Entries Tagged 'Editing & Revising' ↓
January 6th, 2011 — 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.
So . . . how do we go about helping reluctant writers grasp the importance of the writing process?
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.
You’re a parent, so 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 few 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 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.
Photo courtesy of StockXchg.
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.”
October 4th, 2010 — Editing & Revising
I hear it all the time.
We’re having self-editing issues. For some reason, my children believe they are perfect writers! They can never find any spelling or grammar mistakes.
Surprise, surprise! Most children simply don’t get the whole editing thing. They like what they wrote and can’t understand why you want them to—gasp!—look for ways to improve it.
Yet every seasoned writer will tell you that the editing stage is as important—if not more so—than the writing stage, for this is where the writing is refined and honed to become the best piece possible.
Oh, the pain!
During self-editing, a writer reads and re-reads his rough draft. As he does, he finds ways to improve structure, flow, and word choice. And of course, this is the time to get serious about conventions such as spelling, punctuation, and capitalization.
Sounds easy enough, right? So why do kids have such a hard time identifying errors in their own writing?
- They really don’t see the mistakes. When we read, we think we see every word and punctuation mark, but in truth, most of us read in chunks. Our brains are funny that way.
- They fail to see self-editing as an essential part of the writing task. At best, they consider it unnecessary. At worst, they view it as punishment.
- They feel attached to their writing. To most kids, it really is personal. Looking for errors is no less painful than, say, plucking out an eye.
- They attempt writing and self-editing in the same day. Writers—and not just kids—often don’t put enough space and distance between themselves and their writing piece before beginning the self-editing process.
Seven Self-Editing Strategies
Self-editing, like any other process, must be developed. Here are just a few tips and tricks you can try.
- Tell your child not to worry about self-editing during the first draft. The important thing is just to get the words down on paper.
- Let her edit a photocopied version of her paper. This is especially effective with elementary-age kids who feel anxious about marking up the original.
- Explain that it’s easier to proofread her writing after it has had a chance to rest, and recommend that she wait a day or two rather than try to self-edit right away. Stepping back helps her distance herself emotionally from the words, characters, or story details she’s chosen so carefully.
- Have her read each word aloud slowly. Reading will slow her down, making it easier to catch her errors.
- Have her read the paper backward, from the end to the beginning. Reading one word at a time helps her proofread for repeated words and misspellings. Reading one sentence at a time encourages general editing.
- Explain that she will need to read her paper several times while looking for a certain kind of error, such as capitalization. This is more effective than trying to find all her errors in a single reading because it gives her one small thing to focus on. One pass at a time, she can also look for things like overly repeated words, boring or vague words, sentence starters, or punctuation.
- Teach your child to use resources like a dictionary, thesaurus, grammar reference, or word banks so she’s less likely to make guesses about how to fix her mistakes.
Copyright 2010 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.
Image courtesy of Getty Images.
June 28th, 2010 — Editing & Revising
In this little series on Editing and Evaluating Writing, we began by looking at ways to evaluate your K-3rd graders’ writing efforts. Today, let’s take a look at how you can give helpful feedback to your older elementary kids’ writing as well.
You’ve probably already discovered that, as a rule, your child is perfectly happy to give her paper a quick once-over and declare that, yes, it’s perfect. Not only that, she expects you to gush over it and give it an A.
But as a parent, you have different expectations. When teaching writing, your goal is not to pave a smooth road for your child; rather, it’s to help her become a proficient writer who can communicate effectively on paper.
Teaching your student how to evaluate her own writing is a key to helping move her toward this goal. Sounds good on paper, right? But how do you get her to do this—especially since she wants you to accept her first attempt as a final draft?
The Importance of Self-Editing
You’ll be relieved to know that there are, in fact, a few ways to get your child to evaluate her own work—honestly and competently—using simple self-editing techniques.
- Self-editing teaches your child to look for her own errors. After all, proofreading is an important lifelong skill.
- No author ever turns in a first draft to the publisher! Self-editing lets your child make changes and revisions before submitting it to you. The more attention she gives to self-editing, the better the final draft.
Introducing Self-Editing to Your Child
- Children should begin using a checklist as a guide to help them identify errors in content, style, and mechanics. A checklist takes the subjectivity out of self-editing by offering specific expectations to meet.
