Editing and evaluating writing: K-3rd grade

Editing does not need to be a negative or intimidating experience for your K-3rd grader. When children learn at a young age the value of gentle correction and self-improvement, they will come to see editing as a natural part of the writing process.

Determining Your Goal

Your main goal is to help your child learn to look for ways to improve her story or short report. The amount of editing will increase as writing skills progress and the child matures.

Don’t overwhelm your first grader with too many expectations. But by the time she’s in third grade, she should learn to self-edit for story details, organization, and simple mechanics, and should be able to use tools to help edit spelling as well.

Helping Your Young Child Edit and Revise

At this age and stage, keep editing and revising as simple and non-threatening as possible. Sit together with your child and read her story together. Then help her take the first steps to learn how to self-edit her own work.

Just remember: Start small! If your child is only in first grade, you’ll only want her to revise the simplest and smallest of errors (Did we begin each sentence with a capital letter? Is there a period at the end of every sentence? Does our story have a beginning, a middle, and an end?) As she grows in both age and skill, you can begin adding more editing elements to your short list.

Most second- and third-graders can begin including any or all of the following as you edit and revise together.

1. Search for the good.

  • Give your child a highlighter pen. Encourage her to look over the story by herself and highlight a difficult word she spelled correctly.
  • Next, ask her to look over the story by herself and highlight a sentence she wrote correctly by starting it with a capital letter and using the correct punctuation. Praise her for a job well done.

2. Discuss the details of the story together.

  • Identify the main character and setting.
  • Ask your child if she would like to add more details about each one.
  • Discuss ideas for improvement.

3. Talk about the story.

  • If the story includes a problem, does your child write the beginning, middle, and end in such a way that the problem is solved?
  • If so, does the problem get solved with a satisfactory solution?
  • If not, discuss ideas for improvement.

4. Circle any misspelled words together, but only if the child is at least in first grade.

  • Look up each word in a children’s dictionary; or
  • Create a spelling word wall containing her most frequently misspelled words. She can refer to it as she writes and edits.

5. Help your child revise her writing.

  • Write the corrections in between the lines on the paper.
  • Your child may rewrite her corrections on a new paper if she chooses.

What If She Resists?

Do the editing on a different day. This removes the child from the freshness of her writing and she will feel a little less emotionally attached to the story and its flaws.

Make a photocopy of the child’s story. She’ll be more willing to mark her paper if she knows she the original will remain untouched.

Type her story. Another way to help a reluctant editor is to type her story for her (always double-spaced), leaving all mistakes intact. Again, the more removed the marked-up version is from the child’s original, the less emotion she’ll attach to it, which means the more willing she’ll be to make corrections.

Try a checklist. You can do these editing exercises orally, of course, but if your child balks, she may need to use a typed checklist and work by herself.

Once your editing time is over and the child has made simple changes to her story, have her “publish” it in a fun way, such as attaching it to a paper kite, turning it into a scroll, or making a giant comic strip—knowing that she’s publishing her very best work to proudly share with others.

Copyright 2010 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.

When children learn at a young age the value of gentle correction and self-improvement, they come to see editing as a natural part of the writing process.

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  • Posted June 28, 2010

    Stephanie Culp

    Hi Kim- I like the idea of photocopying or typing the child’s paper before editing. Great idea! You are absolutely correct…usually a child does not like to mark up their paper. This is definitely a great alternative.

    • Posted June 28, 2010


      Stephanie: When we beta tested one of our WriteShop Primary books, parents often shared that their children hated marking up their original papers. That’s how this idea was born, and it saved many moms (and plenty of kiddos) lots of grief in future lessons!

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