In this little series on Editing and Evaluating Writing, we began by looking at ways to evaluate your K-3rd graders’ writing efforts. Today, let’s take a look at how you can give helpful feedback to your older elementary kids’ writing as well.
You’ve probably already discovered that, as a rule, your child is perfectly happy to give her paper a quick once-over and declare that, yes, it’s perfect. Not only that, she expects you to gush over it and give it an A.
But as a parent, you have different expectations. When teaching writing, your goal is not to pave a smooth road for your child; rather, it’s to help her become a proficient writer who can communicate effectively on paper.
Teaching your student how to evaluate her own writing is a key to helping move her toward this goal. Sounds good on paper, right? But how do you get her to do this—especially since she wants you to accept her first attempt as a final draft?
The Importance of Self-Editing
You’ll be relieved to know that there are, in fact, a few ways to get your child to evaluate her own work—honestly and competently—using simple self-editing techniques.
- Self-editing teaches your child to look for her own errors. After all, proofreading is an important lifelong skill.
- No author ever turns in a first draft to the publisher! Self-editing lets your child make changes and revisions before submitting it to you. The more attention she gives to self-editing, the better the final draft.
Introducing Self-Editing to Your Child
- Children should begin using a checklist as a guide to help them identify errors in content, style, and mechanics. A checklist takes the subjectivity out of self-editing by offering specific expectations to meet.
- Work closely with your child when she’s learning how to self-edit. When you work together, you can prompt her with questions or steer her in the right direction. For example, she may not readily spot repeated words at first, but you can gently point out that you notice she used the word “car” four times and encourage her to find a couple of synonyms.
- Ask your child if her paper has a beginning, middle, and end (or introduction, body, and closing). Encourage her to add more details if needed.
- As she compares her piece of writing to the checklist, she can make simple corrections and improvements to content and mechanics.
- Have your student use colored pencils, which will help her more easily identify particular errors.
- Her revision—written or typed on fresh paper—should show definite changes from the rough draft.
Tips for Evaluating Elementary-Level Writing
You Don’t Need to Make Guesses
Parents often flounder when the time comes to evaluate their children’s writing. A rubric helps, but you’ll be relieved to know there are definitely some things you can look for when evaluating your elementary-age child’s writing assignment.
- Ideas – Are her ideas clear, focused, and well supported? Or are they confusing?
- Organization – Is there a smooth flow of ideas from beginning to end, or is it hard to follow your child’s train of thought?
- Voice – Is the writing flat and uninteresting, or lively and engaging?
- Word choice – Are the words precise, interesting, accurate, and colorful; or dull, incorrect, or overused?
- Sentences – Are sentences complete, smooth, and varied? Or are they choppy, fragmented, or never-ending?
- Mechanics and Grammar – Do multiple errors muddle meaning and understanding? Or did your child use correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation?
Keep It Positive
Include positive comments and praise along with helpful suggestions. Upbeat, encouraging feedback goes a long way in helping your children improve their writing.
- Even when a piece of writing looks rather hopeless, search out the positive. There is always something worthwhile to say about the paper.
- Bless your child’s efforts, creativity, word choice, or sentence structure.
- Offer gentle suggestions that encourage growth without squishing her spirit.
- Never make hurtful statements like: “Not very interesting” or “Aren’t you learning ANYTHING?”
If you find the need to sit side by side with your fourth, fifth, or sixth grader during editing, that’s okay. View it as training and preparation for those junior high and high school years where independent work habits will be much more important. For now, your time together can be a warm, nurturing, encouraging time in which your child learns that self-correction can yield rewarding results.