Many people believe that it’s notoriously difficult to write in English because the language has borrowed words from nearly every other language. There are numerous homonyms that is, words that sound the same but are spelled differently (e.g. there and their) and when it comes to spelling, it sometimes seems there are more exceptions than rules.
Even teachers make mistakes. (Did you catch our error in our last article?) So proofreading and careful review are important. 10 tips to help your student learn to edit:
1. Write first, then get it right. Encourage students to write all of their ideas down before they pay attention to grammar and spelling. Although proper writing is very important, focusing on it too much at the beginning can hamper the flow of ideas. First drafts should be all about content and then the second draft can emphasize organization and flow. Finally, the focus of the third draft should be mechanics.
2. Start with a checklist that is appropriate for the student’s level to look for common spelling and grammar mistakes. Students in different grades should have different expectations. A student in Grade 3 is only expected to correctly spell the words they have studied and use basic punctuation. An international baccalaureate student is expected to check the spelling and meaning of every word and use punctuation correctly. If they try to tackle too many mistakes or difficult concepts early on, students might become demotivated and not want to continue writing. Writing should be enjoyable.
3. Once a student has edited a variety of their own work, encourage him or her to create a personal checklist. Students often have specific mistakes or habits. Encourage students to do a search for how many times they have used the word “so” or to scan for every time they have used the word “I” and check that it is capitalized.
4. Collaborate. Students can edit each other’s work, giving them a chance to learn from other’s mistakes. Parents can also help by editing their child’s work, but make sure not to change the text too much. Parents should point out areas where the text could be improved and let the student come up with their own solutions first.
5. Focus on the positive. Ask students to find difficult words that they spelled correctly or sentences with no mistakes. Also, praise cool ideas and any risks the student may have taken.
6. Reassure students that mistakes are normal. A paper covered in red ink (or tracked changes in an electronic document) can be daunting and upsetting. However, even experienced writers benefit from an editor’s comments. Feel free to talk with your student about your own writing approaches and share stories of your own mistakes.
7. Use technology wisely. Spellchecker in Word and apps, such as Grammarly, are very helpful, however, it is important to remember that they don’t fix everything.
8. Read your written material out loud. Some spelling errors are much more obvious when you try to read the work out loud. You might also find out that you repeated certain words or that the flow doesn’t make sense.
9. Take a break. Reading what you just wrote can be boring and it is difficult to see mistakes right away. If you take a break and return to the text later, you will have a new perspective.
10. Once the work is finished, discuss and analyze the process. What was easy to correct and what mistakes were difficult to fix? What would you do differently the next time? Were there any edits that didn’t make sense?
All of these tips require two things: time and the desire to improve. Many students to improve their writing process, but it can be challenging when a student sends us a draft paper for feedback an hour before it is due to be submitted. Students need to plan for the time to edit.
We make more mistakes when we rush and if we are working to a deadline, there is often not enough time to edit. If your student has a writing assignment, help them manage their time so they have a day before the deadline to edit and review.
If your student rushes so that they can be the first one finished, they may need to learn to take more pride and ownership in their work. Try to be a role model by demonstrating that you always want to improve. Whenever you do any writing at home, model out loud how you check your work and look for errors.
Always reward students for taking extra time to check their work and showing improvement so they know you value progress more than how fast they can finish.