and he keeps his promises.
You: Where does the story take place?
Child: On the ship.
You: Can you describe the ship in a few sentences?
Child: It has three masts, but one falls down and gets repaired. It has a captain’s cabin full of maps for distant islands. It has a galley full of smelly food and funny music from the cook’s harmonica. The ship was designed to sail quickly and to carry light loads.
Young writers can easily get bogged down with too many ideas. A simple conversation with your child can quickly narrow down the main character, setting, and supporting sentence ideas. Don’t forget to make notes together on a white board or notebook paper. Soon, your child will be able to take a sword to his own papers, cutting right to the point.
Cluttered Writing Problem #2: Too Many Words
Does your teenage daughter use flowery, pretentious writing, also known as purple prose? Consider this overdone paragraph:
Like a brood of vipers, Natalie’s ebony locks hung thickly on her hunched, crooked shoulders like the awful blackness of night. With shifty eyes and a sneaky manner, she furtively glanced at the dark, foreboding, overgrown forest behind her. Oh! How desperately she longed and dreamed and schemed for the day when she and she alone would vanquish the evil queen’s army and defeat every last law-abiding soldier who stood between her and the sweet taste of retribution and victory.
Though such writing would thrill a young Anne of Green Gables, teen writers—especially girls—may need to learn that bigger words and longer sentences don’t make them look smarter. Finding the one right word, and using it wisely, is the mark of a true wordsmith. Help your student cut down the towering monster of wordiness with the sword of concise writing.
Many factors can contribute to cluttered writing. In addition to disorganization and wordiness, spelling, grammar, and handwriting mistakes may be the problems that plague a child’s papers. Some of these will require intensive one-on-one training, while others may diminish over time.
If paragraph organization, word choice, or sentence style are among your children’s foes, look no further! WriteShop offers a host of writing curriculum for different grade levels. As you reevaluate your homeschool writing materials, you may want to consider one of these programs next year to help your kids tame the Cluttered Writing Monster!
Daniella Dautrich is a WriteShop alumna and a graduate of Hillsdale College. She and her husband fill their home with books on writing, literature, and computer science. Daniella blogs at www.waterlilywriter.wordpress.com.
January 14th, 2013 — Editing & Revising
Writing can overwhelm the most rugged of students, which is why I often mention the importance of breaking the writing process into bite-size pieces. But did you know it’s equally important to make editing a step-by-step process too?
When students self-edit a story or report, they often have trouble spotting their own errors. They already think their paper is accurate and well written, which makes it hard to believe anything needs to be fixed.
Instead of trying to identify every error in a composition, perhaps the two of you can focus on just a few things at a time. When looking at spelling errors, for example, zoom in on the ones most likely to cause trouble. Here are a few tips you can suggest:
Circle Words Whose Spelling You’re Unsure About
Use a colored pencil so words are easy to spot.
Refer to a dictionary or electronic speller to double-check spelling.
Don’t rely on spell-check when typing on the computer. It isn’t always accurate.
Spell Using Whole Words
Don’t use abbreviations.
- through, not thru
- light, not lite
- okay, not OK
Don’t use text-speak.
- you, not u
- are, not r
- everyone, not evry1
Check for Most Commonly Misspelled Words
Spend a few minutes reading Facebook posts and it’s soon apparent that children aren’t the only ones who have trouble remembering spelling rules!
Work regularly on often-confused words to make sure everyone knows how to use them correctly. In addition, both you and your students should watch for these errors during proofreading and editing sessions.
One word or two?
- cannot = one word
- a lot = two words
- all right = two words
It’s or its?
- it’s = it is
- its = shows that something belongs to “it”
You’re or your?
- you’re = you are
- your = shows that something belongs to “you”
They’re, there, or their?
- they’re = they are
- there = a place or location
- their = shows that something belongs to “them
Loose or lose?
- loose = when something wiggles or moves about
- lose = fail to win; to misplace or no longer possess something
Then or than?
