Day 5 in the first week of school involves the transition from Revising to Editing, which is often a fuzzy area for many students. To help kids begin to see the differences between these phases of the writing process, I remind them of the definitions we talked about earlier in the week:
Revising = making BIG changes
(This week we Revised for a Title and a clear Main Idea).
Editing = making corrections
(For this first piece, we're going to focus on only a few areas we can make corrections for: capitals, periods, spelling, and indenting paragraphs).
Editing in Motion
I start by telling kids we're going to use a strategy called Edit Passes to help us make corrections in our writing. A pass is a read-through with one editing focus. The first read-through I'll do is an Inspection Pass where I'll read my entire draft focusing on one type of mistake at a time (for example, inspecting for a capital letter at the beginning of each sentence). In a second read-through (the Correction Pass), I'll fix the mistake (in this case, adding a Capital letter where one might be missing).
In my experiences, kids often want to try to correct everything as quickly as they can without much focus on the type of mistake they may be making. For young writers, Editing can be overwhelming, which may be why they rush through this phase in the writing process. Showing them how to read through their piece for one type of correction at a time not only helps simplify things, it forces them to slow down and begin thinking about the types of errors they're making.
Pass #1: Placing a Capital Letter at the Beginning of Each Sentence
For the first Edit Pass, I'll read-through my piece to make sure I have a Capital at the beginning and a period at the end of each sentence. This Inspection Pass is used to find any places where I may have missed a capital letter at the beginning of a sentence.
I start with the first page of my draft. Using my index fingers, I place one at the beginning of the sentence to check for a Capital letter and one at the end of the sentence to check for a period. (This may seem like two passes in one, but finding those periods will help me look for a Capital letter at the beginning of each sentence).
I will literally go through my entire draft placing my index fingers at the beginning and end of each sentence. In a Think-Aloud, I will say, "Capital, yes. Period, Capital, yes. Period, Capital, yes." Or, "Capital, check. Period, Capital, check. Period, Capital, check." Or, I write a c with a circle above each capital at the beginning of each sentence. This reminds me that I've checked for this type of mistake. If I've missed a Capital letter at the beginning of the sentence, I'll either circle the letter or write 3 lines underneath it to remind myself to make the correction when I'm done. After I've finished, I'll use a Correction Pass to make any corrections I found during the Inspection Pass.
Pass #2: Periods at the End of Each Sentence
Because this seems like the next logical thing to Edit for, I'll check to make sure each sentence has a period at the end of it. Using my index fingers again, I'll follow the same steps as before in my Inspection Pass. This time, I'll circle any places where I have a missing period. When I've finished, I'll my Correction Pass to add in missing periods.
Pass #3: Spelling
Some of us are naturally gifted spellers, but even the Spelling Bee types need to Edit for mistakes. In this next Pass, I show students how to check for spelling mistakes by saying saying to myself, "I'm going to circle any words that I believe 'look' wrong." In my Inpsection Pass, I circle any funny "looking" words. Even if I know that I've spelled it correctly the first time through, I still need to double-check to make sure I have it spelled correctly.
I'll tell students, "Back in the drafting phase, I asked you to keep their pens moving, right? I often find that when I write quickly, sometimes I have a tendency to make spelling mistakes. So, I even though I may be the best speller in class, I still need to check my work.
For my Correction Pass in Spelling, I'll correct one circled word at a time. Then, I'll sound out each part of the word. For the letters that "sound" right, I'll place a check mark above it. If a letter isn't quite right, I'll say to myself, "What other letter makes that sound? Then, I'll write the other possible letters above the one letter that doesn't seem quite right."
Then I play with other possible spellings until I find one that looks write. Because I skipped lines in the drafting phase, I have plenty of room to work through this Correction Pass. When I feel satisfied with how the word "looks," I'll ask my students if they think I've made the right correction.
Sometimes, I'll intentionally misspell words in my drafts by mixing up a letter or two with letters that are close to the correct spelling. I do this because I want students to see how important checking for Spelling is. From time to time, they call me out on it, and that's okay. The point is to show them how to Edit for this type of mistake, even though it might be one I don't typically make.
