When I moved to fifth grade to teach writing in a departmentalized model, I had a vision. I visualized teaching content. I visualized correcting long essays and stories that needed tweaks such as verb placement, incorrect use of prepositions, and stronger vocabulary. I visualized teaching how to write exciting openings, closings, and the true meat of the story or essay. It’s what I love to do, so I’m going to LOVE to teach it. Teaching students to self-edit? That would be a breeze.
I do teach all those things every day, but it is not what I visualized.
I teach in a more difficult area when students needs are not always met at home, physically or emotionally. We have a large population of English Language Learners and students that receive special education services. I LOVE teaching in this district. Even with the behavior issues I come across each day, I still enjoy the challenge and I love the students. But writing proves to be a major struggle. Their writing is often lacking very basic skill and grammar and I find myself backing up and reteaching, sometimes even simple sentence structure. So why do I teach self-editing if my students already need so much individual attention and instruction?
Self-Editing Can Be Differentiated to Meet Student Needs
Not all students need to be correcting the same things at the same time in their work. Some of your students may be focusing on adding periods, while some are focusing on creating complex sentences. When I conference with students, I try to give them one or two skills to focus on for a week or two. Once I feel they have mastered this, we can then move on to a different skill. With self-editing, it is easier to have students focus on what they need in their writing at that time.
Self-Editing Encourages Accountability for Work
When students are being asked to self-edit, they are being asked to show independence and accountability for their work. I refuse to accept work that does not look like it has been edited to the best of a student’s ability. They are forced to find mistakes in their writing, revise, and proofread. When students know they are responsible for polished pieces, they are more likely to spend a longer on them the first time.
Teaching Self-Editing is a Useful Lifetime Skill
Let’s face it. We aren’t doing our students any favors by editing their work. In this age of technology, with spell check and Grammarly, there isn’t always a need to be completely present when we are writing. Don’t get me wrong, I love these useful tools as an adult, but I also know there are times when they aren’t available. I grew up having to hand write first and second drafts. I took typing classes and used white out on typewritten pages. I learned to be a strong writer, and find my own mistakes. I do not need to fall back on technology to help me. This is a skill we need to teach our students.
Teaching Students Self-Editing Improves Test Taking Skills
Whether we like it or not, standardized testing is here for most of us. Self-editing is one of the most useful strategies for students to take with them on this test. I try to tell them that writing their responses and essays are only half the battle. They need to be able to remember those editing strategies and apply them accordingly for their work to be complete. I really reinforce self-editing around testing time because I feel this is one of their most beneficial skills to have.
Teaching Students to Self-Edit Boosts Confidence
Students do not always love being critiqued. Even though I show them constantly that this is part of learning and growing, it is still difficult for them to see a ton of marks on their paper or computer. When they self-edit, they are able to find many of these mistakes themselves, therefore eliminating the embarrassment of a peer or teacher finding them. I constantly praise my students when I see that they have gone back to edit or revise and found many of the mistakes I would have marked. It boosts their confidence as writers and as students.
These are only five ways I have found that teaching students to self-edit has been a positive skill in my classroom. While implementing many of the self-editing strategies can seem tedious, your students will thank you in the end!
Luckily, I have developed some great self-editing checklists and reflection tools that you can download for FREE in my store. Click here to download them today!
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