- then = shows time
- than = makes a comparison
Uncertainty about spelling is often a stumbling block to successful writing. By working together on small tasks that improve spelling, the larger task of writing may one day become less daunting. Why not start this week with some of these suggestions?
This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy.
December 13th, 2012 — Editing & Revising, Teaching Writing
Learning specialist Kendra Wagner joins us today as a guest blogger.
“The Magic of 3“
Ask teachers what is meant by this phrase and they will likely answer: “The 3 body paragraphs of a 5-paragraph essay.”
I tell my students that the 5-part essay is designed to frame your thinking and make you a smarter person! It is a model of speaking or writing that is common across the professions of law, public speaking, journalism, and storytelling.
I make the analogy to football practice, with a warm-up, 3 main drills, and a cool-down. I also explain how, in the courtroom, TV and movie lawyers use 3 arguments with a short intro and their concluding statements. This wakes the kids up.
Ah, the power of what happens on a screen.
Notice I didn’t call it the “Rule of 3” because there are many strategies to becoming a skilled writer, and many “right” ways to write.
Some kids find freedom in this, but others find it restricting: Why can’t writing be more like math? One correct answer. One correct way of constructing a sentence.
When these students beg to write only two body paragraphs, or a hefty four, I’ll let them if they make a good case for why a book character makes only two turning-point decisions in their novel, or for why the science museum might only have two interesting exhibits.
While the “Magic of 3” makes a great template to hang a child’s hat on, it should not be too rigidly enforced. Though a powerful paper can consist of two body paragraphs with compelling reasons or examples, these usually work best after establishing a comfort zone with the “Magic of 3.”
More Applications of the Magic of 3
The “Magic of 3” doesn’t stop with main points and paragraphs; it also applies to sentence building and word choice. I think you’ll find the following tips helpful as you guide your budding writers.
3 Topic Sentences
Here’s a good guideline: require students to come up with 3 options for a topic sentence (or thesis statement), and then choose one for their story or essay. This encourages prevention of topic sentence phobia, and reinforces the idea that there is no single right way to write.
3 Powerhouse Verbs and Adjectives
During the revising process, when students’ writing seems flat (or “wimpy,” as some of my middle schoolers call it), it is likely missing some powerhouse verbs and interesting adjectives.
Offer this guideline for powerhouse verbs: For every 3 long sentences, there should be at least 3 strong emotion or action verbs somewhere within those 3 sentences. (For 4th grade and above, a long sentence = 10-25 words.)
There should also be 3 adjectives, which can be as simple as color or number words.
These verbs and adjectives can be distributed in any way across the 3 sentences. Not every sentence needs one.
First try: We went to the water park. I liked the Geronimo slide best, but my brother was scared. It was hot and we all had fun and then went home.
Revision: We played all day at the water park and slid down ten slides. My favorite was a fast one called Geronimo, and it was the scariest, so my brother hung onto me as we skidded down. We beat the heat by staying in the water all day.
Verbs: played, slid, hung, skidded, beat, staying
Adjectives: ten, favorite, fast, scariest
When kids are stuck at short, simple sentences, suggest using one of the 3 most common conjunctions—and, but, so—in the middle of the sentence, with a full sentence on either side of the conjunction. This is known as a compound sentence.
First try: I really like soccer. I get to do a lot of skill practice. It is all year round.
Revision: Soccer is a way to improve a lot of different skills, and you can practice and play year-round.
First try: There are many ways to use time wisely doing homework.
Revision: Homework is important, but students need to find ways to use their time wisely to get the most out of it.
3 Sentence Builders
When students need to improve word retrieval, sentence development, and ease with writing in a show, don’t tell style, provide the following drill practice. Have them create single, unrelated sentences using at least 3 of the “5 Ws and How” in each sentence. For example:
After the long meeting, Lucy raced home in a flash to feed her dog, who was waiting on the porch.
Thanks to Kendra Wagner for guest blogging today! A learning specialist in Seattle, Kendra teaches children reading, writing, and thinking skills. Her specialty in ADD and dyslexia grew out of her work in schools as a reading specialist and consultant. She has a particular interest in written expression and helping unearth children’s voice. Visit Kendra’s website, blog, and Facebook page.
