Why self-editing is hard for kids and how to make it easier
I hear it all the time.
We’re having self-editing issues. For some reason, my children believe they are perfect writers! They can never find any spelling or grammar mistakes.
Surprise, surprise! Most children simply don’t get the whole editing thing. They like what they wrote and can’t understand why you want them to—gasp!—look for ways to improve it.
Yet every seasoned writer will tell you that the editing stage is as important—if not more so—than the writing stage, for this is where the writing is refined and honed to become the best piece possible.
Oh, the pain of self-editing!
During self-editing, a writer reads and re-reads his rough draft. As he does, he finds ways to improve structure, flow, and word choice. And of course, this is the time to get serious about conventions such as spelling, punctuation, and capitalization.
Sounds easy enough, right? So why do kids have such a hard time identifying errors in their own writing?
- They really don’t see the mistakes. When we read, we think we see every word and punctuation mark, but in truth, most of us read in chunks. Our brains are funny that way.
- They fail to see self-editing as an essential part of the writing task. At best, they consider it unnecessary. At worst, they view it as punishment.
- They feel attached to their writing. To most kids, it really is personal. Looking for errors is no less painful than, say, plucking out an eye.
- They attempt writing and self-editing in the same day. Writers—and not just kids—often don’t put enough space and distance between themselves and their writing piece before beginning the self-editing process.
Seven Self-Editing Strategies for Homeschool Writing
Self-editing, like any other process, must be developed. Here are just a few tips and tricks you can try.
1. Just Write
Tell your child not to worry about self-editing during the first draft. The important thing is just to get the words down on paper.
2. Make a Copy
Let children edit a photocopied version of their paper. This is especially effective with elementary-age kids who feel anxious about marking up the original.
3. Let It Rest
Have them wait a day or two rather than try to self-edit right away. Explain that it’s easier to proofread writing after it has had a chance to rest. Stepping back helps kids distance themselves emotionally from the words, characters, or story details they’ve chosen so carefully.
4. Read Out Loud
Have them read each word aloud slowly. Reading will slow them down, making it easier to catch her errors.
5. Read Backwards
Encourage them to read the paper backwards, from the end to the beginning. Reading one word at a time helps them proofread for repeated words and misspellings. Reading one sentence at a time encourages general editing.
6. One Thing at a Time
Explain that they’ll need to read their paper several times while looking for a certain kind of error (such as capitalization) each time. This is more effective than trying to find all the errors in a single reading because it gives them one small thing to focus on. One pass at a time, they can also look for things like overly repeated words, boring or vague words, sentence starters, or punctuation.
7. Rely on Resources
Teach kids to use resources like a dictionary, thesaurus, grammar reference, or word banks so they’re less likely to make guesses about how to fix mistakes.