Entries Tagged 'Editing & Revising' ↓

The pain of grading writing | Tips for homeschool moms

Tips for Grading Writing | Is there anything harder than getting kids to write? According to homeschool moms, it’s evaluating that writing!

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.

2. Discriminate

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 kidswriting 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!

Your Turn

What are some of your favorite tips for grading your kids’ writing assignments?

 Photo Credit: Dreamstime stock photo

Taking the tears out of editing

Taking the Tears Out of Editing | Ways to make the editing process more fun for kids!

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? Can you really make editing fun?

Yes!

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.

Edit Together

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.

Taking the Tears Out of Editing | Ways to make the editing process more fun for kids!

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

Taking the Tears Out of Editing | Ways to make the editing process more fun for kids!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.

Yup.

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.

Said It, Read It, Edit Bag: Self-editing toolkit from WriteShop

Self-Editing Strategies

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 of girl in red © Vincent Angler. Used by permission of photographer.
Photo Credits: Creative Commons photos courtesy of Flickr.

Editing tools for young writers

Editing tools for young writers - Help them acquire self-editing skills and grow to see editing as a natural part of the writing process.

“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!

Editing tools for young writers help them acquire important self-editing skills and grow to see editing as a natural part of the writing process.

Assembling an Editor’s Tool Kit

To help them gain stronger self-editing skills, prepare a kit of special editing tools for young writers. 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
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus

Disclosure:  The thesaurus is an affiliate link. I can’t say enough good {delightful, positive, enthusiastic} things about The Synonym Finder. I should be their poster girl!

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

Tracking Tools

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.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

. . . . .

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.

Photo: Simon Cocks, courtesy of Creative Commons.

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

Helping reluctant writers embrace the process

Helping reluctant writers embrace the writing process | How to avoid arguments, head-butting, and apathy

Quick! Take this survey:

  1. Do your students complain about having to edit and revise their compositions and essays?
  2. Do they hate having to spend several days on the same writing topic (brainstorming, writing a draft, self-editing, and revising)?
  3. 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.

Brainstorming

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

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.

Use analogies.

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.

Start Young

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.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Photo courtesy of StockXchg.

Polish and polish some more

          “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.”

–Jan Cline

News flash! Kids hate to self-edit

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Have her read each word aloud slowly. Reading will slow her down, making it easier to catch her errors.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Image courtesy of Getty Images.

Editing and evaluating writing: 4-6th grade

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.

Why Self-Edit?

  • 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.

WriteShop and the 6 Traits of Effective Writing

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.

Ideas

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?

Organization

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?

Voice

The sense that the writer is speaking directly to the reader

  • Did he write in the correct narrative voice for the assignment?

Word Choice

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)?

Sentence Fluency

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?

Conventions

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.

Editing and evaluating writing: K-3rd grade

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.

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