September 12th, 2012 — Editing & Revising, Teaching Writing
WHEN apprentices work with a master craftsman or artist, they copy their master’s work. Consider the famous painters whose pieces we admire in museums and books. Most of them began as apprentices, but they became famous in their own right for their unique styles and methods.
Think about how we all learned cursive: we followed the model that we were taught in school. Yet, do you know anyone who still writes the same way we were taught? Probably not! Most people have pretty different penmanship styles, even though the original model was similar.
So when you get to the editing part of a writing project, don’t be concerned that you’re helping too much or offering too many stylistic suggestions. Your editing tips, whether broad or specific, serve as a model to the student. In time, he’ll gain his own style and voice.
Modeling Through Conversation
Start with the first draft.
Since this is the sloppy copy, your student should be responsible to self-edit his own paper. It’s his job to take care of some of these problems before he ever turns the paper in to you. You can work on it with him, if necessary, but see if he can do it alone first.
You’ll have the opportunity to give suggestions after he’s gone through his paper by himself and revised it. Over time, students learn that the more time they invest in self-editing, the less “red-penciling” they’ll see from Mom.
Among the things he must look for:
- Overly repeated words. This is a new concept for most students. It helps to use word banks or a thesaurus to think of different ways to avoid repetition.
- Sentence limit. He will need to combine sentences, remove sentences, or blend information from two or three sentences into one in order to stay within the confines of a short paragraph of, say, 5-7 sentences.
Help him identify problems that might not be apparent to him.
I found it helpful when working with my own son to ask questions that allowed him to answer without making him feel like the ideas were all mine. Give options and choices. Here’s an example of a dialogue that helps a student hone a paragraph about a favorite stuffed animal.
You: You used lots of great description in your paragraph, but now I’d like you to tell me some things about Rocket that don’t have anything to do with his appearance. Where did you get him? What is he?
Son: I got Rocket for my birthday. He’s a stuffed blue jay.
You: How could you combine some of that information into a topic sentence that doesn’t describe Rocket yet?
Son: (probably with help from you) I got a stuffed blue jay for my birthday.
You: What do his eyes do?
Son: Well, they’re shiny. They sort of sparkle.
You: Those are good words to describe his eyes. What color are they?
You: OK, so…His shiny black eyes (do what?)
Son: His shiny black eyes sparkle.
You: Where are his eyes located?
Son: On each side of his beak.
You: If you combine all that information, you’ll have a great sentence!
Son: His shiny black eyes sparkle on each side of his beak.
You: Great! Now that you have the basic sentence, it’s easy to make simple improvements. For example, tell me about his beak.
Son: It’s black and it’s made of vinyl.
You: How can you incorporate that information into your sentence?
Son: His shiny black eyes sparkle on each side of his black vinyl beak.
You: See how much clearer this is? Each time you add a description, it helps your reader picture Rocket even better! Now, do you notice a repeated word?
You: Yup! You have some options. You can use your thesaurus and replace one “black” with a synonym; you can remove one use of the word “black” altogether; or you can use a different descriptive word that isn’t a color word at all.
Son: His shiny black eyes sparkle on each side of his ebony vinyl beak. (Or, His shiny button eyes sparkle on each side of his black vinyl beak. Or, His shiny black eyes sparkle on each side of his vinyl beak.)
You: One last thing. Since you’ve used the word “his” several times in your paragraph, it might be good to use a synonym here and there. You can use his name or a different synonym for your bird.
Son: Rocket’s shiny button eyes sparkle on each side of his black vinyl beak. (Or, My bird’s shiny button eyes sparkle on each side of his black vinyl beak. Or, Shiny button eyes sparkle on each side of my blue jay’s black vinyl beak.)
Modeling writing through conversation can take place anywhere along the way, whether it’s during your teaching time or while helping your child revise his story. Even if you don’t always feel secure about your own writing abilities, it’s amazing how much confidence these conversational times can instill in your young writer.
