Stop Editing All Students' Errors


Stop Editing All Students' Errors

Posted on March 11, 2014

Stop Editing All Students' Errors

QUESTION: Should a teacher "edit" or fix all the errors in a student's writing?

ANSWER: If fixing all their errors meant that students would never make the same mistakes in writing again, it would be worth the time spent to proofread and mark everything. But we know from research that it doesn't work that way. Deeper thinking happens when students can apply grammar rules rather than simply recalling the rule itself.

Students don't learn skills/rules when we fix their writing. For students to truly personalize the rules of grammar and conventions, they need to go through a process described by Janet Angelillo in A Grammar Study.

  1. NOTICE IT. Reveal examples of the skill used well in mentor text. Explain its function in writing. Why does a writer use this skill? How does it aid the reader? Reveal the formal rule to let students in on the specifics for the skill. (For mini-lesson ideas to support your convention instruction, check out our archived articles within the Idea Library.)

  2. NAME IT. Once students know what the skill looks like, they need to be able to find the skill in action in other texts. If they can't find it and acknowledge it in action, then they don't understand it enough to apply it in their own writing.

  3. TRY IT. Before students can apply the skill intentionally within a first draft, they need to be able to apply it as an after-thought in a previous piece. This allows them to practice the skill within the context of real writing they generated. In authentic writing, students will have to determine where and how to apply the skill to maintain the integrity of the message. NOTE: Most practice for grammar/convention skills occurs in a worksheet mode. However, it's easier to find and fix errors when each of the examples is formulaic and has the same mistake. That does not allow authentic practice of a skill.

  4. APPLY IT. The last stage of the process is to expect students to use the skill correctly when they write a new piece--and all pieces after that. This is when you can add the skill as a required component to a writing rubric and grade for its regular and accurate application.

For students to learn from their own writing mistakes, they need us to stop correcting their drafts.