How to Encourage Students to Edit their Work: Grade 4-8

Editing is the 5th stage of the writing process (prewriting, planning, writing, revising, editing, and publishing). Yet, many students completely ignore this step and many people would rather jump in an ice-covered lake in the middle of winter before editing their work. In editing, students check over their work for spelling and grammar errors. It is different from revising where you go over the work while looking at the meaning and add or delete words and sentences to enhance the meaning or the story. Here are 6 strategies on how to encourage students to edit their work.

  1. Explicitly teach editing as one of the stages in the writing process. Writing is a process and it can often be cyclical. Explicitly teaching this will help encourage students to go back and look at their work and not just write it and hand it in.

  2. Model on your own work. Modelling is a great way to show students what they need to do. Write up a quick paragraph and ensure that there are plenty of errors. Project it and model correcting your errors. Ensure that you are verbalizing what you are thinking so that students get a sense of the thinking processes that are involved in the editing process.

  3. Provide students writing other than their own to practice editing on. Give students a piece of writing that is covered in errors and have them edit it. I would have them work in groups of 2-3 and edit this piece together.

  4. Make exchanging papers with another student a common part of classroom practice. Sometimes it is hard to see any spelling and grammar issues on your own paper. Encourage students to exchange their work with a partner and to edit each other’s work.

  5. Provide an editing checklist for students to complete when editing their own and others work. Sometime students don’t know exactly what to look for when editing and providing a checklist is one way to help keep students on track.

  6. Show previous drafts of published works. Sometimes students think that their work needing to be edited is a sign that there is something wrong with it, rather than just part of the writing process. Particularly for older students, showing that published authors also edit their work can be incredibly helpful. For example, Scholastic published 5 drafts of the first page of DiMello’s because of Winn Dixie. Find it here. It is a great way to see how DiMello altered her story. The first draft is peppered with spelling and grammar issues and a lack of punctuation. Showing this draft and a subsequent draft would be a great way of showing how editing work is a powerful tool. It would also be helpful to show that even published authors have to go back into their drafts and edit them.

Editing their work can sometimes be a challenge for students. Continually coming back to it and explicitly teaching editing is a great way to increase student editing time!

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