Teaching the Art of Editing

With the advent of advanced technology over the last ten years, editing and proofreading one’s written work has become as ancient as 8-tracks.  Students simply write and print.  Very little proofing or editing takes place anymore.  Students seem to think they don’t need to look over their work before turning it in because word processing programs fix everything.  Little did these students know, that’s untrue.  So, the question is, how do we teach our students to be careful editors of their written work?

Today in Humanities class, the students had the chance to revise and edit their historical fiction story.  We began the period with a mini-lesson regarding punctuation.  I reviewed the major punctuation marks and their usage.  I then highlighted the ones they will most frequently use in their stories.  As the students made changes to their work based on punctuation, they highlighted their changes in blue so that when I grade their work, I will see their progress and effectiveness as a reviser.  During the work period, the students had only two foci: Finish revising their story based on the feedback they received from their Writing Groups on Tuesday and Revise their story for punctuation.  Once I explained the expectations for the work period, the boys got right to work.  Throughout the period, I praised those students who tried to use different and new punctuation marks in their stories.  At the end of the period, I had the boys count the punctuation changes they made.  They shared their counts aloud through the raising of hands.  I then polled students on the types of punctuation marks they used.  I reminded the students that if they had made less than five punctuation changes, they may need to spend more time outside of class revising their piece.  The students, as a whole, worked very effectively throughout the work period.  They revised, helped each other revise, learned more about punctuation usage, and challenged themselves to use new punctuation types.  It was pretty awesome and most definitely the most effective editing session we’ve had all year.  The boys spent the entire period editing and revising their work.  So cool!

Was today’s work period so successful because the students focused on only two areas as they revised their work?  Had I just said, “Revise your story,” would the boys have been as productive?  Providing the students with a focus helped keep them attuned to only one aspect of their writing.  They read over the work looking only at period, comma, semi-colon, exclamation point, question mark, ellipsis, colon, and hyphen usage.  They weren’t looking at their use of descriptive writing, adjectives, verbs, paragraph form, or anything else– just punctuation.  The art of editing can be very overwhelming for students.  They don’t know what to look for and so they usually only fix obvious errors and don’t ever dig deeper into their writing.  This way, they know exactly what to look for when editing and revising their writing.  In this case, less is more.

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