Give it a try!
This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy.
May 17th, 2012 — Editing & Revising
IS THERE anything harder than getting a child to write? According to most parents, it’s trying to grade that writing!
Your mind swirls as you worry, “How can I possibly grade objectively?”
- I’m no writer. Who am I to judge my child’s writing?
- I can’t get past the spelling and punctuation errors.
- I don’t know have a clue what I’m looking for.
- How do I offer suggestions?
- How can I be both honest and merciful?
- How can I justify the grade?
Often, in light of these worries, you avoid giving important feedback. Or worse, you cut back on writing altogether.
Edit First, Grade Later
Writing is a process. Though younger children aren’t ready to put their stories through a massive overhaul, they can certainly work beside you as they learn to edit and make simple changes.
Older students with more skills and confidence should revise their compositions several times.
Self-editing gives them a chance to review their own paper (ideally using an objective checklist) and make some improvements. Once they have self-edited and written a revised draft, it’s time for a second pair of eyes—yours—to review the paper.
Trying some of these editing tips will help you feel more equipped for the task.
1. Get the big picture
First, hide the red pen! Read the whole paper all the way through. Don’t stop to fuss over run-on sentences or misspelled words. Just read. Take in the main ideas.
2. Use an objective rubric
This keeps you from making guesses about the paper or imposing unrealistic expectations on your child’s writing.
3. Look for one thing at a time
Read through the paper several times.
- The first time, look at the content. Does the story or report make sense? Are there enough details, facts, or examples? Is there a clearly defined beginning, middle, and end?
- Next, you might inspect your child’s word choices. Are there repeated words that could be replaced by appropriate synonyms? Vague or weak words that could be exchanged for stronger, more concrete ones?
- Finally, examine the writing for mechanics, including correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
4. Make some positive comments
Encouragement is the goal, so don’t just attack the errors. Instead, also seek out and comment on things your child did well.
- Did she spell some difficult words correctly?
- Did she write a completely error-free sentence?
- Did she make some great vocabulary choices?
- Did you appreciate a particular descriptive detail or well-defined point?
Change Your Focus
1. Do you have stinkin’ thinkin’?
Before you get totally overwhelmed by the stress of it all, shifting your perspective can make a huge difference!
Instead of worrying about how to become the perfect, impartial, encouraging grader, admit that you really do know more than your child and—with a few tools under your belt—you’re capable of rising to the task.
A renewed dose of confidence will remove the millstone of perfection that’s hanging around your neck.
Did you know you don’t have to grade every piece of writing?
- Some writing, such as daily journals, may need nothing more than a checkmark or happy face to say “Done!”
- Other pieces may only need a plus (+) for a good effort, a minus (-) for an unsatisfactory effort, or a simple checkmark if it’s okay.
Then you can turn your concentration toward grading those papers that need the most attention.
3. Adopt a positive outlook
When grading a paper, you may find yourself just as inclined to find fault as you did during editing. Remembering these key points will keep you optimistic about your kids’ writing efforts.
- Identify areas of growth. During the grading stage, continue to offer positive and encouraging comments that bless your child’s efforts. Point out places that her writing has improved since the first draft.
- Consider your child’s ability and level of competence. Take care not to heap high-school level expectations on your sixth grader. Though older and younger students might complete the same writing assignment, the high schooler will typically use stronger vocabulary, better sentence structure, and more mature content.
- Don’t compare your kids’ papers. Instead, hold them to an impartial standard that gives each one a chance to shine. Susie’s vocabulary and writing style may be more developed than Johnny’s, but if both meet the assignment’s requirements, they can each receive a top grade.
Following these tips will help you take a more positive approach as you learn to edit and grade more objectively. By doing so, you’ll also encourage your children’s success as they grow in their writing abilities.
Need more help in this area? Check out these past posts!
What are some of your favorite tips for grading your kids’ writing assignments?
