Eight tips for developing great proof-readers

Expectations for children to produce transcriptionally accurate pieces of writing have never been higher (DfE 2022). Yet, school-leaders and teachers tell us this is something they regularly struggle with.

Teachers can certainly lack confidence in how to explicitly teach proof-reading. For far too long, too many of us have simply announced towards the end of a writing session: ‘don’t forget to check for capital letters and fullstops!’. This kind of approach isn’t doing anyone any favours.

Eight tips for developing great proof-readers

One real problem teachers face when trying to develop great proof-readers is the lack of thought and support around how children develop as proof-readers throughout their time at school.

Perhaps an even bigger issue is that pupils need to believe that they’ve crafted something worth proof-reading in the first place. Children report that they will proof-read with motivation and precision when they know they are preparing their writing for an audience beyond just their teacher’s evaluation (Young & Ferguson 2020). 

We can help our pupils by finally taking editing seriously – explicitly teaching them the kind of proof-reading techniques and procedures other authors and editors use. A quick example is when a writer will circle their ‘unsure’ spellings as they draft – ready to look up at a later date.

Here are eight top tips schools can use as a starting point for supporting teachers and improving children’s writing:

  1. Ensure children are writing things they believe are worth proof-reading.
  2. Ensure children are proof-reading their compositions in preparation for genuine publication or performance and for audiences beyond their teacher’s evaluation.
  3. Deliver regular and explicit instruction in conventions and model how to proof-read for those conventions.
  4. Pupil-conference with children during proof-reading sessions. 
  5. Give equal focus to what children can do as well as what they can’t do – yet.
  6. Involve children in determining what gets added to a class’ editing checklist.
  7. Have a clear vision of how they expect children’s proof-reading to develop year on year. 
  8. Have appropriate expectations of what individual pupils can do based on their writing experience and any special educational needs they might have.

If you are interested in reading about how to develop a whole-school approach to developing proof-readers, buy our latest eBook:

In No More: My Pupils Can’t Edit, Felicity Ferguson & Ross Young invite schools and teachers to make proof-reading a rigorous and meaningful part of their class writing projects. Despite the fact that expectations for transcriptional accuracy have never been higher, schools and teachers often find it difficult to teach children to proof-read with precision and enthusiasm. This book looks to change that.

This practical guide offers an overview of The Writing For Pleasure Centre’s approach, and provides a progression for proof-reading from the EYFS-KS2. It also contains over 50 exemplar lessons taken from their affiliate schools. These lessons cover the EYFS Framework and National Curriculum objectives efficiently and effectively.

What’s special about this book is the way in which each lesson teaches children the whys of proof-reading procedures and illustrates how, as editors, they can use them for themselves. Children learn to make their writing ‘reader-friendly’ and ‘reader-ready’ prior to publication for real audiences.

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