- Work closely with your child when she’s learning how to self-edit. When you work together, you can prompt her with questions or steer her in the right direction. For example, she may not readily spot repeated words at first, but you can gently point out that you notice she used the word “car” four times and encourage her to find a couple of synonyms.
- Ask your child if her paper has a beginning, middle, and end (or introduction, body, and closing). Encourage her to add more details if needed.
- As she compares her piece of writing to the checklist, she can make simple corrections and improvements to content and mechanics.
- Have your student use colored pencils, which will help her more easily identify particular errors.
- Her revision—written or typed on fresh paper—should show definite changes from the rough draft.
Tips for Evaluating Elementary-Level Writing
You Don’t Need to Make Guesses
Parents often flounder when the time comes to evaluate their children’s writing. A rubric helps, but you’ll be relieved to know there are definitely some things you can look for when evaluating your elementary-age child’s writing assignment.
- Ideas – Are her ideas clear, focused, and well supported? Or are they confusing?
- Organization – Is there a smooth flow of ideas from beginning to end, or is it hard to follow your child’s train of thought?
- Voice – Is the writing flat and uninteresting, or lively and engaging?
- Word choice – Are the words precise, interesting, accurate, and colorful; or dull, incorrect, or overused?
- Sentences – Are sentences complete, smooth, and varied? Or are they choppy, fragmented, or never-ending?
- Mechanics and Grammar – Do multiple errors muddle meaning and understanding? Or did your child use correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation?
Keep It Positive
Include positive comments and praise along with helpful suggestions. Upbeat, encouraging feedback goes a long way in helping your children improve their writing.
- Even when a piece of writing looks rather hopeless, search out the positive. There is always something worthwhile to say about the paper.
- Bless your child’s efforts, creativity, word choice, or sentence structure.
- Offer gentle suggestions that encourage growth without squishing her spirit.
- Never make hurtful statements like: “Not very interesting” or “Aren’t you learning ANYTHING?”
If you find the need to sit side by side with your fourth, fifth, or sixth grader during editing, that’s okay. View it as training and preparation for those junior high and high school years where independent work habits will be much more important. For now, your time together can be a warm, nurturing, encouraging time in which your child learns that self-correction can yield rewarding results.
June 22nd, 2010 — Editing & Revising, Teaching Writing, WriteShop
From time to time, parents ask us whether WriteShop aligns with the Six Traits of Effective Writing.
6 + 1® Trait Writing is a model for teaching and assessing writing. Originally, it was intended less as a teaching tool and more as an evaluation tool to help teachers identify student strengths and weaknesses.
Although WriteShop wasn’t developed according to the Six Traits model, our products do offer comparable tools to teach, edit, and evaluate your children’s writing. After all, our goal is to help you become a more effective teacher, and these skills and tools just make sense—no matter what name they go by!
Creating Good Writers
Students become good writers through modeling, discussion, and plenty of practice. But most parents—even those who are intuitive writers—need specific guidelines and rubrics to help them teach writing systematically and effectively, including:
- Explicit instruction for how to teach the writing process (along with specific writing skills).
- Guided writing (modeling) and discussion.
- Step-by-step student directions.
- Practical application of grammar and spelling to writing.
- Checklists, rubrics, and other tools to help edit and evaluate writing.
WriteShop and the Six Traits
Though our products may not fully align with the Six Traits model, both WriteShop I & II and WriteShop Primary give you the instruction and guidance you need to teach writing with confidence!
However, two favorite WriteShop tools—the Writing Skills Checklists and the Composition Evaluation forms—do meet many criteria of the Six Traits model.
The elements of the Writing Skills Checklist allow you to give your junior high or high school student valuable suggestions and a chance to improve his or her paper. And the Composition Evaluation form provides a rubric for effective, accurate grading.
Each of the Six Traits (listed below) is followed by specific elements WriteShop I and II look for in a composition.
The main focus or purpose for writing
- Did the student follow directions for the assignment?
- Did he include lesson-specific content?
- Did he support his ideas with details?
The internal structure of the writing
- Did the student use appropriate topic and closing sentences?
- Did he use transition words when necessary?
- Did he communicate clearly?
The sense that the writer is speaking directly to the reader
- Did he write in the correct narrative voice for the assignment?
The use of concrete, colorful, precise vocabulary to communicate meaning
- Did the student use vivid, active, colorful words?