Photo Credit: Dreamstime stock photo
March 12th, 2012 — Editing & Revising
As far as most kids are concerned, “editing” and “fun” can never appear in the same sentence.
In their minds, the very word editing conjures up images of a parent or teacher poring over their paper with a magnifying glass with a singular purpose: to find fault.
This can be disheartening, especially when Sensitive Susie honestly and truly believes her paper is perfect just the way it is.
Even when your child takes a stab at self-editing before showing her paper to you, she still may not make any changes. She likes what she wrote, and she doesn’t see the need to fix a thing.
How can you help her turn the corner? Is it possible for editing to go from a hated or dreaded chore to something she actually enjoys?
At first, she’ll need your help during self-editing. It can take time—often a l-o-n-g time—for her to start seeing her own mistakes. This comes with much practice, so don’t feel discouraged when she doesn’t catch misspelled words or recognize her story’s lack of detail.
Self-editing is a bit of a misnomer. Even if your children use a reliable checklist that details the expectations for the assignment, their eye is not yet trained to seek out their errors. This skill can take years to develop, especially if you’re working with a younger child.
In truth, you’re training your children to become more independent self-editors. As you work alongside them, be patient through the process. As with any other skill we teach our kiddos, it takes time.
Look for the Good
How do we edit or proofread our kids’ papers? Typically, we grab our red pens and hunt down every sentence fragment, misspelled word, and errant punctuation mark until the page fairly bleeds with criticism.
May I whisper a simple secret to you that can absolutely revolutionize the editing process for you and your child?
Start by looking for things she did well.
Before a drop of red ink touches your child’s paper, affirm her by helping her discover what’s right about her story or report, not just what needs fixing. It’s such a simple—and perhaps obvious—concept, but if we’re honest with ourselves, we can admit that too often, we focus on the errors.
Use an Editor’s Tool Kit
Last time, I introduced you to a cool editing kit called a Said It, Read It, Edit Bag. This tool will help you cultivate the skill of self-editing in your children as, together, you look for ways both to affirm and improve their writing.
Working together, try these self-editing tips with your elementary-aged child:
1. Invite her to choose a highlighter marker from the Said It, Read It, Edit Bag.
- As you watch, encourage her to look over the paper by herself and highlight a difficult word she spelled correctly.
- Next ask her to highlight a sentence she wrote correctly by starting it with a capital letter and using the correct punctuation. Praise her for a job well done.
2. Make sure her writing project has all the elements it needs. If not, discuss ideas for improvement, having her write corrections on the blank spaces between the lines.
- Structure. Does the story have a beginning, middle, and end (or an introduction, body, and conclusion, if it’s an essay or report)?
- Organization. Is this a report? Make sure it the main points are organized.
- Character. If the story has a main character, check for descriptive details about him or her.
- Setting. Check to see if your child included details for the setting.
- Plot. Is it a mystery, adventure, or science fiction story? Make sure there is a problem that the character has solved in a satisfactory way.
- Details. Check to make sure your child used details to develop the story. If she wrote a report, are main points supported by facts and other details?
3. Help your child check her mechanics. Instruct her to read the Writing Project aloud (encouraging a younger child to also track each word with her finger). Have her examine each sentence to make sure she:
- Indented the first line of the paragraph(s).
- Began each sentence with a capital letter and used correct punctuation.
- Does not have any missing words in the sentences.
4. Look for dull or repeated words that can be replaced with strong ones. Invite your student to choose one or more weak or overly repeated words and replace them with a synonym. If she can’t think of one on her own, encourage her to use her thesaurus.
5. Have your child circle any difficult words whose spelling she wants to check, look them up in a dictionary, and write each word correctly on the blank spaces between the lines.
By trying some of these simple ideas, editing can become a no-more-tears event. I’m confident you’ll be able to add your own testimonial here one of these days!
“Editing was a dreaded day in the beginning but not anymore.” ~Susan, Florida
“[My daughter] actually looked forward to editing (biggest improvement because she used to hate it). ” ~Andrea, California
“Her self-editing skills really improved. She became more independent.” ~Mindy, Utah
Do you have a favorite trick or tip that inspires happier self-editors?
