The Dreaded Part of Writing: Editing


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I think for the most part children like to write. Who doesn’t like to tell about something that happened to them? The part that I think students get bogged down in is the editing portion. I know I loathed, despised, abhorred doing this as a student. It just didn’t seem important and was painful.  After all, I knew what I was trying to say. in some way I felt exposed and vulnerable. Criticism was hard to take and I didn’t feel confident in what I wrote. Also, I just wanted to be done with the assignment and on to the next thing (like talking on the telephone or hanging out with friends).

Last week I wrote a post and I didn’t ever notice before that you can see how many editions you have made to it. I was surprised to see that I had edited it 25 times when I finally decided it was the way I wanted it to be before publishing it. 25, seriously?!  If you had told me that when I was a student I would have never believed you. 🙂

So, how do we help our students make a habit of self-editing? I’d like to offer some suggestions that I have found to be helpful over the years of teaching and tutoring in writing.

Write something every day. I am not suggesting everything is going to be edited, but to the contrary. If your child is writing and has a voice, he can express those thoughts without feeling that his writing is going to be “red-penned” and given back to “fix it”.

After you have given lots of opportunities to write, ask your student to pick one  piece they would like to write about more. This process will take place after your child has had several pieces that they have written so they have some choice on what to choose. You want your child to pick something that they have knowledge about and can actually add to their writing. For instance, let’s say your daughter loves horses or your son loves to play with Legos and they wrote about that one day. Your older student wants to talk about his favorite sports team or her favorite movie. In fact, that is all they want to talk about or do. Terrific, that means there is quite a bit of knowledge to work with to create a successful paper.

Have them read the piece they chose out loud, either to you, another adult (dad, grandparent) or to a sibling that can ask questions. In other words, now is not the time to have them read their paper to the baby. If you have a junior or senior high student, peer evaluation would be great. Have the person listening ask questions for clarification and always have them give positive feedback at the end. For instance, “I liked the way you began your paper. It made me want to read/hear more about it!”

If a student would feel we’re  in this together, I would suggest that you also write something and have your student ask you questions. Modeling writing is the best way for a student to grow and learn.

The author should highlight the sentence where the person asked questions so they can go back and edit their work. Make corrections and then read it again to the same person if possible. End on a positive note so the writer feels successful. This will let the student know that the process isn’t as painful as they thought and what they wrote was important. Keep on doing this as you have writing pieces that can be edited. Remember, don’t do this to every writing piece.

Publish it! Everyone likes to have an audience and to feel that someone found what they wrote to be interesting or engaging. There are a variety of ways to publish the edited work.

Young students can write, illustrate, and share at the dinner table with the family. The baby can listen this time. 🙂

Send it electronically to family members and ask them to write a comment about the edited work to the author.

Buy a hardbound blank book or one with lines to write the story. Have your author write a short bio piece in the front of it.

For older students they can create a blog and have people post comments. If you need an audience, post the blog link down below in the comments section and I will be sure to visit and leave a comment.

Happy editing!


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