More top tips when talking to children about editing

In a previous blog post, we said that if the cost of delivering an error-free piece of writing is that children feel they never want to write again, then that cost is too high.

We pointed out how we’ve leant over children’s shoulders – jabbed with our finger. ‘Where are your fullstops?!’ ‘These children don’t even know how to write a sentence!’ ‘Not a single capital letter in the whole piece!’ And spend hours putting red pen all over children’s writing – while they learn nothing. 

There is a far more effective alternative. 

Rather than wielding the red pen and making everyone’s lives a misery, we suggest that you and your assistant teacher engage in pupil-conferencing (Ferguson & Young 2021). Here are some phrases you can use to help you teach about proof-reading:

  • Did you have a reason for deciding… [to put a semi-colon here?]
  • Tell me about your choice to… [use commas around this extra bit of information.]
  • I noticed that you… Explain what you’re thinking. [I’ve noticed the book you’re making hasn’t got a title – is there a reason for that?]
  • Show me where you’ve tried to make your writing ‘reader friendly’… [Bringing conventions back to their purpose – to help our readers]
  • Let me show you how I help my readers understand my writing so you can do it too… [Sometimes, children need an additional example beyond the whole-class mini-lesson]
  • Let’s look in the book you’re reading to see how the writer has done it [Let’s look at how the author used the conventions for speech punctuation]

As you will see, framing your teaching comments like this is a sympathetic way of drawing children’s attention to errors or omissions, clearing up possible misunderstandings, and getting them to re-think and talk about the function of conventions.

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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