. . . . .
WriteShop encourages students to self-edit and revise in order to create a published final draft. These self-editing tips and The Said It, Read It, Edit Bag™ are some of the creative ways WriteShop Junior introduces and encourages self-editing.
Photo Credits: Creative Commons photos courtesy of Flickr.
Photo of girl in red © Vincent Angler. Used by permission.
February 2nd, 2012 — Editing & Revising
“Editing is usually painless. The way WriteShop Junior has taught them to edit is awesome. They’re not afraid to look for errors.” –Kelley, SD
LEARNING to self-edit doesn’t have to be a dreaded or intimidating experience.
Through the use of fun tools, children can acquire helpful editing skills—and in doing so, grow to see editing as a natural part of the writing process. Self-editing becomes a task they can accomplish with both pleasure and success!
Assembling an Editor’s Tool Kit
To help your children gain stronger self-editing skills, prepare a kit of special editing tools. In WriteShop Junior, we call this their Said It, Read It, Edit Bag™ (“Read It” is pronounced “red it.”)
For storage, you’ll need a zipper pouch, small tote bag, plastic zip-top bag, or other container to keep all the editing tools in one place. Label it as your Said It, Read It, Edit Bag™ and keep it in your writing center so it’s always handy. Here’s a list of supplies to include in their bags:
- Correction tape
- Highlighters in assorted colors
- Colored pencils
- Sheets of tiny stickers such as smiley faces and stars
Some children may want to wear a special hat or visor and refer to it as their Editor’s Hat. If so, they should use their hat for this unique purpose and store it with the supply of editing tools.
“It’s so fun to watch Gracie edit… She ALWAYS wears a jazzy black editor’s hat.” –Joanie, NJ
With a younger student (perhaps 7 to 9 years old), tracking each word on the paper will help him slow down and examine his work more carefully during the editing process. There are a variety of ways to do this, from pointing at each word with his pointer finger to touching each word with the eraser end of his pencil.
If your child wants to track words with his pointer finger, he could wear a finger puppet on that finger. You could also purchase a set of plastic toy fingers from a party supply store or costume shop and let him wear one as he tracks each word on his Writing Project. Alternatively, he could gather several colorful or distinctive plastic rings to wear while editing.
Using a pointer item is completely optional! One child may look down on such props while another sees them as great fun—so gather items to wear on a pointer finger according to your child’s interest and store them in the Said It, Read It, Edit Bag™.
Having a special tool kit is the first step in becoming a successful editor. Next time, I’ll share ideas for using the Said It, Read It, Edit Bag™ to edit a writing assignment.
Copyright 2012 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.
. . . . .
WriteShop encourages students to self-edit and revise in order to create a published final draft. The Said It, Read It, Edit Bag™, and many more exciting editing ideas, come straight from the pages of WriteShop Junior.
February 21st, 2011 — Editing & Revising, Encouragement
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
It’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 Editing Ideas
January 6th, 2011 — Brainstorming, College Prep, Editing & Revising, High school, Reluctant Writers
Quick! Take this survey:
- Do your students complain about having to edit and revise their compositions and essays?
- Do they hate having to spend several days on the same writing topic (brainstorming, writing a draft, self-editing, and revising)?
- Do they become apathetic and lose steam by the time they get to the final draft?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, I have good news: Your kids are completely normal! But short of dragging them across broken glass or hot coals, how can you teach them to embrace the steps of the process as a natural, expected part of writing?
Writing Is Hard Work
If you’ve not used a formal writing program before, it’s possible that the writing process is new to your children. Regardless, they’re not alone. I wish there were a magic wand I could wave over them to help them like it better, but in truth, writing is hard work, and it takes time and discipline.
Unless they’re making lists, journaling, or emailing a friend, most writing does require planning, drafting, editing, and revising. This would be true whether you use WriteShop, some other writing program, or simply create your own writing assignments.
