Differentiating Between Revising and Editing

I was always taught to look over my writing before turning it into be graded or published.  It wasn’t about revising, editing, or proofreading.  It was about reviewing the written work.  While I looked for grammar, spelling, and punctuation issues mostly, I also trained my eye to spot issues with flow and organization.  Does the piece of writing work?  It was the final step in the writing process.  To this day, I review everything I write in the same way.  I read over each blog entry looking for misspelled words and clarity.  As my writing is representative of me, I want it to be my best possible work.

When teaching writing, though, I approach the review process in a slightly different manner.  Teaching students the importance of this aspect of the writing process is vital to their growth as writers.  They need to effectively understand how to improve upon their writing.  They need to see how to develop characters, plot, supporting evidence and examples, effective thesis statements, and so much more.  Being able to improve upon these big ideas in their writing will help them become better, more skilled writers.  However, they also need to be able to fix the little things such as grammar, spelling, punctuation, opening sentences, and more.  Even if a student’s report, essay, or story has a great beginning and excellent plot line, if it’s full of grammar mistakes and misspelled words, it will be hard for readers to see the student’s true ability as a writer.  So, being able to fix both the big and little parts of their writing are required for students to mature as writers.  To help make these skills tangible and concrete for the students, I break them up into two parts: Revising and Editing.  I teach each skill separately and have them then complete each step independent of the other.  I want them first to look at the overall flow and organization of their piece before they take a more microscopic look at their work.  Once they have a clear and sensical piece of writing, I have them edit it for the little things that can hinder the overall look and feel of the piece.    Breaking the skills into steps allows the students to see each part of the review process as equally important but separate.

Today in Humanities class, my co-teacher and I had the students revise and then edit the stories they’ve been working on since week one this year.  They crafted a story about climbing Cardigan Mountain at dawn to catch the sunrise.  It could be fictional or true as they all did climb the mountain two weeks ago at 5:00 a.m.  They spent the last several Writer’s Workshop blocks finishing the first draft.  Before we break them into writing groups for more specific feedback next week, we want them to review their work to be sure it is as polished as possible.  After our mini-lessons on revising and editing their written work, we had the students complete these two steps of the writing process on their own.  We stressed the importance of utilizing a growth mindset when approaching revision as we can sometimes be too married to our own work to see what really needs to be changed or addressed.  Many of them took this statement to heart and really tried to revamp and adjust their story so that it best showcased their skills as a writer.  I was impressed.

During today’s work period, some students spent the entire 45 minutes revising and editing their piece while others finished with time to spare and so peer reviewed their work with a partner.  Great discussions were heard throughout the room this morning.  The students provided each other with meaningful feedback regarding their work and asked insightful questions of my co-teacher and I to be sure they would be able to produce a slick second draft.  The boys rewrote openings, created new titles, better developed their characters, and added to their setting by using specific sensory details.  Wow!  It was awesome.  I felt like I was in the presence of true authors and writers.  They weren’t just working because they had too, they were growing as writers because they wanted to.  It was so much fun.  I didn’t feel like a teacher today.  Instead, I felt more like a fellow author discussing writing.

While I don’t think that differentiating between revising and editing produced the amazing results we saw in the classroom today, I do think it made a difference in how the students approached growing their writing.  They didn’t just go through the motions to say they were finished, they took the time to really look at their work from a new perspective.  Lumping editing and revising together may not have produced this same level of work.  I was very clear with the boys on how to complete each step of the review process and I do feel as though that helped them see what they needed to do on a very concrete level.  Instead of making a big list of everything they needed to do when reviewing their writing, I simply broke the list into smaller chunks.  And that made all the difference for my students in class today.


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