Editing Student Writing

Tips for helping students to edit their writing during writer's workshop.

When I first started teaching, I used to take a few students' writing journals home to edit each night. I would spend my evenings marking up mistakes in my students' writing. I would then meet with them the next day to discuss what they needed to fix. I would do this every single night!

When I did this, we mostly focused on spelling, grammar, and other mechanical errors. I made spelling very important because, at the time, I thought it was the most important skill.

Well, I found that my students did not respond well to this type of editing (like they started to hate writing and were scared of the color red) and changes needed to be made.

I made a big change. I decided to stop editing my students' work. Instead, I found ways to teach students to edit their own work.

5 Reasons I Don't Edit Student Writing

It is too time consuming!

Taking your students' writing home every single night is draining. You need time in the evenings to refresh and take care of things at home. Your students actually need you to take of yourself in the evenings too!

Don't take the writing home anymore!

It discourages my writers!

You likely have students that work so hard on their stories and are very proud of their writing- even with errors! If you take their writing home and mark mistakes all over them with a pen, your students will be very disappointed. They may lose confidence and worry about receiving papers back with markings all over it.

Instead, we need to find ways to encourage our writers!

Editing your students' writing does not teach them to be better spellers!

Your students can probably go back to their desks after you've shown them how to correctly spell words and rewrite them. However, there is a pretty good chance that they will make these same errors again in future pieces.

In reality you are helping students to make that one piece of writing better, but you are not teaching them to be better writers.

Instead, teach grammar and spelling patterns outside of Writer's Workshop. As the year goes on, you should expect your students to apply their learning in their writing.

Mechanics are only a small piece of the puzzle!

I looked over my writing rubric and realized that spelling was a very small part of a student's overall grade. They could get a zero in spelling, but still receive an A on their writing because of the other areas.

I needed to focus on teaching leads, conclusions, transitions, word choice, dialogue, and several other areas. Spelling is not the most important piece and should stop being the top priority when looking at students' writing.

Their writing needs to show their current ability. 

Students are on a huge path of learning how to write. I want to show families where students start at the beginning of the year and where they are as writers at the end of the year. If they are bringing home perfect pieces, I am actually sending the wrong message.

A student's writing should look like their developmental stage. Nine year olds don't have perfect grammar and so neither should their writing! 

With all of this being said, of course we want students to grow and pay close attention to words we know they can spell, punctuate, and capitalize correctly. I want my students to take ownership of their writing.

I believe we should teach our students to edit their own work, instead of always relying on someone else.

Technology changes things.

Many classrooms are 1:1 and most classrooms have some technology that students can use for word processing. In fact, many state standards even require students to type their writing.

Although I firmly believe that drafts should be hand written to encourage creativity, there is lots of value in having students type their writing.

The reality is that spell check and grammar check will help students to correct many of their mechanics errors.

Spell check and grammar check will never help them to correct their weak lead or help them to support their reasons with examples.

Therefore, it is important that we are teaching students how to write better, not just how to spell better.

5 Ways to Help Students Edit Their Writing

1. First, give your students resources and teach them how to use them. Some examples include word walls, individual and whole group word banks, editing checklists, personal dictionaries with commonly misspelled words, and books or articles related to nonfiction topics.

2. You can also teach your students the different editing symbols. Many of your students will love using these symbols and they will see these for many years to come.

3. Allow peer editing time. Be sure you teach and practice your expectations for peer editing at the start of your year.

4. Have students type their final draft. Spell check will not catch everything, but it does help with a few words here and there. Students love seeing their writing typed and printed.

5. If you need to help a student with mechanics, do this in a writing conference but only focus on one paragraph. Think out loud and model the editing process for them, then have your student go back and try the same with their other paragraphs.

Teachers should use writing conferences to mainly focus on the content of their students' writing.  I hope you discover that you have some very talented writers in your room by not focusing only on mechanics.  

We can't expect perfection. It's so tough to look at errors that we know students have the ability to fix. It's just goes against our intuition as a teach.

However, focusing more on content and less on mechanics, we are teaching students to love to write. Students who love writing will always be more successful than those who see it as a chore.

Tips for helping students to edit their writing during writer's workshop.

Helpful Resources

Would you like some more tips and ideas for helping your students to become better writers? I have a few of great resources for you!

FREE Writing Email Course

I put together a five day email course that is jam packed with valuable tips and resources for teaching writing in grades 2-5.

The best part is that it is FREE! Just drop your name and home email address in the box below to get started.

Are you ready to get started?

How to Teach Writing Video Series

I created a series of videos that include all kinds of valuable tips for teaching writing. I suggest watching the whole series by clicking HERE, but you can also just watch the video about editing student writing by clicking HERE.

Comprehensive Writing Units

If you teach grades 2-5, then I have amazing news for you! I have taken all of the guess work out of teaching writing by creating comprehensive writing units. They contain daily lesson plans, anchor charts, mentor text passages, rubrics and so much more!

Click HERE to check them out!

Have a Not So Wimpy Day!