- Did he avoid vague, repeated, or overused words?
- Did the student limit use of passive voice (“to be” words)?
The flow and readability of the text; effective use of sentence variations
- Did the student communicate clearly and avoid awkwardness?
- Did he use a number of interesting sentence variations?
- Did he use his tenses properly?
The mechanical correctness, including spelling, punctuation, and grammar
- Did the student adhere to conventions of form?
- Did he correctly use punctuation, capitalization, and grammar?
- Did he spell correctly?
- Did he use correct sentence structure?
WriteShop Primary materials for kindergarten to third grade also align well with the Six Traits model, both for teaching and evaluating. For more information about WriteShop products, visit www.writeshop.com.
June 14th, 2010 — Editing & Revising, Reluctant Writers
Editing does not need to be a negative or intimidating experience for your K-3rd grader. When children learn at a young age the value of gentle correction and self-improvement, they will come to see editing as a natural part of the writing process.
Determining Your Goal
Your main goal is to help your child learn to look for ways to improve her story or short report. The amount of editing will increase as writing skills progress and the child matures.
Don’t overwhelm your first grader with too many expectations. But by the time she’s in third grade, she should learn to self-edit for story details, organization, and simple mechanics, and should be able to use tools to help edit spelling as well.
Helping Your Young Child Edit and Revise
At this age and stage, keep editing and revising as simple and non-threatening as possible. Sit together with your child and read her story together. Then help her take the first steps to learn how to self-edit her own work.
Just remember: Start small! If your child is still in kindergarten, you’ll only want her to revise the simplest and smallest of errors (Did we begin each sentence with a capital letter? Is there a period at the end of every sentence? Does our story have a beginning, a middle, and an end?) As she grows in both age and skill, you can begin adding more editing elements to your short list.
Most second- and third-graders can begin including any or all of the following as you edit and revise together.
1. Search for the good.
- Give your child a highlighter pen. Encourage her to look over the story by herself and highlight a difficult word she spelled correctly.
- Next, ask her to look over the story by herself and 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. Discuss the details of the story together.
- Identify the main character and setting.
- Ask your child if she would like to add more details about each one.
- Discuss ideas for improvement.
3. Talk about the story.
- If the story includes a problem, does your child write the beginning, middle, and end in such a way that the problem is solved?
- If so, does the problem get solved with a satisfactory solution?
- If not, discuss ideas for improvement.
4. Circle any misspelled words together, but only if the child is at least in first grade.
- Look up each word in a children’s dictionary; or
- Create a spelling word wall containing her most frequently misspelled words. She can refer to it as she writes and edits.
5. Help your child revise her writing.
- Write the corrections in between the lines on the paper.
- Your child may rewrite her corrections on a new paper if she chooses.
What If She Resists?
Do the editing on a different day. This removes the child from the freshness of her writing and she will feel a little less emotionally attached to the story and its flaws.
Make a photocopy of the child’s story. She’ll be more willing to mark her paper if she knows she the original will remain untouched.
Type her story. Another way to help a reluctant editor is to type her story for her (always double-spaced), leaving all mistakes intact. Again, the more removed the marked-up version is from the child’s original, the less emotion she’ll attach to it, which means the more willing she’ll be to make corrections.
Try a checklist. You can do these editing exercises orally, of course, but if your child balks, she may need to use a typed checklist and work by herself.
Once your editing time is over and the child has made simple changes to her story, have her “publish” it in a fun way, such as attaching it to a paper kite, turning it into a scroll, or making a giant comic strip—knowing that she’s publishing her very best work to proudly share with others.
Copyright 2010 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.
June 7th, 2010 — Editing & Revising, Encouragement, Homeschooling, Teaching Writing
Grading and commenting on your kids’ writing is one of the most valuable elements of writing instruction. But it also gives the most grief to parents, who often feel unqualified to identify and evaluate written strengths and weaknesses.
Seeds of Doubt
A host of “ins” and “uns” seems to attack parents when it comes to writing, making us doubt our ability to edit and grade objectively. With regard to teaching or evaluating writing, do you ever use any of these words to describe yourself?
Many of us wear these monikers like millstones around our necks, allowing the weight of our insecurities to immobilize us. At worst, teaching and grading writing don’t happen at all, or at best we’re sporadic, leaving Mom feeling guilty and our children awash in frustration.