Typically, students want to write a paper once and be done with it. They don’t want to brainstorm, and they certainly don’t want to rewrite it. But whether or not these steps of the writing process are built into the curriculum (as they are with WriteShop), it’s really important for children to come to terms with the reality that this is how writers—from students to professional authors—write.
A Look at the Writing Process
There are three main parts of the writing process: brainstorming, writing, and editing and revising.
The student who just sits down to write without having first brainstormed will either stare at the page with a blank look, unable to think of anything, or she’ll write in a fairly disorganized fashion, repeat herself, include unnecessary detail, or omit key ideas. Even in timed-writing sessions, students are encouraged to dash out a quick outline to help them focus on what the question is asking and to keep them from drifting off-topic as they write. Simply, brainstorming focuses a writer. It helps her choose details, plan and organize her story or report, stay on track, and avoid tangents.
Writing is done in stages. The first draft serves to get those rough, new ideas onto the paper. By its very design, the first draft is meant to be revised later.
Editing and revising
Whether or not your child agrees, every paper benefits from revision, and editing gives her a chance to make some modifications. Even this blog article was edited and revised many times before I posted it. I don’t just try to catch typos; I also want to make sure my answers are complete and clear, my thoughts are organized, and my tone is professional yet conversational. This self-editing process tends to be subjective for most of us because we feel an emotional attachment to each and every word. That’s exactly why your child needs to turn her work in to you for objective feedback: She needs an outside opinion in order to write a more polished final draft
Helping Your Student “Get It”
OK. You and I agree that the writing process is important. Yet the $20,000 question remains: How do we get our kids on board? Again, there are no magic answers, but I can offer a few ideas:
Show your teen she’s not alone.
Your student may feel as though she’s the only one who has to plan, write, and revise her compositions. Discovering that the writing process is universal may help her back down a bit. For fun, you might ask her to do a Google search for the term “writing process.” I bet she’ll be surprised to find over 21 million results!
Give freedom to a creative child.
It’s natural to expect a negative response from a reluctant, resistant writer. But if a student who normally loves writing fits this profile too, maybe she feels her creativity is being stifled when she is asked to brainstorm or make changes to her text.
First and foremost, give such a student the freedom to write for the sheer joy of writing—plays, stories, poems, whatever she loves! Separate these experiences from her writing lesson by not requiring her to plan or revise these stories. For her, use the writing process to teach skills in the same way that math drills, piano lessons, or other repetitive activities teach, reinforce, and offer practice. Let her write to her heart’s delight in her free time, but also require her to learn discipline through the structure of the writing process.
As a parent, I’m sure all this makes sense to you. The hard part is communicating it to your student. I find that analogies can help explain things so that she can get it too. Here are some past blog articles that deal with the writing process. Several offer different analogies that compare the writing process with things like gardening, cooking, scrapbooking, and spelunking (caving). See if one or two of these analogies spark understanding in your reluctant student.
Point to the future.
Students who choose to go to college quickly discover that the writing process is taught there as well. And as much as they may grumble and complain, it’s to their benefit to plan, draft, and improve each piece of writing.
Among curriculum sites, public schools, universities, and professional writers’ blogs and websites, the writing process is regarded as key to success. To help your teen see how vital these repetitive skills are, even at the college and professional level, here are a couple of outside sources that further explain the purpose and various stages of the writing process.
In the end, there’s no shortcut to bypass the writing process. Planning and revising are as important to a composition or essay’s success as the actual writing. The best way to avoid arguments, head-butting, and apathy is to train your children while they’re young, perhaps using a program like WriteShop Primary (or the upcoming WriteShop Junior). If they grow up with the writing process, they’ll be more likely to accept and value it, even if they never learn to love it.
Copyright 2011 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.
October 13th, 2010 — Editing & Revising, Quotations
“I have come to accept the fact that I will never be done learning, and that committing to the time it takes to make things right is part of being a good writer. I want to be a great writer – that means making the effort to polish and polish some more.”