Pass #4: Indenting Each Paragraph
Indenting a paragraph may seem like a no-brainer to kids, but they're often surprised at how many of them forget to do this while drafting. For this Inspection Pass, I'll go back to my draft again and place my index finger under the space that I should have at the beginning of each paragraph. If it's there, I underline the space. This shows me that I've inspected for indentation. If it's not there, I will draw an arrow to point out that I need it, or I'll use the paragraph proofreading symbol. A good rule of thumb many kids know is to use their index finger for the indentation. In the Inspection Pass, I'm okay with kids doing this.
The Correction Pass for Indenting Each Paragraph is double-checking to make sure I've marked any places where I need to indent. A quick skim-through my piece usually works, but I'll also want to double-check again when I write my published copy (final draft) later.
Editing Takes Time
At the end of each Editing Pass, I'll ask my students, "How long did it take me to check my piece for this type of mistake? How long did it take me to correct this type of error?" After each Pass, I'll write some notes on the board that might look this:
- Capitals at the Beginning of Each Sentence = 10 minutes
- Periods at the End of Each Sentence = 7 minutes
- Spelling = 12 minutes
- Indenting at the Beginning of Each Paragraph = 7 minutes
Then, I'll add up my total Editing time. In this case that would look like 36 minutes, and I'll write this on the board, too. I will then tell my students, "On average, it's going to take most of you double the time that it took me to Edit my piece. That would look like 72 minutes." The rationale behind this is simple, "I have more experience with writing and editing. I've read thousands of student papers in my 12 years of teaching, and I've had a lot of training in writing. So it's going to take me less time to Edit my work."
And then I'll say, "Good writers spend most of their time in the Revising and Editing stages because they want their writing to be clear to their readers. Think about the times when you're reading and you see a mistake, does it bother you? Do you ever feel the need to correct it?"
Then, I'll share an anecdote like this, "In my neighborhood, we have community mailboxes. Where my mailbox is, someone wrote in Sharpie marker, "Suk balls." The first time I read it, I was angry because someone had written on my mailbox. The second time I read it, I laughed because I knew a kid wrote it. I immediately wanted to write back, 'Learn how to spell!' And write the correct version of 'suk' for the poor, young soul.
Think about it, when we read things with mistakes in them, we are quick to make a judgment about the person who wrote it. My judgment/assumption here was, 'a kid wrote this.' Is this what you want adults (or other people) to assume about you? That you make careless mistakes in your writing? Or, that you don't take the time to edit? If we want people to take us seriously as writers, we have to take the time to Edit everything we write."
After this story (or after each type of Edit Pass for less skilled writers), I'll give kids time to go through each Edit Pass as I did. I'll have students write the Edit Passes on a separate sheet of paper titled Edit Passes and have them place a check mark next to each one as they finish. For students who finish early, I'll say, "Now, correct anything else you know how to correct. If you finish that, start Publishing (writing your final draft)." This work time allows me the chance to walk around and give 2-3 minute writing conferences with as many students as I can.
These four Edit Passes may seem simple for skilled writers, but they're perfect for this first piece at the beginning of the school year. Because many students have been taught about these types of mistakes before, or they already know how to correct for them, this makes for a great review of the Editing process. However, the approach is different.
Modeling the Edit Passes with my own writing encourages kids to think more carefully about their writing and sends this important message, "Hey, this teacher takes writing seriously. I'm going to have to work hard at my own writing in this class, too."
Teaching students to become skilled Editors is no easy feet. It takes time, practice, patience, and a lot of review. With each piece we write, the key is showing kids how to Edit for each type of correction we expect them to make. Doing so gives them many opportunities throughout the school year to see "real" Editing in practice, the way real writers Edit everyday.
Portions of this article are © Copyright 1995-2012 by Teaching That Makes Sense, Inc., and are used by permission. For more information, and free teaching materials, visit www.ttms.org or contact Margot Lester at email@example.com.