It’s not that we don’t think it’s important to give our children input. But don’t we all have excuses?
- I’m afraid I’ll be too hard on my child.
- I don’t know how to grade a paper—there’s too much guesswork.
- What do I know about writing? I’m just a math-science person.
And heaven forbid Mom should set aside her worries and actually make a comment. The smallest hint of suggestion from you and the drama begins.
- But I like it this way!
- You’re always so critical.
- You never like anything I write!
Myths about parent editing
As a parent, perhaps you simply don’t know how to give objective input. So either you don’t give feedback at all—and therefore see no improvement—or you offer suggestions that make your child feel picked on or rejected. To help you renew your perspective, let’s look at three myths about parent editing.
Myth #1 – Editing and grading writing are too subjective.
- Fact: Learning to edit is a process for both student and parent.
- Fact: Many aspects of a composition CAN be evaluated objectively.
Myth #2 – It’s too difficult to edit and grade writing.
- Fact: The more you edit and revise, the easier it will become.
- Fact: Familiarity produces recognition—you will catch on!
- Fact: There are tools (rubrics and checklists) to help you.
- Fact: You don’t have to find every mistake. Even addressing just a few errors can help your child’s writing begin to change course.
Myth #3 – Editing and grading writing is for professionals.
- Fact: Many parents cannot find mistakes in their children’s writing—but you can improve your skills! If you feel weak in a particular area such as grammar or spelling, take a “crash course” to refresh yourself. Buy a second student workbook and study the subject alongside your kids. Or, consider a resource like The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation to help you brush up on key rules.
- Fact: You CAN learn to edit and grade. Programs like WriteShop Primary, WriteShop Junior, and WriteShop I are good examples of homeschooling products that guide and direct parents through the writing and editing process.
Over the next few weeks, you’ll not only gain tips and tools to make editing and grading easier for you, you’ll also learn ways to help your children participate in the process through self-editing and revising.
We’ll start next week with tips for Editing and Evaluating Writing: Grades K-3.
I also know that parents tend to panic more as junior high and high school draw near. So if you have older kids, you’ll be happy to know I’ve got you covered as well. Stay tuned!
Copyright 2010 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.
March 10th, 2010 — Editing & Revising, Quotations
“I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.”
January 14th, 2010 — Editing & Revising, Grammar & Spelling
Writing includes three main elements: content, style, and mechanics. The content, of course, is the heart of the composition—the story, main message, or thesis. Style is the way the writer communicates the content through word choice, sentence variation, etc. Mechanics includes all those tricky little rules of grammar, punctuation, and spelling that govern how the words actually appear on paper.
Mechanical Errors Make the Most Noise
When it comes to giving our children feedback on their papers, many of us are in a muddle. Sometimes the “noise” of a zillion grammatical errors drowns out the content as we zoom in on each misspelled word and sentence fragment. But is that the place to start? What should be our focus? You’ve probably asked yourself these very questions:
- Isn’t mechanics an important part of writing?
- Should I allow inventive spelling, or insist that every word is spelled properly?
- Should I focus on the main content, or should I address grammar and punctuation errors too?
- How do I help my kids fine-tune their writing if I don’t point out all the mistakes?
It’s Like Walking a Tightrope
Just as we can correctly—or incorrectly—judge a person’s character based on outward appearance, it’s easy to judge a piece of writing by the mechanical errors we see. We don’t mean for them to interfere with our enjoyment of the content, but typically, they do.
The whole editing thing is like walking a tightrope, isn’t it? We don’t want to discourage our children from spilling their ideas onto paper, for the freedom of doing so sparks in them a love for writing. But for fear of dousing that fire, some of us sway too far to the left and never utter a word about grammar or spelling.
And tipping too far to the right are the parents who are so caught up in the glare of dangling participles and grave misspellings that we run amok with our red pens—and completely miss the heart of the child’s writing.
We really can address content, style, and mechanics without throwing our tenderhearted kiddos to the lions. The trick to finding the balance is remaining as objective as possible and cushioning our suggestions with praise.
For the rough draft, focus mainly on content. Do ideas make sense? Do they flow well? Is there enough information and/or detail? Then, once the story or essay or paragraph is organized and more rounded out, we can deal with any grammar, spelling, and punctuation issues that remain.
January 13th, 2010 — Editing & Revising, Quotations
“The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is you really want to say.”