So, if you’ve been reading what I’ve been writing recently here and here  you’ll see that I’ve got writing on the brain.  The funny thing is, I was a pretty bad teacher of writing, and I REALLY lacked confidence in how to teach it so that kids actually learned to write.

In fact, I was talking with a friend of mine this week (we also work together supporting schools) and we were saying how, because of our apparent ineptitude in teaching writing, we would say things to kids like, “Write down what your mind is thinking,” or “Read that selection again and just write what you think about it.”

Um…not exactly Nobel Prize winning teaching, right?

The thing is, my friend (who happens to be very sharp, very talented and not at all a simpleton, despite our conversation about how we taught writing!) and I were good teachers.  We actually got results with kids.  But we just didn’t have the tools for teaching writing.  So we said things like, “Write what’s in your heart!”  (And I bet the kids were thinking, “Umm…if I had a thought in my heart about this stupid essay, Lady, I’d be writing it!”

One of the things I’ve learned about education and through all of my thinking about how to simplify it is that there is always a simpler solution to the tough things that increases the odds the kids will master the skill.  And in my research and thinking about writing, I’ve figured a few of those things out.  Thank goodness!  One of the toughest things (and one of the things we barely have any energy for by the time we’re done writing) is editing.  Scratch that…one of the toughest things is to teach students how to edit.  I really struggle with that one.

So, I set out to simplify it.

First off, did you know that there is a distinct difference between editing, proofreading and revising?  I sure didn’t.

This’ll explain:

Revising comes first.  Revising is when the reviewer at the big ideas within the text.  Revising is three steps:

  1. The big picture of ideas – did the author satisfy the writing expectation or prompt?
  2. Re-organizing ideas and paragraphs – would the points be made better, clearer, more strongly if things were rearranged?
  3. Do the idea in the writing make me want to do something when I’m done reading it?  Are they compelling?

In the revising, the person reviewing the writing is concerned only with the IDEAS of the writing.

Editing comes second and is the process of looking at how the writing flows and connects one idea to the next

  • Has the author made connections from paragraph to paragraph?  Has the author used transitions that make one idea move into the next?
  • Is the overall tone of the writing appropriate to the prompt?  (For example, for business-writing, did the author use technical terms specific to the topic/industry and speak in a formal tone?)
  • Are there specifics relating to wording the author could improve?  (For example, if the tone of the writing is conversational or casual, are there explanations or definitions for technical words?)

Proofreading comes last.  It is the process of checking grammar, spelling, quotes, citations and word count.

Hmmm.  I didn’t know any of this.  Did you?

I have confused students through the years I’m sure because I had all of these things shoved under one heading “editing” – and, lo and behold, it turns out they are three, very different things.

So, where do I start now?  Here’s my current list of “how to implement this information now that I realize what the process of editing actually is”:

  • Go back to all of the checklists and resources I’ve given kids and see how I can reorganize them so that I am teaching kids the process of revising their work
  • Specifically and very simply TELL kids, “Here’s what editing is…”
  • Work on changing my language about getting to the final copy of editing – this is going to be challenge, because I have some bad habits I need to break
  • Start with students in looking at their ideas first by asking, “Have I said what I need to say in a way or in a flow that increases the odds that my reader will get it?”


QUESTION OF THE DAY:  What is one area of teaching kids to edit that you need to clean up or get better at teaching?

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!


If you liked this post, then you might want to read this one: Slam Dunk Brainstorm – Part 1! 

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